OPINION: Rule of law takes partisan turn under Berkowitz

  • After years of surging crime and homelessness, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz has discovered the rule of law when it comes to small business owners who defy him. (Photo/Mark Thiessen/AP)

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz says the U.S. is a “failed state” and “pathetic” when it comes to its response to the coronavirus.

He should know what a failed state looks like.

Berkowitz drives through one every time he travels between his office at City Hall and the Assembly headquarters in Midtown at the Loussac Library.

But don’t blame what you see on Berkowitz.

Nevermind the hopeless population fighting, drinking and drugging, having sex, panhandling and passing out on the main thoroughfares of Anchorage, in the parking lots of vacant buildings and taking over new territory in the shadows of businesses ordered to vacate for at least four weeks.

It is all partisan politics.

Oh, and racism.

When it comes to enforcing the law, Marshal Berkowitz means business.

Just ask Andy Kriner.

After more than five years of allowing duly passed and ratified laws to be flouted across wide swaths of Anchorage, what finally spurred the mayor to take a hardline stance was a handful of people defying his personal order to stop serving pancakes and burgers inside their small diners.

Far more important to Berkowitz was showing these uppity families who is boss than pausing to consider whether his latest emergency order went too far by shutting down diners like Kriner’s and Little Dipper while allowing large-scale socializing inside tents or on patios.

In the space of less than a week the mayor showed more interest in the rule of law than he has since taking office by issuing stop-work orders, fines and finally a trip to state Superior Court to pursue injunctions against the most peaceful protests this country has seen all year.

By every metric in the municipality’s own police budget document, besides the rising tide of homelessness this mayor has presided over increases in crime, sexual assault and homicide.

After ranking better than its population-sized peer group in the federal Uniform Crime Report statistics for the entire decade before he took office, Anchorage now trails the pack.

In the 10 years before Berkowitz was elected, Anchorage witnessed more than 20 homicides just twice, in 2006 and 2007, and in the six years of his predecessor Dan Sullivan murders averaged 17.5 per year with just one to three unsolved cases annually from 2009 to 2014.

The mayor’s lowest number of homicides was 27 in his first year and then averaged 33 over the next four including the all-time record of 38 in 2016. Not only did homicides nearly double on an annual basis from 2016 to 2019, the average rate of unsolved homicides grew from 2 to 9 per year.

After five years of increasing sexual assault rates under Sullivan, from 108 per 100,000 in 2009 to 126 in 2013, that rate declined to 116 in 2014 and 2015.

The rate has shot up under Berkowitz, from 116 per 100,000 in his first year to 150, 133 and 158 from 2016 to 2018, with the last year of data representing a 36 percent increase from 2015.

As the sexual assault rate increased, the already anemic arrest rate has been less than the last year of Sullivan in all but one year since.

More crime. More homelessness.

More homicides and more unsolved cases.

More sexual assaults and fewer arrests.

This cannot be hung on the necks of the Anchorage Police Department.

This is the product of the left’s laissez-faire attitude toward petty crime that is proven time and again to result in increases in major crimes like murder and sexual assault.

And it comes from the top down.

Because the mayor and his equally arrogant allies on the Assembly wave away every protest as political and/or racist, they cannot fathom another reason why residents would line up at diners to show their support or refuse to put their trust in their elected employees who have repeatedly failed and have now commandeered CARES Act funds with no assurance the purchase of properties for homeless services is even legal, let alone a good idea.

Just last July after Gov. Mike Dunleavy sent shockwaves around the state with hundreds of millions in budget vetoes, including to homeless services he asserted should be paid for by local governments, a massive tent city protest sprung up on the Park Strip.

After being shooed gently away from Berkowitz’s Downtown backyard following a friendly visit to the site by the mayor himself, the protest designed from the outset to be flagrantly illegal was allowed to settle in for more than a month at Valley of the Moon Park.

Berkowitz indulged the protesters for weeks at Chester Creek until finally issuing a 10-day abatement notice. On consecutive nights before the campers finally moved on to Cuddy Park, a suspect believed to be the same man attempted sexual assault against two different women at the park.

Nobody was taken to court. No fines were issued. The 10-day notices kept up and the camp kept moving around at will despite the mayor’s own declaration of emergency that he has shown no hesitation to wield against people like Andy Kriner.

The difference, of course, was that the illegal campout was a protest against Dunleavy.

Or would that be too partisan to notice?

Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected].

Updated: 
08/12/2020 - 9:51am