With Anchorage’s local election just around the corner, KSKA and Alaska Public media are bringing you a look at those running for mayor. As KSKA’s Zachariah Hughes reports, Ethan Berkowitz hopes to draw on his political background from Juneau to improve local government in Anchorage.
Berkowitz was in the Legislature for a decade, serving as the Democratic minority whip for 8 of those years. On the campaign trail he often quips that Juneau is “broke and broken,” and the biggest impact on the lives of Alaskans happens at the municipal level. As diminishing capital budgets and revenue sharing from the state are changing the fiscal landscape, Berkowitz favors local solutions for budget trimming.
“First there’s a procurement program called ARIBA that we did away with, and that saved about $10 million in its infancy. And if we were to resurrect it and bring it back again the projections are, from people who have run it, that it would save $15-20 million annually,” Berkowitz said. “Secondly, I’d look at the energy efficiencies that we could get out of the municipal buildings. If we go through and make those energy efficient that’s a $5 million savings. We could put LED’s in 15,000 light-poles, save another $4 million.”
Since leaving state politics, Berkowitz helped start a broadband company and has worked on a geothermal energy project near Nome. His policy proposals for issues like affordable housing follow a similar tendency to look at new solutions.
“We need to build about 900 units a year, and we’re building 400. And in order for us to accommodate the growth in this community we need to acknowledge that we’re gonna have to have denser housing, perhaps mixed retail and residential structures,” he said. “I think the more we can do to build neighborhoods like they’re doing out in Mountain View right now where there’s a little bit of a renaissance going on, we’ll be better off.”
Though he wasn’t in office at the time of the contentious debate over AO-37, Berkowitz has received endorsements from many unions who see his record as supporting the interests of organized labor. Like most candidates in the race, Berkowitz is advocating public safety approaches that begin with hiring more police officers.
“I’d like to see us return to a time where we had the drug unit back in place, the gang unit, the theft unit,” Berkowitz said. “I also want to see us be able to do more community policing. Community policing is really a way of leveraging the resources we have, of multiplying the force that we have, which ultimately reduces recidivism, reduces cost, and makes our streets, and homes, safer.”
Berkowitz has a broader donor roll than any other candidate. And though he was one of the last candidates to file to run he has the second highest amount of campaign contributions.