By ANCHORAGE DAILY PLANET
Well, so much for all that nonsense about getting along. It did not take long for the Anchorage Assembly to show newly elected Mayor Dave Bronson its “our way or the highway” colors.
Bronson had sought $15 million from that august body to construct a temporary, huge tent-like structure to serve as a large-scale homeless shelter/navigation center near the intersection of Tudor and Elmore roads, in the shadow of the Alaska Native Medical Center.
Bronson’s idea was to move about 380 homeless out of the Sullivan Arena and again use the structure for public events and hockey.
At the last-minute, during Tuesday night’s meeting, Assembly members Meg Zaletel and failed mayoral candidate Forrest Dunbar tossed a monkey wrench into the machinery. They linked Bronson’s plan with a plan by former, and disgraced, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz to buy an Alaska Club structure on Tudor Road for $5.4 million – with an added $2 million for remodeling – something rejected only Friday by Bronson. The two also wanted to limit such a facility to 150-beds.
Mind you, the Berkowitz plan included using millions in COVID-19 relief money to buy the Alaska Club building and three others to house and treat the homeless in or near neighborhoods, which stirred heated opposition.
While refusing to deal with Bronson’s proposal, the Assembly also tabled the Zaletel-Dunbar proposal.
With Bronson’s project kaput – and he still says he still will not buy the Alaska Club building – there is no place for the 380 homeless people living in the Sullivan Arena to go for shelter. Court opinions bar the city from abating or clearing green belt homeless camps unless the city has a safe place to house people.
Add to all that: Games for the Anchorage Wolverines, the city’s new junior hockey team, are slated to begin in October at the Sullivan Arena.
The mayor has voiced his willingness, even eagerness, to work with the Assembly on such matters, and the Assembly says it wants to work with him, too, blah-blah-blah, but here we are back at Square One.
If nothing else, perhaps each Assembly member could just step up and take 30 or 40 of the homeless into their homes and the problem would go away. At this point, that seems as likely as the Assembly ever working in good faith with this mayor to solve the homelessness problem.
And winter is coming.