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Anchorage Votes: In televised conversation, the two candidates for mayor show vast differences

Anchorage mayoral candidates Forrest Dunbar (left) and Dave Bronson (right).
Anchorage mayoral candidates Forrest Dunbar (left) and Dave Bronson (right).(Photo courtesy the campaigns of Forrest Dunbar and Dave Bronson.)
Published: Apr. 29, 2021 at 4:48 PM AKDT
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The two candidates to become the next mayor of Anchorage, Forrest Dunbar and Dave Bronson, showed how vastly different they would run the city during a televised conversation with Alaska’s News Source.

Alaska’s News Source on Wednesday night hosted a conversation with the two candidates after the President Joe Biden’s first address to Congress. Dunbar and Bronson will face each other in the May 11 runoff election and the discussion touched on housing and homelessness, vaccinations, taxes and the US Constitution.

During the event, Dunbar pushed Bronson to say where homeless services would located under his administration.

“Third (Avenue) and Eagle in Ingra, the 15 acres that are just north, we can build a facility there,” Bronson said. “There’s the 5-50 building on Bragaw. The old school, we can build them there, and we also have the mall by Merrill Field.”

Dunbar asked, “So, you’re going to put them in Northway Mall, and Ingra, that you’re going to create new large facilities in those neighborhoods, that’s your plan?”

Dunbar also questioned Bronson’s remarks about arresting homeless people. Bronson said he’s talking about people experiencing chronic homelessness, not someone like a waitress who’s lost a job during the pandemic and needs temporary help.

“The notion that I’m going to throw people in jail for being homeless that’s antithetical to what I am. I’m not going to do that,” Bronson said. “I’m throwing people in jail because they keep breaking the law.”

Dunbar said he supports vouchers for apartments or hotel rooms and smaller shelters, similar to Clare House.

Bronson also said he would give rebates to businesses that were impacted by coronavirus restrictions, and his ads say he would cut taxes. Dunbar said either move would require the city to either find new revenue or cut services.

“What are you going to cut, Dave?” Dunbar asked.

“We’re going to have to look at cutting just about everything,” Bronson replied. “Probably, everything except the police department for now. It’s a sad thing.”

Bronson did not say how much the cuts or rebates would total. He also said he would increase the Anchorage Police Department up to 490 police officers. According to APD, as of last month there were 435 sworn officers.

Leading APD is Deputy Chief Kenneth McCoy, who was appointed as acting chief of police. McCoy has been with the Anchorage Police Department for 27 years and has been serving as deputy chief for the last four years. He is also made history the first Black chief of police in the department’s 100-year history.

Both Bronson and Dunbar were asked if they would keep McCoy on the job if elected. Bronson said no and Dunbar said yes.

“We’re going to have to make some changes in this city to our personnel,” Bronson said.

“I think Dept. Chief McCoy is extremely well qualified,” Dunbar said.

Bronson also threw barbs at Dunbar for his decisions while on the Anchorage Assembly during the conversation.

“On the left, even as the population in our city is shrinking, over the last several years, from about 300,000 down to around 290,000, the bill keeps going up for the whole city,” Bronson said. “The tax bill keeps going up.”

Bronson, a favorite of the conservative Facebook group Save Anchorage, also has ads that say, “A bunch of idiots are tearing up our city,” with a picture of the Anchorage Assembly playing.

“It’s probably not helpful but it’s certainly accurate,” Bronson said.

He later said Dunbar doesn’t have, “the sense God gave an anvil.”

Dunbar said that way of speaking is counterproductive.

“To get to your question of calling people idiots or saying ‘God gave an anvil,’ these kind of sayings, it’s just super, it’s very counterproductive,” Dunbar said. “I want to help bring people together.”

Multiple times during the conversation, Dunbar said Bronson was not telling the truth.

“He said that the constitution is shot through with racism,” Bronson said.

“I did not say that,” Dunbar said. “I didn’t say that.”

“We have the video,” Bronson said.

A video posted by conservative blog Must Read Alaska in June of 2020 shows an extend version of Dunbar as he was talking during an assembly meeting about the book “America’s Constitution: A Biography” by Akhil Reed Amar, regarding constitutional law. Dunbar made the remarks disputed remarks during protests over the murder of George Floyd.

The actual remarks were:

“What becomes inescapable when you read it is how shot through every portion of our constitutional law is with race when it comes to the Three-fifths Compromise, to the way the senate was apportioned, congress, the electoral college, all of it,” Dunbar said at the time. “All of it was tied to race. And so it’s a really complicated legacy that we are still working through today.”

Asked if either man has been vaccinated against COVID-19 and would encourage others to get vaccinated, Dunbar said he has and would. Bronson said he has already had coronavirus and does not plan to get vaccinated.

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