2022 Anchorage Assembly Candidate: John Weddleton

John Weddleton is a candidate for Anchorage Assembly in the April 2022 election. (Photo provided by candidate)

This Q&A is part of a broader candidate survey by the Anchorage Daily News. View the full survey here.

John Weddleton | District: 6 | Age: 63.5 | Occupation: Retailer | weddletonforassembly.com

What is the most important problem facing Anchorage? How would you address it?

Dock failure at the Port of Alaska looms as the biggest threat. I have supported the years of lawsuits that led to the successful case against MARAD to repair the work they mismanaged. I stay in touch with the Port users to make sure we are moving in a way that works for them. There was not a common path a few years ago. We are moving together now. We are near completion of the petroleum/cement terminal. The Assembly and the mayor are united in efforts to find funding to fix the Port.

Rate Dave Bronson’s performance as mayor. Explain, with specific examples.

It was a rough start, but I see better coordination now and I expect the mayor and Assembly to do great things in the future. Building a new administration is always a challenge. Mayor Bronson came to the job with no experience with governing. That led to stumbles and challenges working with the Assembly. Our system of government is designed with checks and balances between the executive branch and the legislative branch, which creates a natural tension that seems to have been a surprise. Where we have common goals, we are working well together. We are aligned on the Port. We share support for our police. Notably, the mayor’s emphasis on using MOA resources to address homelessness is new and needed. We are working together to follow the path we all agreed to.

The past two years have been marked by increased civic discord in Anchorage. How would you improve the quality of civic discourse in the city?

Civic discord is a predictable outcome of a pandemic. As the pandemic wanes and the stresses it caused dissipate, we’ll see more calm and effective communication. At the top of my notes for every meeting, I write “listen generously.” I try to hear the message behind the anger and I am respectful to all who participate. Over the past couple years, I have worked with people who came out swinging. Instead of pushing them away, I pulled them closer. As they learn more about how the city works and how they can be effective in making change, the anger has decreased, they are a pleasure to work with and are effective. Anchorage is better for their participation.

What’s your vision for improving and diversifying Anchorage’s economy?

Economic improvements and diversification will come from creative people building and growing their businesses. The MOA can help by removing barriers. Those include working to get more housing, increasing child care capacity and playing to our strength as a great place to live in Alaska. I’m a member of the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation’s board (AEDC) and share their vision of a movement called “Live. Work. Play.” This goes beyond the traditional economic development model and responds to a shift in paradigm — people are no longer forced to go where the jobs are, instead they are choosing places based on where they want to live and the jobs are following them. The pandemic increased the truth in this concept. A particularly interesting, and cheap, toehold for business is the proposed “Long Trail.” Connecting Seward to Fairbanks, it would be like the Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trails that attract millions.

What do you see as the most effective strategies to address homelessness in Anchorage going forward?

Everyone on the street has a different story making strategies to decrease homelessness very complex. Until a couple years ago, the MOA left the challenge to nonprofits and faith based organizations. That wasn’t working. Mayor Bronson made this a priority and supports putting city money towards the effort. I am a member of the group working with the mayor that developed a path forward for a MOA role in the homeless system. That includes buying hotels for people with medically complex problems, for workforce housing and for supportive housing. We are helping to reactivate an alcohol recovery site. We are looking for a place for elders and vulnerable groups and a new low-barrier navigation center. We are moving forward now on all of these. They will make a difference. We aren’t doing it alone. This is in collaboration with generous businesses and organizations like Rasmuson Foundation, Chugach Alaska, Calista, Weidner Apartment Homes, Providence Hospital, Doyon and others.

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