Alaska Public Media has sideswiped “Save Anchorage” by allowing the mayor of Anchorage to label the growing community action group “astroturf.”
“Mayor Berkowitz went a step further than Dunbar, arguing that Save Anchorage isn’t purely grassroots, but the product of conservative political orchestration and calculated misinformation campaigns,” the public station wrote.
“There are people who genuinely disagree with what I’m doing. But a lot of the anger that’s been whipped up here has been done through some very orchestrated means and it is not genuine, grassroots but more astroturf in its nature.” – Ethan Berkowitz, mayor of Anchorage
According to Wikipedia, “astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g., political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participants. It is a practice intended to give the statements or organizations credibility by withholding information about the source’s financial connection. The term astroturfing is derived from AstroTurf, a brand of synthetic carpeting designed to resemble natural grass, as a play on the word “grassroots”. The implication behind the use of the term is that instead of a “true” or “natural” grassroots effort behind the activity in question, there is a “fake” or “artificial” appearance of support.”
Save Anchorage began with a small group of Facebook users and has grown to nearly 9,000 members. The group grew quickly and organically and is now run by a loose knit group of a half dozen people. It is nonpartisan and many of the players have never been involved in politics at any level, according to some of its members. They are just community-minded people who have had enough of the poorly run city of Anchorage.
Save Anchorage has held a few rallies in front of the Loussac Library, where the Anchorage Assembly meets. In the history of Anchorage, no one remembers seeing anything like the activism now occurring in Anchorage in opposition to its Assembly and mayor.
The group formed in reaction to a massive plan to place homeless and drug services adjacent to neighborhoods around Anchorage. That plan has passed the Assembly, but Save Anchorage and others are trying to get it on the April ballot to repeal the action.
The story in Alaska Public Media allowed Assembly members Forrest Dunbar and Mayor Berkowitz to label the group as conservative, when in fact many involved are just fed up with the policies of the Assembly and mayor. Separately, there are small groups working to recall various members of the Assembly. A homeowners group called Alaskans for Real Cures for Homelessness has now incorporated as a nonprofit.
Yet another group known as Open Alaska has several members who overlap with the Save Anchorage Facebook group.
Bernadette Wilson, who has been outspoken on the mayor’s COVID mandates, said the story mischaracterized her involvement by saying she had spoken at several Save Anchorage events. In fact, she has never spoken at any of them.
Assembly member Dunbar also blamed Must Read Alaska for fomenting anger at the Assembly, and reiterated that the purchase of the Golden Lion Hotel is not for a homeless shelter, while blaming this publication for riling people up.
The Alaska Public Media reporter accurately reported this author saying that Dunbar was “splitting hairs” but did not quote the rest of that comment. The full comment was that the municipality can call it a “residential treatment center,” for addicts and alcoholics, but the impact on the local neighborhood is the same as a traditional homeless shelter, and will attract the same kinds of problems to the neighborhood.
Further, a building can be repurposed through time and become a homeless shelter, even if it starts out as a residential drug and alcohol treatment center, this author pointed out.