With Anchorage’s local election just around the corner, KSKA and Alaska Public media are bringing you a look at those running for mayor. As KSKA’s Zachariah Hughes reports, Dan Coffey brings years of experience in local government and business to his campaign, which is both an asset and a liability.
Coffey has lived in Anchorage for almost his entire life. He’s a lawyer by trade, and has represented clients as diverse as the taxi cab industry to commercial developers. He served on the Planning and Zoning Commission, and was hired by the Sullivan administration to consult on a re-write of the city’s land use code.
Coffey says his familiarity with the laws on the books informs his plans for new development in Anchorage.
“First thing, we have a lot of city land and we need to bring that into the private sector–with restrictions and zoning requirements so that they build housing. And mainly high density housing, we need to do that,” he said. “Secondly, we’ve got to fix the regulatory scheme.”
“And then the third thing: the processes of getting permits and development need to be addressed.”
Coffey believes Anchorage’s large tax-base is a buffer against the revenue declines hitting the state, but says he has no intention of changing the existing tax code. As for reducing existing costs, he sees a need, but says two terms on the Assembly, including as chairman, taught him there’s little use speculating on future spending.
“The problem is, until you actually get there you don’t have the depth of knowledge and understanding about all of the ins and outs of what you might actually cut,” Coffey said.
“So the way I look at is as a set of guidelines, and when we get to transition period that’s the time to really dig in and find out those answers with real budgets in front of you and real information from real city employees.”
In addition to his civic and business careers, Coffey served on the board of the United Way until January of this year. He thinks the city needs to better leverage resources in the non-profit sector to deliver services.
“Breaking down the silos, collaborative efforts, so that we don’t have four entities doing something when, if you worked together, you could certainly be more efficient in the use of your resources,” Coffey said. “The second thing is you gotta have standards and metrics to determine if you’re actually accomplishing something.”
Coffey has raised more money than every other candidate in the race – in part, because he filed to run for mayor in 2013, and has been able to appeal to donors multiple times. He addressed criticisms of his past business and political dealings by trying to run an open campaign, putting recent tax returns and other documents online for the public to see.
When it comes to public safety, Coffey has been clear he wants to see the police force grow to 400 officers. At that staffing level he says the city can focus on preventative community policing.