Assembly plans for better plow-outs

Public health and public safety for pedestrians a top priority for the public health committee meeting Jan. 4
Public health and public safety for pedestrians a top priority for the public health committee meeting Jan. 4.
Published: Jan. 4, 2023 at 6:49 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The all-consuming task of snow removal in Anchorage intersected with the topic of public safety and public health during early morning discussions at the Jan. 4 meeting of the Anchorage Assembly Health Policy Committee.

Community members offered testimony to lend a first-person perspective to the struggle to keep Anchorage accessible to pedestrians year-round. Advocates from Access Alaska, Hope Community Resources, and the Alaska Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired explained the vast implications of the city’s response to snowfall in specific regard to disabled individuals.

Assembly Member Daniel Volland, who also works as an optometrist, shared the concerns voiced by attendees.

“We are the northernmost metropolis in the United States,” Volland said. “Anchorage should be leading. We should be setting the trends for best practices to where other cities look at us and say, ‘Look what they’re doing, how can we emulate that.’”

Zachary James is visually impaired and attended the meeting this morning to speak about his experience. Alongside his guide dog, Major General, James traverses Anchorage’s tenuous sidewalk conditions year-round. In winter, the waist-high snow presents a challenge for Major General to navigate, decreasing his field of vision and ability to assist James.

“It sounded like a couple of members were very concerned and they wanted to help,” James said. “But as far as something being done, we’ll just have to see.”

The committee said they strive to meet the challenges of shoveling out bus stops, city roads, and private properties faced by all pedestrians, and expect to continue ongoing discussios with Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson regarding snow removal on Jan. 5.

As a resident of Fairview and constituent of Volland’s, Darrell Hess, says this year is his 58th winter in Anchorage. He attended the meeting to encourage the Assembly to prioritize sidewalk clearance and pedestrian thoroughfares for all walkers.

“I have seen too many people over the years struggling — using walkers and wheelchairs and canes, our parents with strollers with little children, just trying to get to the grocery store, just trying to pick up a prescription or get formula for their children — and they’re taking their lives in their hands every time they go out,” Hess said.