Berkowitz on junket to Japan, Camp Berky moves back toward downtown
VALLEY OF THE MOON PARK TENT-A-THON
It’s off to Japan for Mayor Ethan Berkowitz for sister-city meet-and-greets.
Back at home, Camp Berkowitz, the Whack-a-Mole tent encampment that moves from city park to city park, has returned to Valley of the Moon Park, within eye-shot of the children’s playground. The 30-or-so tent city is a project of the Poor People’s Campaign, a couple of local churches, and various political activists.
A couple of weeks ago, the campers were forced to move from that very Valley of the Moon location; camp organizers chose Cuddy Park, until the police department’s 10-day abatement notices were tacked on trees.
Earlier this summer, the campers had laid claim to a large swath of the Delaney Park Strip in downtown Anchorage until they were shooed off after two weeks of occupation.
The roving tent city is one part home-brewed solution for those without housing, and one part protest movement to call attention for the need for more services for a population of wanderers, some of whom can’t afford housing, and some of whom are making homelessness a hobo lifestyle for all sorts of reasons.
Remarkably, no fights, crimes, or disturbances have been associated with the self-policing, loosely knit community. And a tour of the Cuddy Park encampment area revealed that the area had been cleaned up after campers left, and city crews have cleared the brush that had hidden the encampment from the road.
The mayor on July 24 declared this situation a civil emergency. The Assembly extended the emergency until Aug. 6. Then, on Aug. 6, the Assembly again extended the emergency until Sept. 24 at 11:59 pm.
But where’s the mayor, and where are the reports he was asked to give to the Assembly?
Berkowitz, along with a posse of other city officials are in Japan, on a friendship mission to Chitose. Traveling with him are Assembly members Christopher Constant and Forrest Dunbar, both who are understudies for the role of mayor, once Berkowitz is retired in 2021.
Why Chitose, Japan? It’s Anchorage’s sister city, located on the island of Hokkaido.
When Berkowitz declared the emergency back in July, he said it was to “address the impacts of state budget cuts that pose dire and imminent public health and safety risks.”
His declaration continued: “Municipal Code 3.80.060 allows the mayor to make use of all available resources of the municipal government, including municipal personnel, as may be reasonably necessary to cope with an emergency. Actions may include alternate deployment of current MOA employees and the swift reallocation of resources necessary to preserve and protect the public safety, health, and welfare.”
“This is an unprecedented decision for an unprecedented situation. Existing shelters have lost funding at a time when demand for their services is projected to skyrocket. First responders and health care professionals are anticipating a massive surge in 911 and emergency room calls, and it is imperative that we meet this impending humanitarian crisis with the resources that we deploy when responding to all emergencies.”
[Read: Berkowitz declares a civil emergency on homelessness]
And yet, the encampment is still doing its 10-day abatement rotation.
Assembly member Felix Rivera had toured the nomadic colony late last month and noted that a sense of community had started to develop and he saw merit in creating sanctioned permanent tent cities.
Meanwhile, the junket to Japan has been kept largely under wraps, although Assemblyman Christopher Constant has been posting cryptic messages about it on social media.
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.