Leadership addressing Anchorage’s woes isn’t coming from City Hall.
It’s coming from residents who have had enough.
Crime has the community on edge. Even union boss and current school board member Andy Holleman wants a neighborhood watch to address crime in his formerly safe South Anchorage neighborhood.
Holleman put out the call for one on the social media NextDoor.com:
With record-high crime and unemployment, a forward-looking mayor would be all in on job creation and economic diversification. But Berkowitz has had the uncanny ability to just disappear.
- More than 3,150 cars stolen in a year in Anchorage? That’s nine stolen every day.
- Thirty-six people murdered in 2017? That’s a murder every 10 days.
- Even the “Anchorage Fat Bike” forum on Facebook has been taken over by reports of crimes against cyclists. Those who haven’t already had their bike stolen are having their cars broken into at trail heads when they’re out riding the trails.
He said he wasn’t worried about the economic downturn — Anchorage “has tremendous opportunity in front of us — we just need to have the vision to go out and get them.”
AMAZON OPPORTUNITY NOT ENTIRELY LOST
Business votes with its feet, and now Sears has closed its doors and Sam’s Club is shuttered. There’s talk that Target is also thinking about leaving. The mayor has buried his head in the sand and the vision he said he had turned out to be tunnel vision.
But citizens have taken up the challenge.
Amazon is in the middle of a well-publicized hunt for a new headquarters city, which will bring headquarter jobs and investment dollars.
While Anchorage never had a realistic shot at the big prize, a few local small business owners assessed our strengths and smelled opportunity.
After all, Anchorage has flight times of under 9.5 hours to 95 percent of the industrialized world. UPS and FedEx already understand this advantage, and now, thanks to private citizens (not our mayor!) Amazon is getting the picture.
Amazon reached out to Anchorage, even after Anchorage didn’t make the cut for the cities the company is considering for a new headquarters, and our strategic location caught the attention of the growing Seattle-based business; Anchorage still looks attractive for a logistics hub.
Meghan Stapleton and Carmen Baker, the two business owners who hand-delivered Anchorage’s proposal to Amazon headquarters in Seattle, said one of the company’s economic-development team members called last week to say he plans to stay in touch.
“We made another pitch on our call on our merits, making sure that we’re on their radar,” Stapleton told the Wall Street Journal. “That was all we wanted, was to be considered for a place at the table.”
But while citizens are taking it into their own hands in safety and pitching Anchorage as a business center, the mayor has been mailing it in. And it shows.
He hasn’t looked for new industries. He went on a junket to Kansas City and Oklahoma City in 2015 to look at how to end homelessness. Homelessness in Anchorage hasn’t abated as a result of his bottom-up view of the economy.
The last big economic vision Berkowitz had was in 2010, when he ran for governor and tried to sell Alaskans on investing a portion of their Permanent Fund dividends into “Great Alaska Pipeline,” or GAP, as he called it. He was going to build that gasline one Permanent Fund check at a time. He even had sample stock certificates made up for people to purchase:
The election begins on March 13, when ballots are mailed to eligible Anchorage voters. It’s time for voters to judge the current administration on promises made, promises broken, and to set some higher expectations for this city.
“You’ve got to actually lead if you want things to change,” he said, he said in 2015. We agree.