The necessity of now?
During an interview with a reporter, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz talked about the Assembly meeting Tuesday featuring a fourth round of public testimony on the city’s plan to spend $22.5 million in CARES Act funding to buy four properties for homeless services. He said time is of the essence in the purchases.
“One of the things I’m going to tell the Assembly when they come time to make a decision is we don’t have the luxury of perfection, we have the necessity of now,” he told the KTVA interviewer.
The “necessity of now,” Berkowitz said. We are always stirred awake whenever a politician begins talking about necessity and spending money almost in the same breath. It calls to mind a quote by the Right Honourable William Pitt the Younger during a speech in the U.K.’s House of Commons on Nov. 18, 1783.
“Necessity,” Pitt told the assemblage, “is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.”
The “necessity of now” must not be allowed to blur public process or trample the rights of home and property owners near the two hotels, the Alaska Club building and the Bean’s Cafe campus the city wants to acquire. It must not be allowed to destroy the value of property they have worked hard to acquire and improve, nor must it be allowed to endanger the very people it supposedly is to help.
The haste and lack of transparency in the effort to begin the complicated process of buying the properties have left many in the dark, with some property owners and residents finding out about the acquisition plan only days before the first public hearing last week.
The city seems in a lather to spend nearly 19 percent of the city’s $116 million share of Alaska’s $1.5 billion slice of CARES Act funding aimed at helping businesses, nonprofits and individuals hard-hit by coronavirus. It even proposes changing zoning ordinances to buy the properties to help deal with Anchorage’s 1,100 or so homeless.
Three days of public testimony last week showed staunch opposition to the acquisitions. It remains unclear whether those in the neighborhoods that would be affected will be part of a reasonable solution – or victims of “the necessity of now.”