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Thursday, September 16, 2021
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Economic development first

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Night after night they came and testified. Men and women, young and old.  Diverse backgrounds and experiences — workers, employers, business owners, laborers, professionals, former homeless – night after night they waited patiently for hours to be granted six minutes before their leaders.  

They testified about their concern about home values. They testified about their concerns about personal safety, they testified about their concerns that the millions of dollars spent would be ineffective in reducing the problem of homelessness.  

They testified that the money was intended to help businesses and workers impacted by the pandemic and, therefore, could not, and should not, be used to buy permanent properties for homeless services. 

Night after night they testified.  

In the end their hours of testimony did not matter. Their elected leaders, confident in their superior understanding of the problem and their legal right to spend the money as they desired proceeded with stubborn insistence to authorize the purchase of the properties. Those providing testimony in opposition were dismissed as NIMBY’s and racists.  

The hell-for-leather manner in which municipal leadership has proceeded with these purchases is not only indicative of a misguided approach to the homelessness problem; but more importantly, it is emblematic of the overall mistaken direction being taken by municipal leadership.  

At a time when their focus should be on economic development, the government operates as if it is a social service agency.  

The leadership’s approach to homelessness has been to focus 100% of their efforts and spending on addressing the personal needs of 0.006% of the population while doing next-to-nothing for the remaining 99% who are forced to deal with the all too public aspects of the homelessness problem.

Content to clean up already abandoned homeless camps, the municipality provides, in essence, a publicly subsidized outdoor maid service while abandoning large swaths of Midtown and other neighborhoods to an unhealthy and degrading spectacle of public begging and communal drinking. 

While the vast majority of Anchorage residents strongly support a humane safety net for the homeless; they are, nonetheless, tired of being ignored in their legitimate desire to take back their street corners, trails and parks.

For too long, residents of Anchorage have seen increased municipal spending and focus on “homelessness” while simultaneously observing inexorable growth in the problem. They are frustrated that hard-working small business owners are dragged into court while a seemingly “hands-off” approach is afforded to criminality involving illegal campers and street corner beggars.  

The recent report from the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation paints a bleak picture of Anchorage’s economic future.  When was the last time a company moved its operations to Anchorage?  When was the last time a significant expansion of an existing Anchorage business was announced?  When was the last time municipal leadership took tangible steps to improve the climate for private sector growth and development?   

Private sector economic development is the secret sauce. Without private sector growth and development all other priorities eventually founder.  Accordingly, the concerted focus of Anchorage must be on ensuring the development of an economic culture attractive to business investment and the production of good sustainable jobs.  

Unless we, as a community, flourish economically, we will always find ourselves behind the curve in trying to solve the social ills that are a concomitant aspect of a declining economy.  

Focusing on developing the private sector economy is not an abandonment of the fight to combat social ills.  It is, in fact, the all-important prerequisite for such action.  

We can address the public’s frustration and anger caused by the growing problem of homelessness.  

We can also address the underlying root causes that result in homelessness.  But in order to do either successfully we must first focus on ensuring Anchorage has a growing and sustainable private sector economy.   

This is the direction towards which Anchorage must focus.     

Bill Evans is a candidate for Anchorage mayor. The election is April 6.   

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Written by

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.

Latest comments

  • Thanks you Bill for this piece….I will print it and keep it handy for all who come into our business and want to discuss your position…..because it is a lot like all who work here think and wish we had for local poltitcial leadership…

  • Obviously we need a conservative voice as mayor. However I find that even my conservative brethren are oblivious to the truth. Tell the truth and you will get my vote. Don’t listen to that Frank Rast fellow. He is full of it.

  • Mr. Evans is a great start. With the leftist rot running all the way from villages to Juneau and our largest cities, from local deputy magistrates to the Alaska supreme court, from kindergarten to doctorates in our esteemed universities, more conservatives than ever before must take up the fight to save our State and Country. Take up that fight or lose it all. I have always believed that if a problem presents itself, the best course is to confront it, resolve it and move on, learning from the experience. That is where we are as Alaskans and Americans. We either cure the rot or lose the bounty (freedom of self and soul) that our State and Country provides.
    I really like what Mr. Evans is saying.
    April is coming, just like November. Our chance to confront the problem and fix it.

  • Great commentary. Here is a person that will be a great mayor.

  • You need to run on specific repeal of plastic bag ban, alcohol tax, AO 2020- 66, 65, 80 and any version of 58 that comes back. That is the formula for votes. If you do that, and mean it and follow through, you have a strong chance of being victorious. Falsey and Dunbar are a continuation of status quo. Anchorage needs someone how will not only change course, but who will also undo the destructive actions of the current Mayor and Assembly.

  • The problem is that their isn’t any measurable ” economy” in Anchorage beyond the service of fueling jets that transport mostly foreign goods. Aside from Oil Field administration , service and Engineering. Anchorage is the biggest village in Alaska when measured by what sustains it’s economic foundation, ( federal and state government) which presently fuel it’s economy. The demonstrations against Comrade Berkowitz make this point. The issue is how to allocate another huge Federal Entitlement.
    Smaller Alaskan Communities like Juneau., Kodiak , Cordova, Ketchikan, Valdez all have large vibrant production based divisions as part of their local economy. Alaska’s future is going to be based upon Mining and Fishing. Mining and Agriculture are the building blocks of economic growth. The future of Anchorage is tied to developing Alaska. Real wealth and high paying jobs are by needs tied up with developing our resources. I hope the Candidate for Mayor has a plan beyond simply turning back Berkowitz’s insane shut downs.

    • Me thinks you have sliced things a bit too narrowly. Anchorage, with a critical mass of population, services and amenities will continue to serve as Alaska’s headquarters. Many do not want to live in villages. Our international location cannot be minimized. Municipal policies should support the headquarters role and not burden everyone with a welfare-state mentality.

  • A reasonable analysis of our situation. I will quibble a small measure with giving the Anchorage Economic Development Association any role in charting a path forward. AEDC represents the politically connected in town that largely “has theirs” and will support the quasi-welfare State mentality that has flourished in Anchortown over the last decade. Emphasis needs to be placed on policies that encourage investment without picking favorites.

    • JMark, you miss the point. Anchorage is a service economy and has been for all of my pre- statehood life. The basis of all funding for the Anchorage economy is government spending, which means it is a village. Villages do not produce anything that the world wants to purchase and are supported by external forces. My point is Alaska needs large infusions of outside $ to develop it’s economy. Mines like Fort Knox, Greens Creek and development of rare earths near Ketchikan and properties like Donlin are the future. Anchorage needs to position and support these projects. Alaska cannot long continue to be a service sector economy whose base is government spending only, i.e. welfare state.

      • Upon which, we agree. (But international air commerce is an exception.). Sadly, in recent years, many have begun to think that if we could just grow government large enough, we would all be rich.

  • Bill Evans is by far one of the few people coming to the forefront of the political scene here in Anchorage that has truly demonstrated his desire to run the city as a city should be run.And that is as a business with checks and balances not by partisan or by favor or debts owed. The city of Anchorage has seen more than there fair share of terrible leadership in the past decades.They survived do to the robust economy of this great state.In other words more money that sense!That has
    long changed do to many reasons but mostly due to the basic lack of understanding of what makes this engine a success.That is oil, mining and a variety of other development resources.
    Bill Evans is a champion of the needs of our state our city and most of all our residents.He is compassionate about the success of this city. I look forward to seeing him continue his success as the future Mayor of Anchorage !

  • JMark, my point exactly, air commerce is great and should be expanded , beyond Anchorage in fact.
    Anchorage is poor in natural resources but should recognize that as the biggest population it must lead or at least join others in developing our State. Based on what the Donlin project has reported, it’s Gold reserves are worth more than the P.Fund. Along with a 7 billion $ development program, it will produce 1.5 million oz of AU per year for 27 years. Much of that gold will be spent right here in Alaska, through Wages and service contractors. This type of production affects the economy of the whole State.
    Government cannot create wealth, it re-distributes wealth. Real wealth is organic, when you catch a troll caught King Salmon, diners from Colorado to Korea want to give up their $ for your product. Same is true for the Silver Lead Zinc mined by Red Dog or Greens Creek. Alaska has the resources to provide a good life for it’s citizens. We just need to do it. .

  • jmark, love the light house picture, Sentinel Island?

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