Berkowitz identifies key priorities in State of the City address
Charting a course for Anchorage's future expecting little help in the way of state funding -- that was the message surrounding Mayor Ethan Berkowitz' State of the City address on Monday.
Anchorage is economically stable, according to the mayor. It has a AAA bond rating, the highest rating a municipality can have. This is a sign the city can weather the storm of budget cuts by investing in its own future.
"We can do amazing things here," Berkowitz said in an optimistic start to his address. He identified various core priorities for the city’s future: public safety, housing and homelessness, and fiscal stability and economic development.
"We all know that there are public safety challenges that this community faces. Some of them, we can resolve with enhanced personnel," Berkowitz said.
The FY 2020 budget opens up four officer positions with the Anchorage Police Department. Berkowitz says this may help Anchorage Police Department patrol some of the more dangerous city trails where a large percentage of the homeless population resides. But Berkowitz says police can’t do all the heavy lifting.
"The reality is that resolving homelessness is a community problem, it's not a government problem," Berkowitz said to cheers from the crowd.
The city does not have the resources to house its homeless population, according to the mayor. A recent $40 million private sector contribution will go towards ending homelessness in Anchorage. Berkowitz says these donations will help the city target chronic homelessness with limited state funding.
Berkowitz says new construction projects in the downtown district are a sign that people are investing in the city. These investments will help keep the budget balanced, generating revenue into the future.
“This is something new,” Berkowitz said. “Some of it's attributable to taxes making the difference. But most of that is attributable to the fact that people believe in downtown and they believe in Anchorage."
Berkowitz ended his address saying his goal is for Anchorage to be a self-sufficient city; to be able to withstand budgetary gridlock in the State Legislature. But he acknowledged the city cannot operate
independent of the state, and he hopes the two can work together to solve some of the larger issues impacting the state.
Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz delivers his annual state of the city address.