Pray tell: Where is the Anchorage Assembly? - Must Read Alaska
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Saturday, September 19, 2020
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Pray tell: Where is the Anchorage Assembly?

By CRAIG CAMPBELL

These are trying times for Anchorage.  

Coronavirus continues to spread, creating a challenging political environment for elected officials to navigate government’s role in protecting the population from a disease without unduly infringing on our constitutional rights.  

An explosion in homelessness over the past five years is causing conflicts between elected officials’ desire to provide homeless services against protecting the general population from the associated crime and a general degradation of the quality of life being experienced in Anchorage.  

This is combined with a financial crisis caused by the decline in oil prices and decreased pipeline flow, stressed by politicians’ spending habits at both the state and local level on services, which has nearly depleted the Constitutional Budget Reserve, using the citizens’ portion of the Permanent Fund to continue funding the highest per-capita budgets in the nation, and pushing local property taxes up.

Here in Anchorage, we look to our local leaders to provide leadership, leadership that is reflective of the common interest of the population, not based on a minority agenda or personal interests.  

We also expect the Anchorage Assembly to respect the public process in reaching decisions that impact all of us.  One might conclude from recent actions this is not happening.

This is not the first time Anchorage has faced challenges. Our city has a history of boom and bust economics and challenging social issues. Back in the mid 1980’s when I served on the Anchorage Assembly, we faced as much a financial crisis as we face today.  Oil prices hovered around $9 per barrel, declining pipeline flow-through, property values crashed, over 2,000 homes in Anchorage in foreclosure, and our population decreased by over 10 percent in just three years.  

In response, we slashed the city budget, stayed under the “Tax Cap,” and kept a strong municipal bond rating.  We also had a homeless problem, created in part by the collapsed economy.  Life safety services were provided, but not services to “enable” this lifestyle.  The homeless population remained small and relatively steady over the nearly 10 years I served on the Assembly and our economy rebounded.    

The upsurge in Anchorage homelessness these past five years has a direct correlation to the amount of government accommodation provided.  The movie “Field of Dreams” made famous the adage, “If you build it, they will come.”  

Nowhere is that more evident than here, where Mayor Berkowitz and the Anchorage Assembly have consistently provided more services and been more permissive on allowing homeless camps to proliferate. The result has been a staggering increase in the Anchorage homeless population. The problem hasn’t been solved, it’s exploded.

Now the Mayor and Assembly are seriously considering expanding services, without regard to public input and trying to skirt the public process.

Former Mayor Sullivan offered one very cost effective solution, that of expanding the existing Clitheroe Center.  The Clitheroe Center provides both housing and rehabilitation services and has been an effective institution in our city for over 40 years.  

Instead, the Assembly plans to move forward with purchasing properties in close proximity to residential neighborhoods, busy intersections, and popular shopping areas to accommodate the homeless, despite having held numerous public meetings where a resounding majority spoke against the purchases.  They concluded the public process by holding a meeting closed to the public, except for one member of the public they invited to speak.  This blatant affront to the public process was so obvious that a recall has been launched against the presiding officer of the meeting, Assembly member Meg Zaletel. 

The current mayoral mandate that closes most restaurants to inside dining is a clear example of where the Anchorage Assembly should be critically challenging the mayor.  

Under the mandate, indoor dining has been restricted, although outside dining is permitted.  It has not gone unnoticed that Mayor Berkowitz has a financial tie to the restaurant Crush and that Crush was granted the authority to expand onto “G” Street to provide outside dining during this mandate period.  “G” Street is a public roadway.  

Anchorage taxpayers pay for that street to be used as a street, not as a private restaurant. Why is the Anchorage Assembly allowing the mayor to use a public street for a restaurant owned by business associates of the mayor to provide outdoor dining?  

Whether it be a lack of fiscal discipline in the face of a financial crisis, disregard for the public process, lack of effective oversight of the executive branch, or continuing to enable the homeless population without trying to solve the problem, I ask, where is the Anchorage Assembly?

Craig E. Campbell served on the Anchorage Assembly from 1986 to 1995 and as lieutenant governor in 2009-2010. He was chief executive officer of the Alaska Aerospace Corporation and achieved the rank of lieutenant general (Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs), major general (Air National Guard).

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  • The Assembly, for the most part, are in Ethan’s pocket. The majority work in tandem with him on the leftist agenda. I’ve never seen such disdain for the lifeblood of a city – the small business owner – than what I see with the leftist members of the assembly. Chris Constant openly and venomously attacked, and alluded they’re filthy, a local restaurant in a shameful attempt at gaining their compliance with government overreach. Their heads are so far up Ethan’s backside you can’t see them. They are all one. And now the city attorney, Kate Vogel, calls these businesses “criminals” and intends to prosecute their criminal behavior! Am I in some freaking dream? Drive down Benson or Denali or through our parks on any given day and I’ll show you criminal behavior Ms Vogel. Theft, panhandling, drugs, drunks, rapist, arsonists, assault…. put your efforts into the criminals that you are allowing to destroy our city, not business owners trying to support their families, employees, and survive. They’ve all gone absolutely mad!

  • He’s the ruler, he can do whatever the hell he wants and he has the Anchorage assembly to back him up, when are people going to stand up to this midget tyrant and say enough is enough?

  • a very true & good article, thank you Craig………

    • Very succinct, very astute article. Thank you.

  • We know where they are. But they won’t allow us to be there to see first-hand their shennigans.

  • Anchorage needs a sensible, probably business minded, conservative to step up, preferably with a little charisma and a bit of a thick skin, and rescue them from the disaster their city is becoming. This person doesn’t need to be a fire breathing extremist- just sensible. They need to walk softly and carry the big stick of reason that is conservatism-not swing the stick around crazy town trying to break everything in it. If they can run someone like that, I think the political winds are in their favor. I’m not talking RINO I’m talking just a sensible charismatic conservative who doesn’t alienate any groups unnecessarily. They need to be business minded because it’s going to take that to rebuild what the left has destroyed with their overreaction to Covid and NON reaction to the vagrants and drug users that inhabit the tax payer streets and storefronts.
    If they run someone with no charisma, or who wants to pick fights on the fringe and divide rather than unite, its Dunbar’s and the extreme lefts for the taking. If you didn’t think it could get worse, think again..

  • Say what you will about Anchorage’s Assembly members, they had their act together well enough to force their easily corruptible mail-in vote system on productive Anchorage residents to assure: (a) no bond, tax, or incumbent gets left behind
    .
    …and (b) Anchorage residents can’t do a thing about it. That’s heavy stuff and it’s pointed at us.
    .
    General, maybe it’s safe preaching to the choir, but a George Patton you’re not.
    .
    And a George Patton is what we need to lead us out from under the pile of (expl del) that Anchorage’s Assembly members contemptuously heap on us and defeat them.
    .
    If you’re testing the mayoral waters, General, that’s good. Conservative, productive Anchorage residents seem to have no viable mayoral candidates.
    .
    So forget preaching to the choir! Lead from the front, channel your inner Patton, if that’s what you’re here to do.
    .
    Get over to Kriner’s Diner, Wings and Things, Jackie’s Place, Little Dipper Diner… donate to the causes, shamelessly buy meals for customers… above all, share your battle plan for defeating what’s arrayed against us in city government until everybody can recite it and their parts in it.
    .
    Yes, defeating… surely no explanation’s necessary.
    .
    Then it won’t matter “where the Assembly is”. What’ll matter is where you and your troops are.
    .
    What’s it gonna be, General?

    • Appreciate your observations. Only exception is that the Assembly has tremendous power to counter a runaway Mayor and these members are elected by sections of our city, some that are relatively conservative have elected liberal members, thereby thwarting any ability to counter the Mayor’s progressive destruction of the city. My commentary was meant to make sure we also focus on changing the Assembly, as well as the Mayor.

      Agree there currently is no conservative seeking to replace Mayor Berkowitz next year. We must reverse this liberal tidal wave the Mayor and Assembly have purposely pushed on Anchorage. Doesn’t have to be me running for Mayor, although I wouldn’t count that out just yet, but we do need to join together behind a conservative and take back our government. Hope you are ready to join the fight and be part of the solution. Together we can stop this destruction of our great community.

  • Please consider getting involved locally again. There are a lot of us out there that would support you. We always appreciated your wisdom and thoughtful approach to things. Think about it please!

  • I submit that the assembly and the mayor have formed an oligarchy that is ruling Anchorage as tyrant, They are only intent on their agenda, throwing money away on useless, self perpetuating programs, further indenturing the population in the process. Revolt is the only avenue left to the citizen that is being crippled by these criminals.

  • Count me on your team if you choose to run, Craig. I’d be happy to help in any way possible. Our shared history is the Anchorage Downtown Rotary Club.

  • Good points raised by Mr. Campbell. What is lost in the (justifiable IMO) outrage against the Mayor’s mandates is the fact that he can’t act in this way without Assembly action and agreement. Right, Left, or otherwise, part of the Assembly’s role is to be check and balance on the power of the Mayor’s office: starting with the fact that any emergency powers have to come from the Assembly.

    I communicated with one of the Assembly members from my district back in May…..part of his response was “we’re anticipating a motion to restrict the Mayor’s powers after June 2.” That clearly did not pan out.

    When April 2021 rolls around, let’s vote in a sober, sensible, preferably IMO conservative Mayor: but let’s not miss opportunities to put in similar Assembly members.

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