This Q&A is part of a broader candidate survey by the Anchorage Daily News. View the full survey here.
Kameron Perez-Verdia | District: 3 | Age: 50 | Occupation: President/CEO, Alaska Humanities Forum | kameronforassembly.com
What is the most important problem facing Anchorage? How would you address it?
Public safety is the No. 1 concern in our city. During my time on the Assembly I have fought to fully fund the Anchorage Police Department and hire additional police officers and firefighters. I believe we are on the right track to addressing crime in Anchorage, but as important as increasing the numbers of police and firefighters are, it won’t alone solve our public safety problems. Crime is interrelated with homelessness, mental health, prison reentry, poverty, and addiction, among other issues. And we cannot address one without addressing the whole — we need a comprehensive strategy that tackles multiple social and systematic issues. That is why I have strongly advocated for the new mobile crisis team. By having mental health first responders handle moments of crisis, we can keep folks out of the criminal justice system and free up our police and firefighters to tackle the issues they are uniquely trained to address.
Rate Dave Bronson’s performance as mayor. Explain, with specific examples.
The mayor and his administration had a rocky start, but I am heartened by recent cooperation with the Assembly on working to solve critical issues in our city such as homelessness.
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?
We need to have more open dialogues as a community and listen to one another about what we believe and how those beliefs overlap. I’ve worked hard to listen to my constituents and consider every viewpoint in making important decisions during my time on the Assembly. I’m also the President and CEO of the Alaska Humanities Forum, where we work to host those very dialogues and explore the reasons for our current polarity. Campaigns are a unique opportunity to get out and talk with residents before they make a decision for the future. I’ve enjoyed knocking doors over the past several months and talking with folks of all different backgrounds and beliefs about what they hope to see the city moving forward. Given the current media environment, I think folks would be surprised by how much we really have in common. At the end of the day, local government should be a mundane way of bringing community members together, and I think when we give each other a chance we can do so civilly and productively.
What’s your vision for improving and diversifying Anchorage’s economy?
During my time on the Anchorage Assembly, we worked hard to provide immediate relief to businesses during and after the COVID-19 pandemic through our appropriations of CARES Act and American Rescue Plan Act funds to relief programs for small businesses, nonprofits, arts and culture organizations, and targeted relief to the tourism and hospitality sectors. Looking ahead, my vision is to move beyond the relief phase of economic recovery by working with my colleagues on the Assembly and our local economic leaders to: deploy the next rounds of federal relief dollars in workforce training and development that ensures job opportunities that are coming to our community through the federal infrastructure bill are filled by locals; further improve and streamline the bureaucratic processes that small business, entrepreneurs, and developers must go through; and supporting the efforts of my colleagues in seeing the “A New Day for Anchorage” jobs plan succeeds.
What do you see as the most effective strategies to address homelessness in Anchorage going forward?
Anchorage has a strategic roadmap to ensuring homelessness is rare, brief and one-time (“Anchored Home”), which emphasizes four pillars: 1) prevention and diversion, 2) housing and support systems, 3) public health and safety, and 4) advocacy and funding. During my time on the Assembly, I’ve supported policy and fiscal choices that will fund the acquisition of hotels for conversion to needed shelter for the medically fragile and transitional housing, I have increased municipal support for social service providers, and I helped allocate funding for the critical mobile crisis team. Now I’m working on a day center that will provide the services folks need to find jobs, secure long-term housing, and break the cycle of homelessness. As the former director of program services at Catholic Social Services, where I focused on this issue, I am excited about the real progress we’re making. So too is the private sector, where $10 million in funding has been made available due to confidence in our plan.