Dunbar proposes establishing ‘tribal liaison’

Anchorage Municipal Assembly member and mayoral candidate Forrest Dunbar. Photo courtesy of Joshua Corbett

Anchorage mayoral candidate Forrest Dunbar has suggested the creation of a “tribal liaison” position. Dunbar, a member of the Anchorage Municipal Assembly and former Cordova resident, said the need for such a position became apparent during recent work with the Native Village of Eklutna Tribal Council.

Since beginning his campaign on Oct. 6, 2019, Dunbar has focused on what he describes as a need for Anchorage to become more welcoming to rural Alaskans, and for greater connection between rural and urban communities. In 2019, Dunbar said that, if elected, he would establish a position of “rural coordinator” to facilitate these goals.

“It’s more obvious than ever that Anchorage has to have a strong relationship with small communities,” Dunbar said. “What better illustration of us being interconnected as Alaskans than this year?”

Whether the function of a tribal liaison would be independent from or combined with that of a rural coordinator would depend on the level of funding available to the mayor’s office, he said.

“Of course, rural issues and tribal issues are not coterminous at all… but they often overlap,” Dunbar said.

Maintaining a real connection with small communities has been challenging due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions, Dunbar said. However, Dunbar said he hopes to visit friends and former classmates in Cordova during 2021, if circumstances permit.

Throughout 2021, Dunbar has led his opponents in fundraising. By Feb. 1, Dunbar had raised about $252,000, an amount that his campaign said approached $300,000 around the beginning of March. As of Feb. 1, candidate Mike Robbins had raised about $210,000, the highest amount after Dunbar.

Of the 14 other candidates vying for the mayorship, Dunbar said he regarded commercial pilot and former Air Force pilot Dave Bronson as his principal opponent. The Bronson campaign has promised to strengthen law enforcement by prioritizing drug policing, and to promote rapid economic growth by establishing an Anchorage Economic Advisory Taskforce. In a statement, the Bronson campaign apparently attributed some business closures to “overreach restrictions implemented in response to coronavirus by the current administration.”

Dunbar said he believed the current public health crisis had to be resolved for economic recovery to occur, and that he would prioritize efficiently deploying federal aid.

“I think what [Bronson] is offering is not based on facts or public health advice,” Dunbar said. “I don’t think he has a clear idea of how the economic recovery could actually work.”

The Bronson campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

The Anchorage mayoral election will take place Tuesday, April 6.