A little more about Starr and Gibbons
Thirteen Anchorage Assembly candidates sat in the front of the First Covenant Church in Anchorage on March 24 for the Faith & Action Congregation Together Assembly Candidate Forum.
They sat on folding chairs in front of a large wooden cross and answered community-related questions.
Sharon Gibbons and Bill Starr represented the Chugiak-Eagle River area. Both are running for District 2 Seat C.
Gibbons is a first-time Assembly seeker. She’s worked in the criminal justice field for 14 years and believes in the cause-and-effect of quality education.
She’s running for Assembly as a way of advocating for others.
“I’ve very passionate about having someone actively listen,” she said. “That’s what I know how to do, and what I like to do.”
She campaigned door-to-door, spending time with community members and listening to issues.
“People were actually shocked that someone was knocking on their door and interested in their views,” she said.
She wants to hear everyone’s concerns, their problems and suggestions.
“I believe that it’s part of our DNA as Americans to have a voice.”
Starr is running for Assembly re-election. He’s also served three terms as Eagle River Valley Community Council president and two terms on the Anchorage Planning & Zoning Commission.
One of the major jobs of the District 2 representative is educating the Assembly on what’s happening in the Chugiak-Eagle River area, he said.
“The other members aren’t aware of our issues,” he said. “I have to be interested in their issues so that they’ll be interested in mine,” he said.
The seat, he said, is a lot about being diplomatic, of knowing when to align with someone, when to show support and when to ask for support.
Eagle River can and does become lost in the Anchorage shuffle.
“It can feel as if they’re treating us like the stepchild,” he said.
He worries about Chugiak-Eagle River’s financial future.
“I’m afraid we won’t be able to maintain what we have,” he said.
Then he shook his head.
“I don’t want to be known as a politician, even though I am one.”
Questions and answers
While the AFACT forum questions centered on Anchorage issues, Gibbons and Starr offered insight on prospective philosophies and viewpoints.
Candidates had one minute to answer each question.
Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Q: If elected to office will you reexamine the unfinished recommendations from the taskforce (a recent citizen’s taskforce that offered recommendations to improve public process) with the purpose of enhancing public participation and trust?
Gibbons: I think it is very crucial, very important that as representatives we do just that and represent the constituents in our separate districts. It is very important that we hear what the constituents are saying so that we may be able to then follow up and give report when we are in the Assembly.
Starr: I did vote for that ordinance and I think we’re catching up. There’s a certain sense that we can be all things to most with the new electronics, emails, Facebook and all that. But I think there’s just that general sense that you want an Assembly person that reaches out on his own as well, and I feel pro-active in my community with the call-backs and email returns. I’m there. I don’t shy away from the dialogue, I never have. The accessibility and the ability to be educated on a topic is a two-way street.
If elected to office, would you consider re-establishing a homeless coordinator that answers directly to the mayor?
Gibbons: When we consider that many of the homeless people are youth I think it is detrimental to our community that we do aid and help as much as we possibly can those that are unfortunate and don’t have the resources that we have. As Pat Flynn said, “There but the grace of God go I.” So yes, with that in mind, I would be in favor (or re-establishing a homeless coordinator).
Starr: I believe that Mayor Sullivan has done a nice job of bringing it (homelessness) into his office. I would hope there are other mechanisms including calling the mayor’s office and saying, “We’ve got an issue.” One of the challenges is interaction and bringing others to the table, so we have to be careful that we don’t centralize it to one expectation. I went to several of the homeless task force meetings and we brought up some great solutions such as the cold weather policy. I would really rather see a committee (than a homeless coordinator). I think this would give a broader voice.
If elected to office, will you advocate to make funding for substance abuse treatment a top priority in city budget requests to the state legislature in the fall?
Gibbons: After 15 years in the criminal justice field I can definitely say there is a need to work with individuals that have substance abuse problems. There is a struggle there. There is a challenge there. So what we, again, can do to assist may not be totally financial. There are resources out there and I do agree that it is our responsibility as a community, as constituents, as folks in the Assembly, to assist those that cannot help themselves.
Starr: Money’s not always the answer. The chronic inebriated in Anchorage are Alaska citizens as well. We sponsored an amendment that added $5,000 to state legislature request for increase in the Community Service Patrols and I hope they get that. We can certainly package and warehouse them (substance abusers) and spin them back out but there comes a time when you have to understand their cultural dynamics and start to move through that.
At the end of the forum, each candidate was given 30 seconds to sum up why voters should vote for them.
Gibbons: I was born and raised in Anchorage. I grew up in northeast Muldoon, where my parents still live, so I still have that connection. District 2 encompasses Eagle River, Eklutna, JBER, northeast Muldoon, and I want to reach all the constituents. I’m approachable, I’m accessible, I love to listen, I’m capable of listening. I love people and I’m a hard worker. I’m going to advocate for our constituents.
Starr: I started out as community council president. I’m asking for the vote for Chugiak-Eagle River because I’m not challenged enough yet. Topics are getting more serious, they’re more volatile, and my reputation of taking those on whether it be the mayor or fellow Assembly members is what I think’s necessary in the debate and dialogue before you move to that solution. I feel comfortable with the dialogue, and I’m ready to move toward the solution.