A ‘new direction’: Dave Bronson sworn in as Anchorage’s new mayor
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The “new direction” that Dave Bronson has been talking about since he entered a heated campaign for the mayor’s office is taking its first steps Thursday morning after he was sworn in.
Bronson was sworn in at an inauguration ceremony just before 8 a.m. at the Downtown Marriott. All the proceeds and donations from the event are going to Bean’s Cafe. The shelter and soup kitchen’s CEO, Lisa Sauder, confirmed that the event was sold out.
Members of Bronson’s transition team said Thursday would be all about officially getting into office so that the work of making good on campaign promises can begin shortly after.
Not long after Bronson was sworn in, he hosted a press conference outlining his priorities for his first day in office. Later in the day, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., there will be a block party at the Delaney Park Strip. It’s an event that Bronson’s team announced is open to all residents of the community.
Those who followed this year’s mayoral race may remember a fair amount of contention between Bronson and his main opponent, Anchorage Assembly member Forrest Dunbar. The two had stark differences on how they would handle the various issues facing Anchorage if elected, from local taxes to helping Anchorage recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many points of disagreement between the two, as well as the focus of Bronson’s campaign promises, revolved around the issue of addressing homelessness in the city. Bronson has made big statements on this topic, such as deploying Anchorage police officers as part of his plan to remove people experiencing homelessness from city streets.
Bronson and his team have also laid out an ambitious plan to erect a mass homeless shelter and navigation center by the old Anchorage Police Department headquarters near the corner of Elmore and Tudor Roads on the east side of town.
Many have voiced disapproval of that plan at assembly meetings. Complaints have varied from it being too big, too close to neighborhoods, and too expensive at a projected $15 million. In a direct meeting between Bronson and the public, many people hurled their disapproval his way in masses. There were also people who said they supported this plan.
The plan for the mass shelter differs in many ways from former Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson’s plan to purchase the old Alaska Club building not so far away on Tudor Road in Midtown for a new homeless shelter.
That plan would cost about $5.4 million in the latest offer deal reached by the city. There too, nearby residents have voiced their concerns over putting a shelter in that area.
The proposed mass shelter from Bronson’s team would house about 400 people and could be upgraded if necessary. The old Alaska Club building plan would have a capacity of 125.
While he was campaigning, Bronson reached out to the assembly to discuss the issue of homelessness. At that time, Quinn-Davidson said she was encouraged that he reached out to start talking about solutions.
Earlier in June, the assembly passed two ordinances regarding homelessness. One changes the zoning rules for homeless shelters, and the other requires shelters to obtain a license. There was an amendment made that capped capacity at any shelter in the B-3 General Business district at 150 people.
While that is quite a bit less than Bronson’s idea for a mass shelter, Assembly Vice Chair Chris Constant said the plan could still happen with more approval from the city.
During a presentation of the plan to the assembly, a member of Bronson’s transition team, Dr. John Morris, said the mixture of opinions between the assembly and Bronson’s team could lead the city into a positive direction when it comes to addressing homelessness.
Editor’s note: The story has been updated following the swearing-in ceremony.
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