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Meet the candidate: George Martinez

George Martinez is running for mayor of Anchorage in this year's municipal election.
George Martinez is running for mayor of Anchorage in this year's municipal election.(George Martinez 's campaign team)
Published: Mar. 12, 2021 at 1:14 PM AKST|Updated: Mar. 13, 2021 at 7:12 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - George Martinez is running for mayor of Anchorage. Alaska’s News Source asked him to answer some questions about his campaign. Here’s what he said.

Can you give me a short description of yourself?

I am the independent choice for Mayor of Anchorage. I am a husband, a father, a university professor, and a former US cultural diplomat, appointed under both Republican and Democratic administrations. I serve on boards of several local nonprofits including, Anchorage’s Promise (Kids Day) and Anchorage Cops for Community. I am the only mayoral candidate with hands-on experience in the mayor’s office, serving from 2015 to 2019 as the special assistant to the mayor with a focus on economic development, youth development, and making the municipality more accessible and effective for the people. During my time, I built a strong record of accomplishment and reputation for getting things done which is why I know first hand the challenges, successes, and opportunities our city faces. I know that leading Anchorage is not just about having a vision; it’s about the ability to bring people together to move Anchorage forward.

How long have you lived in Alaska?

7 years

Why are you running for mayor?

I am running for Mayor to move Anchorage forward because the future of my family depends on the future of our city. As a diplomat with hands-on local experience bringing diverse people together to roll our sleeves up and get things done, I know that we can reset, rebuild and rebound stronger, better prepared, and more prosperous than before.

A left vs right tug of war has stunted forward progress in Anchorage. We went from being the city of lights and flowers with aspirations of getting the winter Olympics and becoming the first city without prejudice to a finger-pointing, name-calling toxic political environment that led to increased vandalism, threats of violence, and more economic uncertainty for working families. My vision is for a safe, connected, and thriving city where our economy grows for everyone, where our neighborhoods and families flourish, and our children are healthy and successful. It’s time!

What will be your focus while in office?

Anchorage is well-positioned to be a great, prosperous northern hub city, hardworking, vibrant with a unique flavor of cultural diversity, ready to end toxic partisanship and move forward. My vision is for a safe, connected, and thriving city where our economy grows, neighborhoods and families flourish, and our children are healthy and successful. I have 4 focus areas to achieve that vision.

1) Rebounding the Economy: Anchorage is one of the most diverse cities in the country, and with this diversity comes an inherent economic power. I am focused on resetting the city’s economic engine through innovation, education, infrastructure, and tourism to build a stronger, more prosperous, and inclusive economy with employment and business opportunities that support improving the quality of life for individuals and families.

2) Resetting Public Safety: I believe that every neighborhood should be safe, clean, and connected. Children and families should not fear walking to school, visiting downtown, riding their bikes to the neighborhood park, or enjoying the trail system. No part of our city should look or feel neglected. We can do better. By bringing together individuals, law enforcement, civil society organizations, faith-based partners, and the business sector, Anchorage can become one of the safest, cleanest, and most connected cities in America.

3)Rebuilding Education (Cradle to Career and Beyond): Education is the key to success. Anchorage must become a life long learning city that fosters cradle to career and beyond advancement. We can rebuild Anchorage’s education system to serve our needs today while driving us forward as the northern hub of innovation through the strategic alignment of education and community resources.

4) Responsible and Responsive Government: The Municipality of Anchorage must deliver high-quality public services for all people in every neighborhood; work hard to create economic opportunities for residents and businesses; prioritize community participation and inclusion for all, and make policies and decisions that create a stimulating and enjoyable life for residents while limiting the growth of unnecessary government bureaucracy.

What do you plan to do about the COVID-19 pandemic?

I will bring our community together to get us through the pandemic and back to business. My administration will be proactive, culturally responsive, accountable, and transparent. It is imperative that the mayor protects the public trust and operates from a place of integrity. I believe scientific/fact-based decision-making must include the recognition that all politics is local, and we must account for our culture, character, and people’s capacity

What is the largest issue outside of the pandemic facing the municipality and what do you intend to do about it?

The municipality’s biggest challenge is restoring public trust and reducing the level of toxic partisanship that has grown increasingly more bitter and volatile. Over the last year, I’ve talked with hundreds of our community members who share the same growing concerns about their family’s safety, economic future, and the level of political dysfunction across the city’s leadership. They are tired of Anchorage teetering between standing still or falling behind, and they are tired of excuses from ambitious leaders who don’t know what to do or who are unwilling to make things happen.

There’s a lot of political division in our city. How can you bring people together?

As a nonpartisan and the only former diplomat running for mayor, I have a long track record of bringing people together in some of the most difficult and dangerous of circumstances to grow economic and community development opportunities. As mayor I will cut through the toxic partisanship and provide a clear and strong vision of how we will roll our sleeves up to get things done.

The most important job of the next mayor will be to end the toxic partisanship and reset civility. Effective leadership brings people together through authentic listening with empathy, clear work plans for collaboration, leaving room to disagree with dignity but still finding a way back to collective work.

Too many political leaders are ready to point fingers, call opposition names and raise the temperature in the room. This is an error in judgment.

I also boast bi-partisan and intergenerational endorsements from diverse community leaders like former Mayor Rick Mystrom, Margo Bellamy, Malcolm and Cindy Roberts, Sheila Selkregg, Eleanor Andrews, Rev. Dr Alonzo Patterson, Tony Nakazawa, Elsa Sargento and Elizabeth Medicine Crow that speak to my ability to bring people together to move Anchorage forward.

Do you think the state’s vaccine distribution has been fair for all?

No.

People have been leaving Anchorage over the past few years. How can you make Anchorage a desirable place to live and do business?

I invite you to visit my website for more specific details (george2021.com) but here are 7 immediate areas that I would address to improve the quality of life and business in Anchorage:

1) Open Anchorage for business and help businesses stay open.

2) End homelessness in Anchorage as we know it.

3) SAFER: Safe Anchorage for Every Resident.

4) Improve Destination Anchorage - If we love our visitors will too!

5) Invest in early childhood and after school program to reopen the economy faster.

6) Raise graduation rates and prepare the workforce we need

7) Raise Anchorage’s global profile to drive new investments

Did you agree or disagree with the municipality’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? If not, what would you have done differently?

The pandemic revealed that Anchorage is woefully under-prepared for a prolonged disaster and has misaligned priorities. From the very beginning, we didn’t do enough to address the preexisting equity issues in our community concerning education, healthcare, and the economy, which were made worse by the pandemic.

1) I would have prioritized public education, outreach, and mitigation support for our community’s most vulnerable members.

2) Then, I would have then proactively provided technical assistance for small businesses, including disadvantaged business enterprises making sure that every eligible business applied for the maximum amount they qualify for.

3) I would have worked closely with small businesses to keep the lights on.

4) I am deeply opposed to and strongly offended by the bullying of some faith-based leaders by members of the Assembly.

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