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, Lance Ahern aims to use his experiences in the tech sector to reduce costs and improve local government.
Ahern made his way to Alaska in the 80s, and later on founded one of the first businesses to offer Internet access to residents. He sold that business, and for the last 10 years has been a IT manager for state and municipal government. With more city services moving online, Ahern says familiarity with IT systems gives him insight into where there are inefficiencies.
“We need to reduce the structural cost of public safety. We need to have less administrative overhead, not just in government overall, but also specifically in public safety,” Ahern said. “So today we run two different 911 dispatch centers—one for police, one for fire. In many places in the Lower-48 they’ve been able to combine those, and there’s no reason why we can’t. We can take that excessive spending and re-invest that into officers on the street.”
Ahern currently works as the Chief Information Officer for the municipality, and has been careful to distance himself from the decisions-making processes that have led to costly delays implementing the SAP software system.
On fiscal policy, Ahern believes the city needs to trim operating costs more than it needs to generate additional revenue. He wants to renovate, not rebuild, the way non-profits and city departments deliver services. Housing and development is one example.
“The rules seem to be a little bit shifted so that the Return on Investment is much better for commercial property development,” Ahern said. “So one of the things I’d be doing immediately in starting as mayor is to sit down with the director of the community development department, to look at the policies we have in place and see how the city deals with that issue from a policy perspective.”
“And see if we can make some changes that help balance the playing field.”
Ahern is running an unconventional campaign. He’s not held public office before, filed to run for mayor on the day of the deadline, and of the $7,856.82 he’s raised, much of it has been spent on digital resources instead of traditional things like signs. He’s also been critical of what he sees as a two-tiered electoral system treating candidates differently based on their fundraising abilities rather than ideas.
He challenged one candidate for not pushing for more inclusion at a forum hosted by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce.
“So, the question is, do you believe that the Chamber was right to exclude me, or do you think I’m a viable candidate with important messages that the people of Anchorage should hear?” he said.
In the past, Ahern served on the board overseeing KSKA and KAKM.