Instead of solving homelessness, the Assembly Committee on Housing and Homelessness today used an age-old tactic of distraction and diversion, and called for the resignation of a volunteer member of the Housing, Homelessness, and Neighborhood Development Commission.
Two members of the Assembly — Felix Rivera and Chris Constant — attacked volunteer Jim Crawford and took his comments out of context. The two demand his resignation and say the mayor should demand it also.
Crawford, during the meeting, was engaged in a discussion with other members about the role of the Alaska Mental Health Trust, budgets, homelessness, Native Alaskans, and other issues relating to the ever-growing homeless population in Anchorage, which is said to have a housing crisis, when what it really has is a drug addition problem.
By geography, the Anchorage Public Health Region had the state’s highest overdose death rate in 2021, at 49.3 deaths per 100,000, up from 31.4 in 2020, according to state statistics that indicate the drug abuse problems in Anchorage are significant.
The city has spent hundreds of millions of dollars housing the homeless, and yet the problem continues to grow in Anchorage.
The homelessness commission is all volunteer, but the Assembly is paid. Today’s attack was by paid workers attacking a volunteer who is a known conservative. Crawford is the former chairman of the Alaska Republican Party and has been the state chair for several Republican presidential campaigns, including the 2016 campaign of President Donald Trump.
During today’s Assembly meeting, Rivera started the diatribe, which appeared to have been coordinated in advance with Constant.
“Before we get started, I need to speak to an issue brought to my attention yesterday that I cannot ignore,” Rivera said. “This statement has no place in our discourse around homelessness. For my part, I am sick and tired of how the Alaska Native community is treated as a punching bag on this topic. I demand that the Administration look into this issue and that the commissioner that made this statement is asked to resign from their seat on the Commission.”
“I am appalled,” said Assembly Vice Chair Christopher Constant, in a statement. “Racism has no place in government, especially racism towards Indigenous communities, who have stewarded these lands for time immemorial, Besides,the Mayor himself recently said, ‘Regardless of how someone becomes homeless, each person must have a place to go at every moment of every day. Everyone needs a place.’ If he truly believes what he published in Must Read Alaska, he should call for the removal of Commissioner Crawford and appoint a thoroughly-vetted candidate who aligns with the values the city holds towards the issue.”
Neither Rivera nor Constant were born or raised in Alaska, but Crawford, who is now elderly, was born and raised in Anchorage and has spent his career as a Realtor. Crawford denies he is racist and says that the people in charge of homelessness in the community — the Assembly in particular — appear to have no interest in solving the problem.
The Assembly radicals, including Rivera and Constant, appear to have just one solution for homelessness: Give Assemblywoman Meg Zaletel, who works her day job as the head of the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness, even more taxpayer dollars to not solve the problem.
Mayor Bronson issued a statement in response to the demands: “Mayor Bronson disagrees with Mr. Crawford’s statement. Mental illness crosses all boundaries of race, ethnicities and economic status. The Mayor continues to fight for solutions that will help our city’s most vulnerable get access to treatment, services, and permanent housing.”