By MEAD TREADWELL
Voting is going on now in the Anchorage Mayor and School Board election and by mid-summer, Anchorage will have a new mayor. I’m supporting Mike Robbins. Mike knows that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. Too many sideshows have occupied our time recently. The main thing our municipal government must do is we must do our core jobs better — from roads to schools, policing to building the economy, libraries to permitting to parks — we must do these things better.
Mike’s no-drama campaign contrasts with others who think city government is all about catching your attention with big drama, from mask fights to psychiatry fights. Mike’s focus is on real, long-term issues. He has promised a safer Anchorage, a cleaner Anchorage, and a more prosperous Anchorage. I trust him to help us succeed in those goals because I’ve known him as a business leader whose focus has always been customer service and building community.
Why must we push for a safer Anchorage? Despite the fact the last Mayor’s race was focused on crime, and more police were hired (and a pending bond issue would provide more equipment), Mike believes crime is out of control. Sadly, I must agree. Our downtown family home has been hit with two breaking and entering attempts this year alone – one which left a huge amount of damage; the other, apparently by a repeat offender (whose picture we caught) who has been jailed for other crimes in the area.
From these miserable experiences, I can’t say anything but good things about our police, except they need more support. Judging by the case numbers assigned to incidents at our home little over a month apart, Anchorage police get over 100 new crimes a day to investigate. It is a challenge for detectives, crime labs, prosecutors, and victims to keep up, catch the crooks and bring them to justice. Customer service for victims, from access to police reports for insurance purposes, to even having phone calls answered and returned, is surprisingly low. Use of the best available technology is lacking. Our new mayor will coincide with the choice of a new police chief, and there’s no better time to get the resources and set higher performance standards across the city.
I’ve also learned from working with our charitable caregivers, that programs for better re-entry into our community need more support. It makes no sense to just release people from jail without a plan to avoid falling back into patterns of drug dependency and crime that would send people back to jail. It seems that too often, people are back on the street with no means, no warm clothing, no place to live. Moreover, some of our state’s parole and child support requirements and policies may encourage homelessness and joblessness. I want our mayor to be focused on the root of the problems we have, not just the symptoms, and Mike will do just that.
Why must we push for a cleaner Anchorage? At a Mike Robbins event recently, with former Mayor Rick Mystrom present, I quipped we’ve moved from Rick’s “city of lights and flowers” to a “city of fights and glowers.” From the roadways our visitors ride from the airport and the cruise ships, to the tolerance we seem to have for trash everywhere, our hometown has gotten too seedy. Vagrancy and panhandling and public inebriation should not be tolerated. Other cities have shown that when you clean up the city, it’s also a safer city… and a city more people want to visit.
Mike’s campaign also focuses on a more prosperous Anchorage. Too seldom, I believe, does our Mayor and our Assembly go to work to bring more jobs to Anchorage and to save the jobs we have. North Slope jobs are, for a large part, Anchorage jobs – but what has the city done to support our energy and mining industries? We are a huge transportation hub, employing thousands at our airport, and more jobs will come from shipping and freight handling if we expand our port and connect the Alaska Railroad to the Lower 48. Tourism employs thousands, and we must build our way out of COVID this year with support for independent travelers. When our city pays more attention to climate change or psychology practices rather than to bringing jobs and building a tax base, something has to change.
Among the candidates, Mike Robbins is a business leader. His radio stations and other ventures have had to focus on community and customer service, or they would not have survived. He’s someone who keeps his word, and tells the truth even when things don’t work. His campaign hasn’t focused on waving picket signs, staging shouting matches and sideshows – he’s focused on solutions. That’s the kind of mayor we need.
Mead Treadwell is a former lieutenant governor of Alaska.