Eaglexit backers continue to seek donations, volunteer support

Friday, October 11, 2019 - 13:08
  • A sign touting the Eaglexit detachment effort outside the Eagle River Lions Club on Oct. 3, 2019. (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)
  • Eaglexit chair Mike Tavoliero talks to the crowd during an informational meeting about the group on Oct. 3, 2019 at the Eagle River Lions Clubhouse in Eagle River. (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)
  • Eaglexit director Ben Westveer answers questions during an informational meeting about the group on Oct. 3, 2019 at the Eagle River Lions Clubhouse in Eagle River. (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)

Backers of a movement to separate Assembly District 2 from the Municipality of Anchorage say they’re still trying to raise money and enlist volunteers to help with a feasibility study they hope will show the economics of a split are sound.

Known as “Eaglexit,” the group formed this spring with the goal of detaching the Chugiak-Eagle River area — along with Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and a small portion of East Anchorage — from the muni and forming their own city government. The group held an informational session Oct. 3 at the Eagle River Lions Club during which volunteer board members gave an update on their progress.

Eaglexit chair Michael Tavoliero opened the presentation by showing a video about Sandy Springs, Georgia, called “The City that Outsourced Everything.” In the video, officials from the suburban Atlanta community told how they created a successful public/private model for local government that outsourced most traditional government functions to private companies.

Tavoliero said the Sandy Springs model would provide a good template for an independent Chugiak-Eagle River to follow.

“Our goal, really, is to create a more efficient and effective government,” he said.

While Sandy Springs has been widely touted as a new model for delivering government services, the city recently scrapped much of its public/private model, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In a May article about the city, the paper said local officials determined Sandy Springs would save as much as $14 million over five years by bringing most of its departments in-house.

“The gap between private-sector prices and in-house costs for these services was such we cannot justify the difference,” Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul told the paper.

Paul said the city was not abandoning the model entirely and would continue to evaluate the cost of services.

Eaglexit supporters have said they’re fed up with a left-leaning Anchorage Assembly that doesn’t reflect the predominantly conservative character of District 2, which has two seats on the 11-member assembly.

“We get two votes and we will always get two votes,” Tavoliero told the crowd of about 50 people who attended the meeting at the Eagle River Lions Clubhouse.

Tavoliero said District 2 accounts for about 17% of the municipality’s population and more than 40% of its land area. The first figure includes residents of JBER and one East Anchorage precinct and the latter includes vast swaths of parkland owned by the state and federal government.

The costs associated with detachment are still unknown. A 2007 study conducted by Northern Economics found costs would rise for taxpayers were Chugiak-Eagle River to detach and keep the same level of services, but Eaglexit supporters believe their numbers will show otherwise.

“The next step, with your help, is we’re going to put together our feasibility study,” Tavoliero said.

When asked how much money is needed for a study, Eaglexit director Ben Westveer did not give a dollar amount. Instead, he said the group is hoping to use volunteers to help crunch the numbers and keep the costs as low as possible.

“We’re trying to do that as much in house as we can,” he said.

The reception was generally favorable, though one man in the crowd did point out that previous studies have shown detachment would cost local taxpayers and questioned how this effort will be different.

“Every one that has been done has shown that it is not feasible,” the man said.

Westveer said the Northern Economics study “shows nothing and didn’t look at any numbers.” He also said there are other benefits to detachment that go beyond economics, including the ability for Chugiak-Eagle River residents to have more local control over its local government.

“We don’t need these huge social issues going on in Anchorage,” he said.

Cost savings is also why group members said Eaglexit funnels its online donations through the Texas-based Justice Foundation, whose mission is to “pray, litigate, education and advocate for life, liberty and justice.”

Justice Foundation general counsel Clayton Trotter, who moved to Eagle River five years ago, said the group acts as a convenient way to pass donations on to Eaglexit, which has not incorporated as a nonprofit.

“It’s just turned around and sent back here,” Trotter said.

Trotter said he’s in favor of detachment because he’s tired of seeing Chugiak-Eagle River’s tax dollars doled out by an assembly that’s often out of touch with local concerns.

“I just don’t like sending money from here into Anchorage,” he said.

Following the meeting, group members urged people to donate and purchase yard signs, which are available for a suggested $7 donation. The group will also hold a wine tasting fundraiser Nov. 30.

For more on the group’s efforts, visit eaglexit.com or find them on Facebook.

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