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We support an Anchorage municipal alcohol tax

  • Author: Mike Abbott
    | Opinion
    , Ethan Berkowitz
    | Opinion
    , Carol Gore
    | Opinion
    , Diane Kaplan
    | Opinion
    , Bruce Lamoureux
    | Opinion
    , Richard Mandsager
    | Opinion
    , Sophie Minich
    | Opinion
    , Matt Schultz
    | Opinion
  • Updated: March 28
  • Published March 27

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We represent some of Anchorage’s biggest employers and most significant institutions. We are concerned about public safety and homelessness in our community and want to help create a safer, more livable space. We are the Anchorage Homelessness Leadership Council, and we believe the proposed retail alcohol sales tax (Ballot Proposition 9) is urgently needed to restore the quality of our public places and to assist chronically homeless residents into permanent housing.

Ballot Proposition 9 would help fund much-needed treatment services and provide more housing options for hundreds of Alaskans who live on the streets. The revenue also will provide Anchorage police and firefighters with more tools when they respond to mental health or substance use emergencies. We as a council want to ensure that homelessness for people in Anchorage will be rare, brief and a one-time event. Money raised through this ballot measure — by law — will be used to address homelessness, mental health and substance abuse issues, and not for general government.

The sales tax is projected to bring in $13 million annually and help 4,000 more Alaskans than the city is currently able to serve. The revenue would be used to:

- Boost fire and police response to mental health and substance use problems;

- Build and operate a substance treatment facility. Anchorage has fewer treatment beds than it did 20 years ago, even though demand is up;

- Expand housing and support services;

- Hire more staff for patrol of trails and cleanup of illegal camps; and

- Expand Anchorage Safety Patrol services beyond downtown, Midtown, Mountain View and Fairview areas.

Under Proposition 9, a consumer would pay 5 percent more for alcohol. For a draft beer, that’s about 25 cents more; for a $25 bottle of liquor, that’s $1.25 more. Other municipalities, including the City and Borough of Juneau, the City of Bethel and the City of Utqiaġvik, currently have alcohol sales taxes in place.

The Homelessness Leadership Council is co-chaired by Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and Bruce Lamoureux, consultant to and former regional chief executive of Providence Health and Services Alaska. The council brings together Anchorage business, government, health and faith leaders to focus on emerging, promising solutions. The HLC formed last summer specifically to monitor and support the process of implementing “Anchored Home: 2018-2021,” Anchorage’s plan to address homelessness.

Remember that this is a by-mail municipal election. Your ballot needs to be postmarked by Tuesday, April 2. For more details, go here.

Mike Abbott is a Homelessness Leadership Council member.

Ethan Berkowitz is mayor of Anchorage and Homeless Leadership Council co-chair.

Carol Gore is president and CEO of Cook Inlet Housing Authority, as well as a Homelessness Leadership Council member.

Diane Kaplan is president and CEO of Rasmuson Foundation and a Homelessness Leadership Council member.

Bruce Lamoureux is a Homeless Leadership Council co-chair and former Regional Chief Executive of Providence Health and Services Alaska.

Dr. Richard Mandsager is a Senior Fellow on Homelessness with Rasmuson Foundation and staff support to the Homelessness Leadership Council.

Sophie Minich is president and CEO of Cook Inlet Region Inc. and a Homelessness Leadership Council member.

Rev. Matthew Schultz is an Anchorage pastor and is on the steering committee for Christians for Equality.

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