By BILL EVANS
J. Bruce Ismay was the chair and managing director of White Star Line, owners of luxury passenger ships, including the Titanic.
As such, Ismay was the highest-ranking person from White Star Line on-board Titanic as she steamed across the North Atlantic into her destiny….and a rather large iceberg.
Mindful of the woefully limited capacity of Titanic’s lifeboats and unconcerned about the chivalric code of “women and children first,” Ismay used his authority to secure a place for himself in one of Titanic’s too few lifeboats.
While many of his customers and passengers were consigned to the icy depths of the North Atlantic, Ismay ensured that he escaped the tragedy without even getting wet.
Taking a page from Ismay, the Municipality of Anchorage is taking steps to ensure that its budget remains unharmed by the fiscal tragedy wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic and government shutdowns, while many of its businesses and citizens founder.
Earlier this week, Anchorage’s Chief Fiscal Officer, Alex Slivka, reported that the Municipality plans to reroute federal Cares Act money to fill a $17 million shortfall anticipated in the Municipal Budget. That shortfall represents approximately 3 percent of the general government operating budget for the city. The shortfall is caused by a reduction in tax revenues from businesses that have been decimated by the pandemic and associated restrictions.
The method by which the Municipality plans on securing its fiscal lifeboat is by using $61 million of CARES Act funding to pay for “first responders.”
In other words, the Municipality will use the CARES funding to pay the normal costs of Anchorage’s Police and Fire Departments. This will, in turn, free up the general tax funds that would otherwise have been used to fund the police and fire.
In a scheme that would make Tony Soprano blush, the Municipality will essentially launder the federal money by simply using it to replace Muni funds, thereby washing the CARES Act money free from any pesky spending limitations.
Remarkably, federal funding — which the government does not even really have — and is simply an IOU from future generations — is to be used to ensure that the debilitating economic effects of the pandemic do not inconvenience Municipal government and its priorities.
While Anchorage residents and businesses are tightening their budgets and cutting their costs in an effort to simply survive the economic devastation stemming from the pandemic, they will surely be heartened to know that their Municipal government will be made whole.
Sitting safely and securely in its own federally funded fiscal lifeboat, the Municipality can look out upon the sea of businesses and citizens struggling to keep their head’s above water. J. Bruce Ismay would be proud.
Bill Evans is a candidate for Anchorage mayor.