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Alaska News

Voters OK most bonds; Donley wins one School Board race, the other is too close to call

Anchorage School Board candidate Dave Donley watches the results come in at Election Central on Tuesday.(Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

Candidate Dave Donley cruised to victory in the race for Anchorage School Board Seat C, while the second contested board seat, between candidates Andy Holleman and Kay Schuster, remained too close to call, with Holleman holding an 80-vote lead Tuesday night.

A majority of voters approved most bonds on the ballot with the exception of Proposition 2, which would have paid for two new ambulances, public transit vehicles and school safety zone upgrades. Four former Anchorage mayors teamed up on a radio ad in opposition of that bond.

Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said Tuesday night that ambulance service calls were up significantly, and added that the city will have to deal with that increase "sooner or later."

School Board Seat C

In the five-way race for School Board Seat C, Donley, a 62-year-old attorney and former Alaska state legislator, commanded an early lead and held on to it throughout the night.

Anchorage School Board candidate James Smallwood watches results come in at Hard Rock Cafe on Tuesday. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

"I just want to thank the voters of Anchorage. This is my hometown. I was born here. It's a good feeling to have your hometown support," Donley said. "I look forward to working with the other members of the School Board to accomplish as much as we can."

Donley captured about 43 percent of the vote and more than 7,300 votes separated him from his closest challenger, James Smallwood, the 38-year-old owner of a small insurance business in the Northway Mall.

The remaining votes were split between Alisha Hilde, a 34-year-old estate planning attorney; Tasha Hotch, a 39-year-old program manager with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium; and Christopher Jamison, a 34-year-old commercial fisherman, who was far behind.

School Board Seat D

The race for School Board Seat D was close, with just 80 votes separating the top two challengers.

Holleman, a 63-year-old retired Anchorage School District teacher and former president of the Anchorage Education Association teachers' union, had 44.9 percent of the vote. Schuster, a 45-year-old supervising teacher with the school district, had 44.7 percent.

Albert Berke, an 87-year-old retired federal worker and advocate for the deaf, was a distant third, with about 10 percent.

The newest school board members will replace Pat Higgins and Kameron Perez-Verdia on the seven-member board that governs the state's largest school district. They will each serve a three-year term starting on April 24 — as long as the election is certified by that date.

Anchorage School Board candidate Andy Holleman talks with others at Election Central on Tuesday. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

Bonds for schools, police, playgrounds and more

About 57 percent of voters approved the $58.5 million school bond, with 98 percent precincts reporting.

"I am just really thankful, just grateful," Anchorage School District Superintendent Deena Bishop said Tuesday night. "I am thankful that if this is taken care of we can focus on that other part of operations — what happens in schools — and the mission is to ensure that high-quality education is going on in them."

The bond package will pay to replace roofs and school ventilation systems, as well as fund renovations at the library shared by West High School and Romig Middle School. Many of the projects had appeared on the 2016 school bond proposal, which 51 percent of voters rejected in last year's municipal election.

A majority of voters approved four of the other five bond propositions, though the bond for the Anchorage Police Department remained close, with 331 votes separating the "yes" votes from the "no" votes. The bond would pay to remodel the police department's 30-year-old training center and its interview room, which officials said lacks a separate bathroom for interview subjects. A total of 50.4 percent of voters said "yes" to the bond and 49.6 percent said "no."

Nearly 54 percent of voters rejected Proposition 2, which would have paid for two new ambulances, as well as public transit vehicles and school safety zone upgrades.

Four former Anchorage mayors — Rick Mystrom, Dan Sullivan, George Wuerch and Tom Fink — teamed up on a radio ad opposing Proposition 2, the so-called "ambulance bond." In the ad, which features Mystrom's deep voice, the mayors say voters can't afford the $2.3 million in annual maintenance and operations costs included with the bond.

A bond measure to pay for upgrades to parks and playgrounds, including a new indoor playground for the Fairview Recreation Center and a master-planning effort for Town Square Park downtown, received about 54 percent of the vote.

About 58 percent of voters OK'd bond money for the extension of 100th Avenue from Minnesota Drive to C Street and upgrading Turnagain Boulevard from 35th Avenue to Spenard Road, among other road projects.

On the separate bond, the Anchorage Fire Department sought money to replace three fire engines and install LED lighting on the exterior of fire stations, including parking lots. About 55 percent of voters approved that bond.

Reporter Devin Kelly contributed to this story.

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