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We Build Alaska

Anchorage is at a crossroads

It is increasingly trite for every political campaign to declare that the nation, state, city, school board, little league commission… etc. is at a crossroads. Nonetheless, I actually do believe that Anchorage is at such a crossroads.

Anchorage can either continue to manage the slow deterioration of its civic life or it can make fundamental changes that will allow it to effectively address chronic problems and also seek community improvement. If the course of maintenance of inexorable deterioration is chosen, the path is easy. Just keep doing what you’re doing. If the path of improvement is chosen, the Municipality must obtain the funds necessary to proactively fix and build.

I believe that realistically there are only two paths available to the Municipality if it wants to have the level of funds necessary to address and reverse its natural entropy and construct a better future. One approach I’ll call the “subtractive” approach; the other the “additive” approach.

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If you want to find the necessary funds in the current budget to effectively improve the Municipality the only source of such funds is in the Municipality’s labor costs. Labor costs are far and away the most significant portion of the budget (approx. 80%). You simply cannot free up substantial funds from the Municipality budget without seriously whacking labor costs. I believe this subtractive approach is misguided for a number of reasons. One, you’ll never be able to obtain the level of savings required through collective bargaining. Accordingly, if you wanted to make the sizable reduction that would be required you would need to take the steps to end collective bargaining in the city. Not only would that commence a war of considerable proportions which would distract and cripple all other efforts, it would also have the perverse effect of reducing the wages and benefits and well-being of a substantial number of Anchorage citizens – when the goal is to improve the situation in Anchorage. Accordingly, I believe the “subtractive” approach is counterproductive, nearsighted and ultimately destructive.

That, of course, leaves the “additive” approach. Put simply Anchorage needs to generate significant new revenues. I believe the best way to do this would be the adoption of a sales tax whose revenues fall outside of the tax cap. Basically it would be a large infusion of unencumbered funds that could be used to actually remedy problems instead of continuing to waste a constant stream of smaller amounts on problems that are simply managed instead of solved. The sales tax would also generate funds from tourists and persons who work in Anchorage but choose to live elsewhere. While it would not reduce property taxes it would diminish the pressure on property taxes to pay for everything and thus could curb their long-term growth. The details of such a tax can vary and its regressive impacts can be tempered.

I personally don’t like taxes, but I like far less watching the inexorable decline of the community I live in and the pitiful annual spectacle of wringing the budget for found pennies when dollars are needed. Thinking you can simply cut government “waste” fails to apprehend the dimension of the problems we face and seems to misconstrue the real nature of the Municipality’s budget (i.e. nearly all labor costs).

It’s time we step up to the plate and start solving problems instead of taking philosophical positions. We are the pioneers of Anchorage’s future. Let’s start acting like it. Let’s sacrifice now so that we pass along more to our children than a decaying and dreadful city with an admirably low tax base.

Bill Evans has been a practicing attorney for 21 years focusing on management side labor and employment law. He represented South Anchorage on the Anchorage Assembly from 2014-2017. He is a former two-time chair of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce.

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2 years ago

Yes let’s solve our problems.

But quit it with the “two paths” mindset. There are many paths-it’s not about black or white-it’s all grey. So long as you see two it will be a contest to win a side-not a work together to resolve the problem. Especially if you use substance use terms.

2 years ago

Bill Evans, maybe the real answer is taxing the high income residents like yourself, and not raising the already high cost of living for the regular people of Alaska.

Phyllis F.
2 years ago
Reply to  David Barrett


Phyllis F.
2 years ago
Reply to  Phyllis F.

I want to agree whole-heartedly with Mr.Barrett!
We Alaskans were at one time quite proud to be those who took pride in caring for our lesser fortunate and our Pioneers…..

2 years ago

This mentality is exactly why eaglexit will eventually pass. The level of arrogance and pride it takes to assume you can better use someone else’s money to clean up someone else’s mess is baffling and immoral; it’s just plain theft. The goal of the AK government should be nothing more than to facilitate the growth of natural commerce and ensure a level playing field. Over the past 30 years the amount of money this state has squandered creating bureaucracy and socialized programs… They could have built the most beautiful metropolis the world has ever seen, but instead Governor after governor… Read more »

Lynn Willis
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt

Isn’t “EagleExit” just another Americans for Prosperity canard meant not to save money but to pass money to the friends and associates of the small group behind this effort funded by money from Texas? I can’t wait until we in Eagle River are forced to “buy back” the municipal assets we already purchased and to “bid” against Anchorage for municipal employees. Makes no sense unless you would rather see us become Alabama rather then California (and I don’t want either).

2 years ago
Reply to  Matt

Not quite sure where I heard about the role of government, but it went something like “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…”

Tiffany Sams
2 years ago

I hardly think taking more money (in the form of your proposed taxes) from people already struggling to make ends meet in this overpriced city is the answer. How many Anchorage citizens (politicians, business leaders, coaches) are making $200k+ a year that could afford tax increases? Do you honestly think that any of these people are working proportionally harder than those making $40k a year and are thus more deserving of their money? (We all know they aren’t; they’re working the same or fewer hours with less stress because of their elevated positions [actual studies to back this up]) This… Read more »

2 years ago

Lay people off and then tax them.

Who is this evil brainless insane narcissist nitwit and how did anyone allow this scumbags write a column so stupid.

Lawyers. And media. That is our problem. If we could send these sociopathic cutthroat slimeballs to another galaxy we would have many of our problems solved.

Common sense.

Lay people off and then tax them. What a wackjob.

Computing, Engineering, and Technology
2 years ago

@and_computing Definitely shows the “i” in the “A”-hole of teAm or Alaska. Crime, specifically domestic violence, is an indirect price of Alaska’s white collar crime. Alaska is liable for incorrectly drafting laws and then following through with executing them. Take a FAR ? at the way Alaska invests, spends, legislates, and then educates. For the people. It rules over not represents. Examples: expungements for “ex parte” orders are correctly infered from the Constitution of the United States and granted by salute, improperly executed property steams (i.e. property taxes parade CAS mismanagement), growth area of social services and about nothing else,… Read more »

2 years ago

Because throwing $$$ at the deep seated cultural problems Anchorage is facing has such a strong track record of success in the lower 48… not.

Ray Bolton
2 years ago

As a recent visitor from England I enjoyed the excursions but it is upsetting to see so many homeless people in midtown. God only knows how they will survive the winter months.

2 years ago

Clean up the drug addicts, alcoholics, and vagrants would be a good start.
I realize its a huge undertaking but Anchorage is starting to look like Seattle and San Francisco.

Steve Carson, Queensgate Subdivision
2 years ago

You’re preaching to the choir. Speaking of deterioration and decay in terms one can see and touch the streets in my non-affluent subdivision are literally falling apart. 45 years of neglect by the city.

2 years ago

Big words don’t make you smart. It was fluff fillers and your a fool to be so narrow minded. The answer is never more taxing. We could give the governors of our lives 100 percent and it’s never enough for fat cows. Sales tax=putting the burdon on man woman AND child. Let’s tax the children and don’t forget their lemonade stands. We need to reward community initiatives and amp our volunteer programs. Maybe some of the homeless would help too. Not all are inept. Let’s make it fun and worthwhile. Aka. Prizes, gatherings for volunteers, giving since of community, etc..… Read more »

James Cowen
2 years ago

A progressive income tax would be a more equitable solution. For people living paycheck to paycheck every pennie counts. When rent`s are more than half you’re income, then the utilities, a few dollars can make all the difference. 2% might seem like nothing to you, Mr. Evans, but speaking on behalf of the fiscally challenged of our fine city your sales tax would have a serious impact on the quality of life for those of us at bottom of the wage scale. Think about that the next time you drop $100 on dinner at a restaurant. That’s 1and a half… Read more »

2 years ago

I like so much