Fison highlights muni website resources
by Asta Corley
“The Municipal Website now contains a wealth of current demographic and economic information that is easy to access,” said Susan Fison, guest speaker at Alaska Press Women’s March luncheon.
Fison has been researching and reporting on Alaska demographic and socio-economic trends for more than 30 years. She retired from the Municipality of Anchorage in 2003 and was contracted last year by Mayor Mark Begich’s administration to update Anchorage’s demographic and economic information.
“The data included in the Neighborhood Sourcebook is based on my experience, knowing the kind of questions people ask the most,” said Fison. “The Muni used to get a lot of calls for information, but today, more and more people are going to the internet for information.
Fison’s career began at the Institute of Social and Economic Research. Later she was head of the pipeline impact information center in Fairbanks during the construction of the trans-Alaska pipeline. In 1978, she was hired by Northwest Alaskan Pipeline Corporation. as director of manpower and impact planning. After Northwest’s gas pipeline project folded, she moved to Anchorage and was hired by the municipality in 1988 where she served as Anchorage’s demographer during the Fink, Mystrom, administrations.
Fison was the first person in city hall with Internet access and on the team that developed the initial municipal website. She was on the team that wrote the Anchorage 2020 Comprehensive Plan. In 2000, she was promoted to planning director. Fison oversaw the adoption and began the implementation of the 2020 Plan. She also oversaw adoption of a new sign code, big box ordinance, site condo design standards and the initiation of the first rewrite of the land use code in 30 years.
During the March luncheon discussion, Fison showed highlights of two major data resources on the municipal web site: the “Anchorage Neighborhood Sourcebook” and “My Neighborhood.”
In January 2006, the Anchorage Neighborhood Sourcebook was published on the municipal web site: www.muni.org. It consists of more than 350 pages of local demographic and socio-economic information. It is a one-stop resource for population trends, demographic characteristics, education, employment, income, housing, cost of living, government and military information.
Some of the highlights of information in the sourcebook included:
- The Anchorage/Mat-Su region represents more than half of the population in the entire state. We will hit the half million population mark by 2030.” Most of that growth will be concentrated in the Valley where the population will grow from the current 74,000 to more than 176,000 in 2030.
- Fison also discussed an increasing migration of Natives from Alaska’s rural communities as well immigrants from foreign countries into the bigger Alaska cities. The result is that more than 70 percent of Anchorage residents are now racial or ethnic minorities.
- “People from the Bush are more likely to stay in Anchorage rather than go to the Valley because there is more of a support structure here,” said Fison.
- In Anchorage most Asian immigrants are concentrated in areas with Asian restaurants, grocery stores and other Asian-owned businesses.
- Fison also conveyed how many different demographic changes are impacting residents at once. While most of the immigrants to Anchorage are young families with children, most long term residents are aging white “baby boomers” whose children have “left the nest.”
- Today less than 5 percent of Anchorage residents are 65 or older, but seniors are projected to comprise 12 percent of the population by 2018.
- The Neighborhood Sourcebook includes a large series of maps including census tracts, zip codes, community councils, school attendance areas and election districts.
- There are detailed tables for a wide variety of demographic and economic indicators and key indicators are illustrated with easy to read color charts.
Fison noted that several Anchorage neighborhoods are developing neighborhood plans and the Community Council and Census Tract Chapters of the Neighborhood Sourcebook are an excellent resource for baseline data for these plans.
Fison also gave a preview of “My Neighborhood”. This Internet resource, also available at the Municipal Website, is a little more personalized because you have to enter a specific address or intersection to access the data. The site was developed using Geographic Information System (GIS) databases and is useful if one is looking for a home or researching a property, for example.
When you plug in an address, you can find out about all resources in the area including schools, parks, day care centers, fire stations, police stations. One can also access building permits, zoning, property values and information on proposed public and private development projects. In addition, you can access demographic data based on the zip code, community council or census tract data for each address.
“My Neighborhood.is citizen-centric,” said Fison. For example, you can determine what election district you live in and the names of your Assembly, House and Senate representatives.
Fison has a contract with the city to update the information in the Anchorage Neighborhood Sourcebook. If you have any questions or need any additional information, you can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.