‘Seattle is Dying’; is Anchorage?
Watching a Seattle television station’s take on homelessness in the Emerald City is shocking and makes us wonder about Anchorage’s future.
The latest in KOMO-TV’s raw, gritty trilogy on homelessness and addiction in the city – “Seattle is Dying” – is sometimes stunning, sometimes sad, sometimes infuriating.
The city is losing its battle with homelessness despite more than a billion dollars being spent on the problem in the Puget Sound area. The more Seattle spends, the worse its problem becomes.
We wonder how Anchorage would fare if a local television station – and we are not holding our breath – invested the time and money to honestly detail and document our city’s homeless problem. That report likely would be stunning, sad and infuriating, too.
From where we sit, in Seattle and Anchorage – and other cities, as well – the old adage certainly is true: If you want more of something, subsidize it.
In Anchorage, the Assembly and Mayor Ethan Berkowitz are hawking Proposition 9, a 5 percent retail alcohol tax they managed to place on the April 2 ballot, along with a charter change to allow its adoption with less than the normally required 60 percent supermajority vote.
They have even resorted to bribing Anchorage bars by promiing they would be allowed to open earlier if they did not oppose the tax and it passed. While perhaps not illegal, such antics certainly raise ethical questions.
To see the likely outcome if the tax were approved by voters, consider what happened at the state level in 2002. The cover story for a proposed liquor tax increase then was that the increased cost would dissuade Alaskans from drinking and help pay for alcohol’s added costs to the state.
The tax had the opposite effect. Drinking actually increased – but the state struck revenue gold, the money ended up in the General Fund and Alaska ended up with among the nation’s highest liquor taxes.
The proposed city tax, ostensibly, would rake in $15 million and fund homeless services and substance abuse treatment, but the ordinance creating it has plenty of wiggle room.
Proposition 9 says tax receipts would be “dedicated” to fund “alcohol and substance misuse prevention and treatment, community behavioral health programs, public safety, and homelessness prevention and response, including abatement of prohibited campsites.”
That covers a lot of ground. What exactly, for instance, is “public safety” A new police station? More cops? Better roads? Will we end up with an entire new bureaucracy?
An important question unanswered in all this: If the city already is paying for such services, what will it do with the budget money that would be freed up by the $15 million in new tax money?
From where we sit, Anchorage should be looking hard at Seattle, where our friends on the left repeatedly have tried to solve the problem with same, tired, feel-good solutions.Tax and spend. The problem: There more the city spends, the more homeless it has.
It is difficult to believe Anchorage would end up differently.