It’s been a few decades since residents of Chugiak-Eagle River attempted to detach what is Anchorage Assembly District 2 from the municipality.
Most of the folks involved in the 1974 attempt have since left behind their mortal coils, yet the feelings of discontent stirred up in that movement that saw the publisher of the local weekly newspaper elected as mayor have remained alive and well in the hearts and minds of the area’s business owners and movers and shakers.
There’s a new generation taking up the goal of creating a separate government entity for the area.
“Anchorage is a sprawling community from Girdwood all the way to Eklutna,” Michael Tavoliero, Eaglexit chairman, told the nearly 150 community members gathered at the Eagle River Lions Club on Fri., May 3. “It is inefficient and ineffective in terms of the needs represented right here in our own assembly district.”
Tavoliero is a long-time presence in the local branch of the state Republican Party having chaired districts representing Eagle River. He’s the “go-to” guy when someone wants to find out how to become actively involved in local politics or even garner support for a run for office. He’s leading a growing number of Chugiak-Eagle River residents that say the time has come to leave the Municipality of Anchorage.
There are more questions than answers at this point, Tavoliero concedes.
But he does believe it is time to start seeking those answers.
At Friday night’s evening meeting, he made a fundraising pitch to fund a feasibility study.
The price tag? Probably around $100,000.
That’s based on a 2007 study done by the municipality regarding the economic feasibility of District 2 detaching, pricing it at $86,000, Tavoliero said. The results of that study as indicated on page four, he said, were inconclusive.
Tavoliero and the other six members of the Eaglexit board say they seek the opportunity to find out what the cost to leave Anchorage would be. They know the process of untangling could be messy considering the number of municipal-owned buildings in the Chugiak-Eagle River area. What they don’t know for sure is the total revenue sources the area would produce under its own government structure.
From a financial standpoint, District 2 could have a significant financial ace in the hole.
As it stands now – that is from a voting district perspective that sends representatives to the Anchorage Assembly – it appears that the Tikahtnu Commons is part of District 2. Of course, technically no one lives in those stores, but the retail development there and the accompanying commercial taxation could be a big, big benefit to the coffers of a new government.
“We just don’t know,” Tavoliero told the Anchorage Press via phone Tuesday morning. “We certainly would like to invite the mayor to talk to us about this. We don’t want to fight over it. Either it is or either it isn’t part of the District 2 boundaries.”
“Embryonic” is how Tavoliero describes the current status of Eaglexit.
But that’s OK, he said.
His main concern at this point is getting community members engaged in the discussion.
That concern is shared by Crystal Kennedy, who was elected to the Anchorage Assembly in April.
“I can’t say yes or no to this at this point,” she said. “But what I do say is that it is important that this is a community discussion and that the will of the community guides this.”
Her counterpart on the Anchorage Assembly, Fred Dyson, told the Anchorage Press via phone that he is in favor of the detachment.
His absence from Friday night’s meeting was noted with a bit of a chuckle.
“He is 80,” Tavoliero jibed.
Dyson was active in local affairs in 1974 when the first attempt to leave Anchorage was squashed by a court ruling deeming what was then the Chugiak-Eagle River Borough unconstitutional. He said his numbers regarding the idea are 30 years old. He looks forward to seeing updated numbers from the new group pushing the idea.
“It (feasibility) is really going to depend on what the divorce settlement with the municipality is going to be,” Dyson said with his well-known dry humor. “Anchorage might want a significant reimbursement for its investment in the public buildings that are out here.”
Yet he is ready to give detachment another try. He believes local control is best.
“I do believe the people here in Chugiak-Eagle River can do a much better job of managing our local needs,” Dyson said. “Our values here in Eagle River are significantly different than that of downtown Anchorage.”
That sentiment is echoed by the members of the Eaglexit group.
They say they are tired of their two representatives to the Anchorage Assembly being out-voted by the other nine. The members say they are weary of being subjected to the whims of Anchorage and its more liberal mindset. They want more local control – as in they want residents of Chugiak-Eagle River and not residents of Anchorage to make the final decisions – regarding taxation.
To some extent, Chugiak-Eagle River residents already have experience determining their own taxation rates. Unique taxation districts for the area’s own parks and recreation, road board and volunteer fire department have existed for years. The mill rate for each of these is determined by residents within the boundaries. The tax is collected by Anchorage but is already appropriated to those taxation districts and distributed to those accounts by the MOA.
Eaglexit is holding another information meeting on Thursday May 16 at the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center from 7 to 9 p.m.
Learn more about Eaglexit online at: www.eaglexit.com.
Reach Amy Armstrong via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.