Alaska Dispatch News asked candidates for the April 4 election to the Anchorage Assembly to answer a series of questions on the issues. We’re publishing their responses daily. The answers were fact-checked when facts were cited and edited for length, spelling, grammar and writing style.
Question: What do you think about the direction Mayor Ethan Berkowitz is taking the city?
District 1: Downtown
I am not happy with the direction Ethan Berkowitz is taking the city. I first met Ethan Berkowitz when he first arrived in Anchorage. I had a lengthy conversation with him and from that moment on I could tell what an extreme liberal he was. His views on creating more government, larger government and costlier government do not work. His ideas on embracing the liberal philosophy and taxing more and more only to have more money to frivolously spend are pushing our city into bankruptcy. Ethan Berkowitz has no idea about prioritizing issues and programs. Ethan Berkowitz does not care about the working man and how hard it is to bring home a paycheck.
I appreciate Mayor Berkowitz's work to fix the mess the previous mayor left, but with a progressive mayor and Assembly now is the time to look beyond the yearly budget cycle and offer a long-term vision for a better Anchorage. I envision a city where housing is affordable, our streets are safe, effective services are in place to prevent homelessness, where we have a modern public transportation system including streetcars and light rail, students receive a world-class education and residents have a meaningful voice in their city government.
Mark Alan Martinson
He needs to take a hard look at the energy costs of the budget; and during these suddenly harder financial times (due to the crash in oil prices that no one in our state government even imagined) cut back on the unnecessary, extra, outside contracts that are bleeding this city dry. The other continual problem in Anchorage is that every new mayor brings along a whole raft of mayoral appointees (I can't remember the exact number) and then we often go in a totally different direction than the previous administration. Let's get some continuity into our representative government and save energy.
Albert Langdon Swank Jr.
I have historically stated the Port of Anchorage expansion project had/has major deficiencies: design, management, contracts, construction, planning, user needs, financing and other issues. Most issues have been hidden from the public by prior administrations and have continued into this administration. This administration does not have the experience to appropriately handle these issues and lacks technical, legal, management, economics and appropriate resolution abilities. This also applies to many other issues being faced by the city and this administration.
Every mayor I have seen elected in my 26 years of living in Fairview was a very nice person. Each believed that his way of doing things was in the best interest of the city. All approaches differed. Only history will decide how Mayor Berkowitz fared with his approach.
Mayor Berkowitz has worked really hard to drive the city back on track after years of lackluster leadership. Change takes time. Just as it took several years of entropy for us to move to where we are, it will take time to get fully back on track. The mayor often talks about the two duties of leadership. We have existential duties: the duty to provide for the public safety, to maintain our infrastructure, to keep and grow our economy. We also have aspirational duties. We have to envision and build a better future. I agree with the mayor's direction.
District 2: Chugiak-Eagle River
Mayor Berkowitz is a friend and we worked together on several justice issues. I believe he is an idealist who wants Anchorage to have the very best of what people on the left see as utopia. Much of what he dreams of is great. There are at least two problems with Ethan's vision. One, we do not have the money and there is no easy trail to getting it. Secondly, whenever a government sets out to have everything "nice" and everyone's "needs" taken care of, individual liberties and the prerogatives of a free people are diminished.
I am excited to see the new, accessible levels of community communication opportunities with the mayor's office. He has established liaisons to meet with community councils and work with key departments in the municipality. He seems to understand that the people of Anchorage must be able to be part of the future and participate in commissions and committees. An involved community is a safer, stronger community.
John Laurence Brassell
I don't believe it is going well. Mayor Berkowitz wants to increase spending to unsupportable levels, which in return requires new and increased taxes for our population. Despite being a priority of the administration, homelessness continues to plague our city. Violent crime is increasing. Transportation opportunities to and from Eagle River are becoming obsolete. He is asking people to choose between snow removal and police protection, which I cannot condone.
Did not respond to questions.
District 3: West Anchorage
Berkowitz is bringing in good people, addressing long-term problems and attempting to move Anchorage forward in a positive direction during a tough economic climate. The direction is good but there is still a way to go.
I do not agree with the mayor's progressive policies. His priorities are leading us in the wrong direction. I do not want Anchorage to be the next Portland, Seattle or San Francisco. I want it to be Anchorage. The mayor ran on public safety, yet we have a murder rate in downtown exceeding the per capita murder rate of Chicago. Expanding the police force has pushed the police budget to a 4 percent increase in total spending but has not reduced property crimes, drug dealing, gang activity or other violent crimes. Our priorities need to be safe neighborhoods, plowed streets and affordable housing.
District 4: Midtown
To be transparent, I should disclose that I worked in the Berkowitz administration from July 2015 to June 2016 as the mayor's constituent liaison and special assistant. However, I agree with the direction the administration has taken. The mayor has made good investments in our city's energy future, smart budget cuts across the board and focused in areas the community has demanded action on, like public safety and homelessness. The Assembly plays an important role in holding the administration accountable, and I will work to make sure our city moves in the right direction.
I appreciate some of the efforts of our mayor to address complicated issues facing our beloved municipality considering our current fiscal situation. I disagree with some of the potentiality high-cost approaches that the outgoing Assembly person and her handpicked successor are advocating.
I am very disappointed in the direction that Berkowitz is taking Anchorage. We need to get back to "basic" local government. The mayor's comment the other day that we have to "choose between" police services and snow removal is downright crazy. The very basic services of a local government in Alaska are fire, police and public works (i.e. street maintenance and snow removal).
I give the mayor a C- grade for the direction he and his administration have been taking the municipality. He could surround himself with more focused and aggressive staff. Many, including himself, are not drawing the purse strings tight enough and getting the best rate of return for our taxpayer dollars. He isn't on track to being the great statesman he could be with his staff and Assembly cronies rubber-stamping policies and programs that haven't been accurately vetted. By not working with the opposition with his ideas, he is missing views on policy that could make Anchorage the great municipality it could be.
District 5: East Anchorage
Mayor Berkowitz has made reaching out to all parts of our community a main tenet of his vision for Anchorage. This is important, since we are one of the most diverse cities in the country. I support the mayor's work to create a more engaged citizenry.
I generally do not approve of the direction the mayor has taken the city. Crime is higher than it has ever been and our streets and roads are in terrible condition. In many places, our friends and neighbors still cannot even walk on the sidewalks. Yet, the mayor wants to raise taxes again, instead of choosing to spend what the people have contributed wisely.
District 6: South Anchorage
The mayor is trying to solve some of the issues, such as homelessness, that cost the city time and money. Housing First is a program that other cities have successfully implemented and Anchorage has adopted; it has saved money and lives. The mayor is also focused on affordable housing, which is a dire need for Anchorage residents. Fixing and expanding the port is an extremely important infrastructure project for the whole state, but decreased state funding makes this and other goals more difficult to achieve.
Anchorage faces many immediate challenges. I feel Mayor Berkowitz and the Assembly are working under difficult conditions. I believe that during these tough financial times, the state and city need to be extremely careful with the level of spending, and the municipal budget. We need to focus on the city's core essential functions, especially public safety. We cannot continue to increase spending and increase the tax burden on property owners in order to pay for expanded bureaucracy and government. I also support sustainable budgets, and initiating changes to address soaring health costs.
Coming Sunday: How can the city make Anchorage safer?