Forrest Dunbar “I pledge to fight discrimination”
by carlos matías
On April 6, Anchorage residents came to the polls to elect their new Mayor, but no candidate received 45% of the votes needed to win the Mayoral Election. Sol De Medianoche reached out to the two best-positioned candidates for office, Forrest Dunbar and Dave Bronson. Below is the interview with our questions, answered only by Forrest Dunbar. Dave Bronson did not answer.
Defeating Covid-19 and getting the economy back on track for the city are the biggest challenges you’ll face. How are you going to overcome these challenges? These two challenges go hand in hand. In recovering from COVID, we need to return confidence to patrons that they can safely return to their favorite restaurants, stores, and venues without risking their health. We saw at the beginning of the pandemic that even without government mandates, people stopped shopping out of fear. Alaska has led the nation in vaccination rates, which should allow us to reopen safely and stay open. As a community, we need to continue to provide free, accessible vaccine clinics in all our neighborhoods, with flexible hours and language access to ensure residents can get their doses quickly and easily. We’re going to need to build coalitions of business owners, work with tourism operators, and make it easy for people to return to our commercial centers to move us past COVID and move our economy into recovery.
Are you the most entrenched candidate in Anchorage of all those who have run? Over the last decade, I’ve represented my community in roles on my community council, on local organization boards, and by representing East Anchorage on the Assembly since 2016. Of all the candidates in this race, I have the most experience serving in elected office, listening to constituents, writing policy, and implementing changes that bring real improvements to our community. I have on-the-ground experience in adjusting Anchorage’s code to make developing businesses easier, championing new sources of revenue to develop early childhood programs, and collaborating with community partners to create innovative solutions like the Mental Health First Responders, which will both save the Municipality money and improve quality of life.
Would you be the youngest mayor in the history of Anchorage? I would not be! Anchorage’s Delaney Park Strip is named after our youngest Mayor. Mayor James Delaney was only 33 when he was elected in 1929. However, if I am elected, I would be the youngest Mayor since the city and borough of Anchorage unified into one Municipality.
You talk about equal opportunity, what needs to change in Anchorage so that everyone has the same opportunities and equal treatment from official institutions, without discrimination based on sex, race, origin, or socioeconomic status? We need action from leaders to consider equity in everything we do as a government. As Mayor I will be committed to combating discrimination and will also build a team as committed to that mission as I am. Equity and overcoming historical discrimination in the Mayor’s Office means evaluating our hiring system to see why we’re losing candidates from diverse backgrounds. It also means connecting with our students at all levels to engage them in conversations about their future here in Anchorage, and it means auditing our progress as a Municipality year after year, working with our new Chief Equity Officer.
You say that there will be new federal grants and that you and your government team are going to make sure that these grants are distributed quickly and fairly to the people and small businesses that need them most. How do you plan to do this? We need to make sure that all businesses have equal access to apply, and that we get funds to the most impacted. If elected, my administration will balance the need to distribute funds quickly with vetting every application and program to ensure every dollar is going where it is needed most. Application processes need to be both online and via paper application, for those who want them, and paired with navigators and translation services.
What is the main message you want to send to Anchorage residents? Our community is full of amazing, resilient people. I’m running for mayor to get us through this current public health crisis and into a strong economic recovery. We have faced a very challenging year together, but I believe in our future; we are going to grow and diversify our economy, create new, good-paying jobs, and offer a uniquely high quality of life in this community that we all share and love.
What is your most important promise or commitment to the city? I’m running for Mayor because I want to make Anchorage an even better place to live, and because we need fact-based leadership to beat COVID and get our economy back on track. I believe Anchorage can be an exciting city with strong public safety, thriving businesses, good-paying jobs, and a top-tier education system. My Mayoral Administration will bring that positive change.
PROUDLY POWERED BY SOL DE MEDIANOCHE NEWS, LLC. Sol de Medianoche is a monthly publication of the Latino community in Anchorage, Alaska