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Ethan Berkowitz: Let's make Anchorage safe, secure and strong for all residents

I've been crisscrossing Anchorage from Girdwood to Eklutna: sharing meals and conversations, and seeing the strength of our city. I've been inspired and energized by the opportunities our city is poised to achieve. I ask for your vote for mayor so we can make Anchorage safe, secure and strong together.

Together, we can make Anchorage a safe place to do business and raise a family. When I came to Alaska 25 years ago and served as a young prosecutor, I learned that a successful strategy to reduce crime and recidivism links prevention, policing and prosecution. Anchorage police officers and firefighters are spread too thin, which means fewer officers on the street and fewer dispatchers available to answer your calls. Falling below staffing standards compromises both public safety and officer safety.

Anchorage lost 38 officers last year and we now have the lowest number of officers on the street since 2005. This is unacceptable. We need to strengthen the force to at least 400 officers. We need to bring back community policing where officers are assigned a neighborhood beat and have the time to build relationships with neighborhood leaders, businesses, and residents. More time in our neighborhoods allows officers to stop crime before it starts. I am honored to have the support of Anchorage's police and firefighters so we can work together from day one to tackle these issues and improve public safety.

Second, we need to make Anchorage secure for all of its residents. This means housing, economic and job security. One of my first priorities will be to accelerate construction of affordable housing. I've talked with too many people struggling to pay their rent even when working two jobs. It's hard for our families to find a first home or move up to a larger rental space. We need to build at least 900 units a year to meet the forecasted need. Right now, we're only building 400 units. It's going to take a mix of strategies to meet the goal, including tax abatement, public-private partnerships to finance water and sewer infrastructure and streamlined permitting. Among other reforms, it means using the Anchorage Community Development Authority to its full potential, creating development agreements, and insuring that our building codes adhere to the principles of clarity, speed and flexibility.

Economic and job security means making sure our municipality attracts new investment and expands what we have. This takes modern infrastructure and a workforce trained for Alaska's jobs. We are a resource development state and have to improve on an economic model that is based on importing workers and exporting profits. As mayor, I will ensure our roads, our port, our airport and our telecommunications are ready to meet the needs of a 21st century economy. As a municipality, we'll do a better job partnering with our universities, schools and employers to invest in workforce development. This investment will help large and small companies hire skilled and affordable employees and it will give our residents the best shot at building the lives they want.

Anchorage's strength comes from our people. As I drive my son to elementary school or run homework over to my daughter's high school, I am reminded how important it is that our students receive the best public education possible. It means an education that teaches our students to be critical, creative thinkers. This begins with every family having access to quality early learning programs so children are prepared to succeed when they get to kindergarten, and continues through middle and high school by keeping class sizes low, finding ways to reach and teach each student with classroom and after-school academics, athletics, art and culture, and expanding career and vocational education.

As a city, Anchorage has remarkable richness. We have the most ethnically diverse zip code in the country. We have the highest percentage of First Peoples of any city in the country. This diversity creates a vibrant culture, business opportunities, new entrepreneurs and new jobs. In a 21st Century global economy, we have links that span the globe. Alaska Native corporations have grown into multibillion-dollar companies and diversified our economic base.

As we reflect on the first 100 years of Anchorage's history, it's amazing to see the achievements this city has made. We made those achievements together – with grit, hard work, and innovation. As we turn our attention to the future, those are the traits we need again to take advantage of the opportunities that exist because of where we are -- the "Air Crossroads of the World," and the "Gateway to the Arctic." It is who we are that will propel us forward.

Thank you for giving me the privilege of running a positive campaign that reflects the best of Anchorage's values. I would be honored to your mayor.

Ethan Berkowitz is a former prosecutor and former member of the Alaska House of Representatives.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)