Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Developers take sides in the mayor's race

Some interesting tidbits of information have been hashed out in this Alaska Dispatch article regarding donations made by developers in the mayor's race between Berkowitz and Demboski. Both the Anchorage Home Builders Association and developer Mark Pfeffer donated to the Berkowitz campaign. What I find bizarre however is that a significant amount of funding from the conservative Christian group Alaska Family Action (which backed Demboski, of course) came from developers. I understand that many developers may be interested in backing a conservative candidate such as Demboski due to her hands-off philosophy concerning building regulations (some developers may have even hoped to get more Title 21 rollbacks under her administration), but why donate to a social conservative organization? Seems like a weird route to take to support your candidate. Among the developers who donated to Demboski through Alaska Family Action was Chuck Spinelli of Spinell Homes, which isn't surprising. 

This latest piece of news brings to mind what happened to Anchorage Assembly member Elvi Gray Jackson during a re-election campaign that she ran a few years ago. Hoping to decimate the bench of liberals, a group of developers poured money into advertising against her by using homophobic scare tactics in their ads. Among the donors I recall were Spinell Homes and Davis Constructors & Engineers. In the end, Jackson won and the developers lost. This was the first time I noticed the odd social conservative angle that developers were taking. I understand that they had interest in affecting the makeup of the Assembly which was still working on Title 21 at the time, but why work in cahoots with social conservative groups? I suppose the most realistic answer is simple scare tactics. Homophobic political attacks worked well in the early 2000s, but now we're in a time when the current crop of GOP candidates (Bush, Rubio, Cruz etc) are dodging the issue due to changing national opinion. And as we can see last night, even in red state Alaska, at a local level, Republicans are finding that homophobic scare tactics are no longer a sure thing. Demboski dragged social issues into the center spotlight of this race hoping to capitalize on people's concerns -- and it backfired. We've come a long ways from the days when then mayor George Wuerch ordered the Loussac Library to take down a gay pride display while not suffering any political damage.

What we can take away from this is that there are two sets of developers. Those who champion quality projects (such as Pfeffer), and those who seek to round corners and do what they want at the expense of the city's quality of life. The latter folk are the ones more likely to use crude scare tactics in their campaigning.

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