This Q&A is part of a broader candidate survey by the Anchorage Daily News. View the full survey here.
Stephanie Taylor | District: 5 | Age: 59 | Occupation: Homemaker | stephanieforak.com
What is the most important problem facing Anchorage? How would you address it?
The most important and urgent problem facing Anchorage is the homelessness crisis. We can no longer afford to turn a blind eye toward the suffering of our homeless neighbors. It speaks volumes about our community when there is so much visible suffering around us. Anchorage has several nonprofit organizations that have successfully addressed this issue and helped individuals experiencing homelessness transition from the street into productive lives. The problem has grown so big that these organizations cannot address this problem on such a large scale, but if we partner with these agencies and pattern our solutions after their model, we can make a real difference.
Rate Dave Bronson’s performance as mayor. Explain, with specific examples.
I believe that the people elected Mayor Bronson as a clear message to the Assembly of their dissatisfaction with the Assembly’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under Mayor Bronson’s leadership, Public Works has streamlined, simplified, and integrated the permitting process for builders and contractors. Since he took office, he has proposed solutions to our homelessness crisis. While his proposal may have had some issues, the discussion could have moved us closer to a workable solution. The mayor and the Assembly need to be able to find common ground to solve the urgent issues of our city. He has also attempted to reduce the budget to a reasonable degree and has been hampered from doing so by our current Assembly. I would work with the duly elected mayor to help bring the best solutions possible in the time we have. No solution will be perfect, and I am not looking to rubber-stamp the actions of the mayor, but to be open to working with him to make progress toward shared goals.
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?
The civic discord has primarily been a direct result of stringent COVID-19 policies enacted by the former administrations and Assembly. This level of unrest could have been avoided if the local leadership had placed their confidence in the people of Anchorage to make medical decisions for themselves instead of adopting a “one-size-fits-all” policy. I would work to improve the quality of civic discourse by respecting and listening to constituents and erring on the side of liberty and personal autonomy. Alaskans are an independent people and should be respected for the choices they make for themselves, their businesses, and their families.
What’s your vision for improving and diversifying Anchorage’s economy?
Reducing homelessness and mitigating crime will go a long way toward improving Anchorage’s economy. People will be drawn to shopping and visiting the downtown area when they can do so without the risk of encountering potentially dangerous situations. It will also improve tourism and traffic. As businesses reopen and recover from the lockdowns, people will begin patronizing shops and restaurants again. We need to attract new entrepreneurs to our city, but they must not be burdened with unnecessary taxes or heavy regulations.
What do you see as the most effective strategies to address homelessness in Anchorage going forward?
Bean’s Café, Hope Center, and the Anchorage Gospel Rescue Mission are all successfully transitioning people experiencing homelessness into productive lives. We could partner with these organizations and duplicate their models on a larger scale. Almost everyone can contribute to the larger community in some way. When people learn life skills and job skills, they are better equipped to become contributing members of the community. They gain confidence and move toward a more hope-filled and productive future. Another strategy would be to research other cities that have successfully addressed homelessness and learn from them.