The Anchorage Press this week named Mayor Ethan Berkowitz as Anchorage’s Person of the Year. Yes, that Ethan Berkowitz — the one who has presided over the highest murder rate the city has ever seen for two years in a row. The city where crime rates topple old records under his watch, where some neighborhoods are beginning to feel like war zones. Where, as he put it, so long as you are not out late at night, you’re safe.
“If you’re not engaged in drug trafficking and not out after midnight, it’s a very safe city,” he told the Anchorage Daily News. (And later apologized, after public outcry.)
The Ethan Berkowitz who said taxpayers could have either snow plows or cops, but not both. The one who has raised property taxes nearly 6 percent, pushed the budget over $526 million and, with the help of a liberally dominated Assembly, gave out $7 million in city raises last year.
The same Ethan Berkowitz gave raises of 10 percent to more than 30 municipal executives who were already making more than $100,000 a year.
Despite passing the biggest budget in Anchorage’s history, Mayor Berkowitz and his Assembly majority is borrowing millions of dollars to fund the public employee pension system, passing along that debt to future generations. And he’s using city-owned property as collateral.
Mayor Berkowitz also proposed and won a new 10-cent-per-gallon gas tax that will cost Anchorage families $11.7 million in the first year alone.
We’ll give him credit where it’s due: He’s brought the number of sworn officers up to 400 on the Anchorage Police force, an important goal during a crime wave unlike any Alaska has ever seen.
The Press says that Berkowitz can take credit that “Anchorage remains a beacon of growth and modernity.” It goes on with the unpaid campaign ad for his re-election:
“But more than all that, Berkowitz has an intangible quality that gives him an edge over any other nominee for this illustrious honor — he loves this [gratuitous F-bomb deleted] city more than you do.”
Conservatives might quibble with the characterization.
But who else has had such an impact on the well-being of Anchorage residents?
Andrew Halcro, who received a political plum job from Berkowitz and runs the Anchorage Community Development Authority, recently fathered the 5th Avenue parking garage rooftop ice skating rink that is, for the most part, a lonely little patch of novelty ice in a city full of wild ice skating opportunities.
Or perhaps the Anchorage Person of the Year is Alice Rogoff, the somewhat rogue former publisher of the Anchorage Daily News, who stiffed dozens of Anchorage businesses and even her former employees, but now attends fundraisers for Gov. Bill Walker.
There’s a case to be made that by selling the newspaper, she had one of the more positive influences on Anchorage in 2017.
MUST READ ALASKA’S PERSON OF THE YEAR
We asked around to see what others thought would be appropriate for “Anchorage Person of the Year,” and here’s what the consensus is from conservative Anchorage residents who participated in this informal poll:
Anchorage Person of the Year is the gun-toting, law-abiding citizen who is now taking action to protect his [her] home, car, boat or snow machine, family dog, and children.
In a city that feels unsafe at any hour, citizens are arming themselves and joining social media and neighborhood watch groups in droves. They are engaged liked never before in being crime spotters and crime reporters.
It’s folks who run the Eagle River Crime Watch (7,800 members) and Stop Valley Thieves (16,000 members) and Wanted: Mat-Su and Anchorage (4,800 members) pages on Facebook. There are a dozen or more of these groups with active memberships. And they post pictures of stolen cars and thieves in action, like this one, where someone is caught on security camera trying the door of a truck in a Hillside neighborhood.
The Anchorage Person of the Year is also the certified firearms instructor and the legal gun dealer.
Amy Demboski, who serves on the Anchorage Assembly from Eagle River, said she is getting calls from women who need help finding the right firearm for personal protection. She’s known as someone who carries and who participates in her neighborhood watch.
She meets women at a local gun range in Palmer and lets them try one of her 9 mm guns — and she has several to choose from — so they can get the feel of these weapons and shoot one before purchasing.
These are women who have never thought they’d ever own a gun. They’re our Anchorage Person of the Year.
And although the Anchorage Press may call Ethan Berkowitz when mayhem breaks out on the street in front of their shop, the Anchorage Person of the Year is, first and foremost, the law enforcement professional.
It’s the man and woman in uniform who puts their life on the line every day by just walking out the front door to report for duty in a city where crime never sleeps.