Ethan Berkowitz took over as Mayor of Anchorage nearly a month ago, and on Monday his administration released an ambitious report on its aims for the next three years. The policy points represent a stark departure from the last administration’s approach to a similar set of problems.
Once Berkowitz was elected in May, he and his staff gathered 125 people from the city’s business, non-profit, and community groups, then set them loose figuring out how to fix a wide range of issues.
Five areas of special interest are identified in the Transition Committee report: public safety, homelessness, government administration, economic development, and the city’s Live.Work.Play. initiative.
Berkowitz was surprised at how consistently the same issues came up for groups working on different topics, and how specific many of the policy recommendations are.
“What I wanted was a transition report that was forward-looking, that was focused on what we could do and what we should do,” Berkowitz said by phone, “as opposed to where we stood.”
The 33-page document is filled with policy goals that can seem wildly ambitious. For example, aiming to build 1,000 new units under a Housing First program to combat homelessness. Or building an “all-encompassing” strategic IT plan for city government in the next six months.
“The fortunate thing about this is there are different time horizons: there are 60 day, six month and three year goals,” said Berkowitz, who believes the full program is feasible. “We are going to go after them all.”
The report includes novel approaches to well-trod policy topics like Public Safety. For example, it emphasizes translation and language training in emergency services. Elsewhere there is an intention to boost morale among city workers in the next 60 days to improve administration.
One group that is heavily represented is the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, with one whole section of the report devoted to the organization’s Live.Work.Play. initiative. According to Berkowitz it’s part of an effort to capitalize on efforts already made to identify problems and pose solutions, rather than reinventing the wheel.
“I could put it this way,” Berkowitz said, “you can have a task force, or you can have a punch list, and I wanted to have a punch list of things to go do.”
Berkowitz added the transition team’s report reflects the same values and solutions he campaigned on.