Anchorage parks so dangerous, even Democrat lawmakers have had enough - Must Read Alaska
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Tuesday, November 12, 2019
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Anchorage parks so dangerous, even Democrat lawmakers have had enough

A letter signed by mostly Democrat legislators takes Mayor Berkowitz, a fellow Democrat, to task for allowing criminals to run amuck in Anchorage.

Spearheaded by Rep. Zack Fields of downtown District 20 and formerly employed by the Alaska Democratic Party, the letter is addressed to both the mayor and Chief of Police Justin Doll. Taking a hard line against vagrancy and drug-addled criminals, it could have just as easily been written by Rep. David Eastman of Wasilla, a hard-right Republican.

“We are writing to urge the Municipality of Anchorage to use its full legal authority to clean up the city’s parks. Each year, the number and size of encampments with semi-permanent structures, fires, chop shops, and drug paraphernalia continue to grow. These encampments pose an existential threat to our community’s economic future. Based on our understanding of the options available, we feel the city has not used its full authority to clear camps by removing structures and other materials.

“Squatters/campers possess few legal rights that allow them to establish or maintain encampments on public land.  The 9th Circuit has established the most restrictive case law related to municipal authority to address squatters/camp holds that local governments may not prohibit sleeping in all public spaces if there is no indoor shelter space for indigent individuals (Martin v. Boise). The Municipality of Anchorage has ample space for individuals to sleep outside, including thousands of square acres in Chugach State Park. Martin v. Boise does not preclude localities from removing structures or otherwise abating waste left by drug addicts, thieves, and other squatters/campers. So long as Anchorage has some place individuals can sleep outside, case law does not limit removal of waste from the park system.

“It is important for all of us to recognize the distinction between truly homeless people and the criminals who have exploited weaknesses in enforcement to establish camps in the park system.  For those setting up camps to do drugs or create places for partying, we must address the problem with a different approach. We know that criminal activity and encampments established by drug addicts will not be solved or addressed at all by expansion of housing. While ‘housing first’ is part of the solution to homelessness, it will not fix the problem of illegal encampments. To the contrary, failing to enforce prohibitions on encampments sends criminals a message that they can squat, build structures, and engage in criminal activity with impunity.”

The letter goes on to say that lawmakers in Juneau are hearing from constituents that they don’t feel safe in the parks or on the trails, and ends with a request that the city start clearing the encampments and dispose of the waste immediately.

It is signed by Reps. Zack Fields, Geran Tarr, Chris Tuck, Harriet Drummond, Matt Clamon, Sara Rasmussen, and Sens. Tom Begich, Bill Wielechowski, and Elvi Gray-Jackson.

Fields illustrated his frustration on Facebook with a page from the Monday edition of the Anchorage Daily News, with stories about shootings on or near Chester Creek Trail.

Not all agree that clearing the camps is a good idea. The ACLU of Alaska sent a letter to Mayor Berkowitz in 2016, asking his administration to cease evicting people from homeless camps while Anchorage’s shelters are full.

“We recognize that solutions to homelessness take time but are concerned about the constitutionality of evicting people who do not have anywhere else to go,” the ACLU wrote.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • I would request to the ACLU to take these homeless peoples into their backyards instead of mine. If constitutionally they can be taken where ever there is room, let them room with the ACLU members and see how fast they change their minds! They just don’t get it! You cannot have this type of living conditions in a populated area, it’s not healthy and just like the shooting, more people will get killed. Do we sue the ACLU for stonewalling the camps removals? The Gun Shots every night will make you have PTSD!

    • That’s exactly what WON’T happen. We’ll NEVER see the homeless camped out nor ANYWHERE near the ACLU residents/homes. They’ll have the police swarm in like Hornets to clear them out. They know that and they don’t care. They just talk a lot of SH#T about how much they care, how difficult the problem is, no easy solution, nothing but infinite lip service. It’s ALWAYS been like that and ALWAYS will remain that way. They know it and they know we know it. They’re NO different than ANY other elected government official. The funny thing is they LIE their asses off so we’ll buy the total BS they’re selling so we’ll vote for them. Then once we fall for their scam and they get elected,
      like doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde their entire demeanor, persona and attitudes change and they say SCREW the rest of us. So Typical! I’m starting to believe we’re having more problems with our elected officials and the BS they throw at us everyday than the homeless. As long as we continue to elect and/or reelect the epitome of human waste we charge to make our lives better the longer we’ll continue to suffer at the hands of those who don’t care. One thing I will say is that at least the homeless don’t get to hide what they are. Unlike that of our elected officials.

  • Let the vagrants move into the ACLU office.

    • Or Berkowitz’s back yard.

  • Los Anchorage,
    It seems we have the most worthless elected officials ever in the history of this fine town we live.,and look how the city has treated a business owner down town tying to clean up the streets that are filled with human waste ,, barf , needles and oh yea. People laying past out on side walks ,no one should be aloud to be past out drunk according to our laws. Oh. I forgot. Our mayor is blind in one eye and cross eyed in the other.
    I called csp. And then the police for man in need of services. And then i understood why there’s issues!!!!
    THEY 《MAYOR) DOESNT CARE!!! )
    So we know not to vote for these worthless politicians that control these issues. In our city.

  • We need to put less back into homeless. We do to much for the city’s indigent population
    We feed them and they return the favor by leaving the wrappers and containers where they have consumed their meals. We provide free needle exchange and our streets and parks are now biological and sharps hazards. We clothe them and piles of last weeks wardrobe can’t even make it to the nearest dumpster. We pass out cell phones and the lines form. At every outdoor electrical outlet to steal electricity. We have world class trail and park systems here in Anchorage that our being turned into sewage and garbage heaps.
    In most cases we have created an environment where the homeless only need to focus upon their addictions. The answer is not to move them from site to site. We must love and pray for them yet I speak of a tough love that makes working and self provision seem more attractive than homelessness. A good start would be to enforce vagrancy, pan handling and trespassing laws. Now someone will cry it is too expensive to board them in jails I say don’t, fine them 75% of the cash they are carrying at the time of arrest and work program them into cleaning up some of these costly hoovervilles they create. I am approached daily by street beggars and I respond with “What do you need?” As God put it on my heart 2 years ago to buy them food at the nearest store or resturant. if they ask for it most do not how to respond to my question. Some will take my offer of a meal yet most will argue with me about how they need cash.money for bus transportation. I offer those folks free rides. In 2 years I have only feed about 5 and transported 1. Finally almost all not our less fortunate smoke and at 11 $ a pack i can’t afford nicotine.

  • I would support no PFD if they would use the money to build a 10,000 person max prison. ACLU be d*****d – I hate not being able to walk the beautiful trails because the criminal elements have taken them over. I hate having to live in an armed camp in my own apartment.
    Three years ago I was assaulted and robbed, in my own apartment building. Good thing it was on camera so I could prove my side. The strong-arm robber did only 3 months, pleading out to time served for simple assault.
    He took my cell phone out of my hands as I was calling 911. When I wanted to press felony charges on that, the cops said that they “weren’t going to go there.” Found out the assailant was in a mental health treatment program, and his provider “didn’t want him to be prosecuted.”
    Yeah, I would support no PFD if they would use the money to build a 10,000 person max prison.

  • For “Bullhorn Berkowitz” its time you resign and turn your job over to an adequately well put together person to work as the administrator of the borough. Berkowitz was a joke when he was a legislator in Juneau and he is a joke here in Anchorage.. Can’t get it together except to see who is can tax to the hilt and cheat. All of the employees are over-paid and scared to death to make any comment about him because they will be fired. The police are in the same situation and have been since Berkowitz was elected. If the police heard anyone talking about SB91 or crime problems, they were to get out of the area of the conversation or risk being fired. To ACLU….Put your money where your mouth is! Yours is a worthless organization that does nothing….

  • This has been a problem under multiple mayoral administrations of republicans and democrats. Until the city actually provides a solution for the homeless, this problem will continue. Snarky comments don’t solve the issue either. Shutting down the camp doesn’t make the homeless people magically have a place to go. A real solution is going to have to include a “housing first” approach, which would get the homeless camps shut down for good and would also save the city money, which ought to appeal to people of both the liberal and the conservative persuasion.

  • “Thousands of square acres in Chugach State Park”

    Sloppy writing/editing for an open letter from a bunch of legislators. Almost as if they don’t understand the term acre represents area (not length). A acre is area, where a square acre is specifically a square area which is 208.7′ an a side.

    • “An acre.”

  • Eastman can write?

  • Looks like “little ethan”, the 9th circuit court and aclu are determined to turn Anchorage into another “crisis” city, like L.A., Frisco, Portland, Seattle, NYC and most all other “liberal, dim, socialist strongholds”. Last night, I watched a “special” on the “homeless” crisis in L.A. Absolutely disgusting, what the idiots have turned their own cities into. Of course, the more “affluent” areas are homeless free. The problems seem to center around neighborhoods that were once like the Anchorage city parks were. Those parks formerly used by a multitude of citizens (the ones paying for them), are no more than a “no go” zone, these days. No longer are they pristine, safe, clean or welcoming to city residents. Instead, the Anchorage parks and public areas are rapidly being turned into the same mess the lib/socialist/dims have done to their once beautiful areas/cities. All with the help of 9th circuit court, aclu and dim politicos. The writing is on the wall/tent, Anchorage. Either face complete collapse of the park/public area system now, or worse later.

  • I wasn’t aware the ACLU was the mayor’s boss.

    It looks like Austin has basically given criminal immunity to anyone, as long as you’re homeless. So all the Californians who escaped to there will find that strangely, their public policies followed them there.

  • We have the ability to reduce this issue to a manageable level. Yet it will take a collective approved rather than targeting the mayor and police chief. There are numerous older buildings that are not in use that can be converted to use as shelters with support and community agencies providing oversight and working together. It takes effort, work and a willingness to serve. I would be willing to sit in a forum to discuss options rather than throwing blame and mud. It waste time, energy, esources and nothing is solved.

    Rev. Marc Baisden
    Center for Healing, Growth & Recovery Ministries

  • Thank you for your thoughtful input. I worked with the HUD homeless programs 10 years ago. There were 3,000 homeless people the, same problems. Almost all go through non-profit agencies that have stringent requirements to get in. Now they have started the housing first, which has helped some who aren’t addicts or have been through treatment. I see the biggest problem, both in Seattle where I live, Anchorage, & all over the country, is lack of medical coverage and treatment for addiction to drugs and alcohol. Making it possible to incorporate disenfranchised folks is essential to getting them off the streets & out from under the freeways, & out of public parks. Making people healthy & productive is a less costly solution than chasing them out of everywhere they gather or locking them up. America helped create the problems with failed policies, but she is capable of addressing them in intelligeent ways, and owes it to our socieety to do so. How much worse can it get before the shaming, ostracizing, berating, blaming, & outrage turns into reasoneed solutions. It’s like a scene from the wallking dead, but we can’t barricade it out & live happy lives while they’re out there.

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