This Q&A is part of a broader candidate survey by the Anchorage Daily News. View the full survey here.
Meg Zaletel | District: 4 | Age: 42 | Occupation: Attorney/interim executive director, Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness | megforanchorage.com
What is the most important problem facing Anchorage? How would you address it?
The most important issue facing Anchorage is the economic recovery from COVID-19. How Anchorage invests and plans in the following months and years will set it on a trajectory for the future. That means continued wise investment that looks both at immediate needs and long-term investments and strikes the right balance between the two. The pandemic happened when Anchorage was facing an economic recession driven by low oil prices and years of dramatically reduced state support. We could not eliminate all the economic pain felt by many families across our city, but we looked earnestly for ways to have the most meaningful impact. As Anchorage moves forward, our immediate response must also include future planning. We need an economically sound approach to move Anchorage past the “boom and bust” mentality to a period of stability and growth.
Rate Dave Bronson’s performance as mayor. Explain, with specific examples.
The mayor has carried forward good work, such as the Port of Alaska, homelessness, and Accessible Dwelling Units (ADUs). He’s also been a partisan lightning rod who was slow to stop some very concerning behavior in the chambers (such as initially defending the use of Holocaust imagery by those who didn’t want to wear masks). I think if he continues on just doing the work that needs to be done and stays out of the partisan politics that are driving so much discord, he will be a much more effective leader.
It’s very important that the Assembly and executive branch work collaboratively and amicably to make sure that the important work of keeping our city running is accomplished. Unfortunately, it’s the flashy topics that tend to be more polarizing and make the news, and that’s what people see, and that’s why they imagine the executive branch and the Assembly are openly hostile as they work together. For the most part, this isn’t the case.
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?
It’s important to remember that a small group of people drives this discord. And unfortunately, as with everything in life, the only behavior we can control is our own. Our challenge is to continue to model good government, patience and kindness, and to continue to get the work done.
What’s your vision for improving and diversifying Anchorage’s economy?
Right now is not a good time to increase or diversify our tax base. A lot of residents are still struggling financially from the economic impacts of COVID-19, so I don’t believe it time to put new burdens on our families and our businesses.
We do need to look at ways to make Anchorage a place where people can afford to live, work, and play. That means tackling the big issues of affordable housing and child care, supporting our local businesses, and attracting and retaining a strong workforce.
What do you see as the most effective strategies to address homelessness in Anchorage going forward?
Homelessness can happen for various reasons, and experiencing homelessness, regardless of the cause, is traumatic. Housing is the solution to homelessness, but Anchorage has an affordable housing crisis. Until there are enough available units to meet the need, investments in short-term emergency response will have to continue.
Additionally, asking individuals what they want and need is essential to getting buy-in to any services offered. With client direction, the Muni and providers can offer the appropriate options for services.
Finally, better coordination of traditional safety-net services, such as Medicaid, food stamps and the homeless response system allows providers to leverage various resources to help individuals and doesn’t place the full cost of the response on any one entity.