OPINION: Forrest phones it in

  • Anchorage Assembly member Forrest Dunbar is running for mayor but hasn’t been showing up for meetings lately, and his absence hasn’t gone unnoticed. (Photo/File/Anchorage Daily News)

No shortage of ink, electrons or carbon dioxide have been expended over the past several months at Anchorage Assembly meetings as a dedicated group of citizens have organized — often to no avail — against destructive policies and fiscal irresponsibility enacted in the name of public welfare.

Yet all it took was 34 words from a constituent on Feb. 9 to tear down the façade of the chronically absent member and mayoral candidate Forrest Dunbar as the body took public comment on a proposed ordinance to require masks in statute rather than rolling emergency orders issued through the mayor’s office.

“If masks are safe and effective, and we’re required to wear them, and those requirements are being enforced in this building, then why have you not been present for an Assembly meeting for months?”

Although Dunbar was free to answer the question, his line remained dead as this gentleman gave him more than two minutes to respond (I assume someone added the Final Jeopardy soundtrack during post production).

Perhaps Dunbar was pounding out a snarky message to fellow member Chris Constant, but probably not over email after public records requests shed light on the contempt they have for some constituents that they rarely bother concealing anyway.

Without him being physically present at the meeting, there is no reason to believe he was even listening. He could have been watching Netflix or clipping his toenails for all we know.

For a perennial office climber who thinks he is the best person to lead Anchorage it is quite an interesting strategy. But then again, hiding from the public behind the COVID-19 pandemic worked out quite well for Joe Biden, who lost the state by a mile but won Anchorage despite his openly anti-Alaska policies and mental acuity that rivals a bowl of mashed potatoes.

The fact Biden won Anchorage should be a giant red flag for any candidate from the center to the right who believes they can tap into the disaffected population for enough votes to defeat Dunbar in an expected runoff for mayor once a crowded field is whittled to two after the April regular election.

Based on the presidential election outcome in Anchorage, there are obviously tens of thousands of residents, if not an outright majority, who are content with the status quo of the pandemic response at both the local and federal level that has widened the municipality’s class divide between remote workers who have prospered without missing a paycheck and the devastation wrecked on working class and single-parent families.

Not that there isn’t reason for hope Anchorage could head in a different direction from its current arrogant and insensitive leadership.

The Assembly unanimously tabled both the mask ordinance as well as the attempt to punish member Jamie Allard for an abstract if poorly constructed free speech argument over license plates.

Censuring Allard while letting Constant skate for a line of questioning last August that implied a rabbi was advocating placing the homeless in concentration camps, not to mention his routinely obnoxious behavior on social media, was apparently a bridge too far for even this group of leftists.

Combined with the looming recall of Chair Felix Rivera appearing on the April ballot, the opposition forces can rightly claim a few victories after months of losses.

If it is true that 80 percent of success is just showing up, the people Dunbar derides have obviously figured out something he hasn’t.

Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected].

Updated: 
02/17/2021 - 10:33am