Bonds, Assembly seats and School Board on Anchorage ballots

Anchorage voters are heading to the polls today for municipal elections. Generally, these local contests – especially in years without a mayoral race – see low voter turn out, but arguably have some of the biggest impacts on residents. To talk about whats on the ballot, I’m joined by Alaska Public Media reporter, Zachariah Hughes.

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HUGHES: Hi, Lori.

TOWNSEND: So what are voters deciding on today, and what do you have your eye on?

HUGHES: Well, voters in Anchorage are deciding on three things. There’s ballot propositions, nine of them all together. There’s also five Assembly seats that are up for grabs, and that’s a big number since the Assembly itself is only 11 people. And then there are two School Board seats that are also up for grabs. So between the three of those, you can think of them as three separate issues and I’m going to be watching a lot of the ballot measures quite closely. A lot of them are for bonding propositions, some of which feel sort of routine. About $36 million for repairs to roads, resurfacing drainage, stuff like that. Just what an area wide bond should go for. And a really big School Board bond.

TOWNSEND: What about the Assembly races? What do you think is important in that mix?

HUGHES: Well. The Assembly races are interesting because there’s the potential for the balance of power on the Assembly to shift. The Assembly is not a partisan race. There’s no Democrats or Republicans affiliations that are part of it. But for people who watch city politics, there’s definitely a sort of balance and a contest between liberal and conservative approaches or ideologies that are brought to bear on issues like budgeting or some social issues like the equal rights amendment that this current mayor’s administration signed off on. And with five of the 11 seats up for [grabs], we could see a change on the Assembly.

TOWNSEND: You have lived in rural Alaska, outside of Anchorage. Do you think this is the kind of election that has any bearing on the lives of people across the state, whether that’s in the Valley, or Deering, Yakutat? What do you think?

HUGHES: Yes and no. I’d say this is much more important than tennis courts were a couple years ago for rural voters. But I think sometimes in Anchorage we can get pretty myopic with things that feel really important within the bounds of the municipality. Because there’s so many people here, because so many people pass through here because Anchorage has such a big footprint on the state’s finances, what happens here resonates outward. Some of that is just zoning requirements change and there’s more hotels in midtown and that ends up having an impact on people’s visits whether it’s for medical or conferences and stuff like that. There’s other things like the Assembly where you might not see that that’s the body that’s green-lighting a Capitol project request to the state which ends up potentially financing a report which influences all of the state. So there’s a lot of invisible strings that connect back to a lot of the Anchorage elections – financially especially – even if it might not feel relevant or particularly immediate to somebody in Nome, Kotzebue or Ketchikan, what’s happening here, I would say that here the ripples are going outward.

TOWNSEND: Alright Zach, we’ll look for results tomorrow.

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 24 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori