OPINION: Thanks for your sacrifice, Anchorage.
The new order to halt alcohol service by 11 p.m. would be irrelevant to anyone who was taking a drink every time Mayor Select Austin Quinn-Davidson used the word “sacrifice” during her Dec. 29 press conference.
Miriam Webster offers this definition of “sacrifice”: “The act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone; an act of killing a person or animal in a religious ceremony as an offering to please a god; a person or animal that is killed in a sacrifice.”
As the great swordsman Inigo Montoya observed in a different context to a similarly buffoonish authority: “You keep saying that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”
The hundreds of business owners and thousands of employees forced out of work under AQD’s and the Assembly’s arbitrary and unscientific orders are not making a sacrifice.
They are being sacrificed in a misguided and cruel attempt to appease the COVID gods.
The Mayor Select’s predecessor and her enabling former cohort on the Assembly love to frame the debate over their economically destructive and wasteful spending policies as merely base partisanship.
In their minds this absolves them of the merits of criticism even when it comes from upstanding and contributing members of the community who have spent years and sometimes generations making Anchorage a better place only to see this unchecked and unapologetic authority destroy their work in a matter of months.
That callous attitude allows Assembly members like Chair Felix Rivera, who literally creates nothing, to casually cut off and brush off the testimony of people who create jobs like La Mex owner Trina Johnson, Bradley House owner Bernadette Bradley and Haute Quarter Grill owner Alex Perez, who was just forced to close Table 6 after nearly 10 years of business.
A tragic irony of the last 10 months is that the very people who constantly lecture the public over income and racial inequality are the same ones who are turning that gap into a canyon through their lockdown policies.
But this isn’t about Red versus Blue.
It is White versus Blue.
By every measure, the white collar upper income class — especially politicians — is faring orders of magnitude better than the blue collar class they depend upon to facilitate their work-at-home lifestyle.
This comfortable lifestyle of income security and the ability to dedicate attention to the education of their children allows a large percentage of them to smugly “follow the science” and look down at the troglodytes who can read well enough to understand the simple words of the Constitution.
The blue collar workers who deliver their food by truck, sea and air, make their takeout, pick their groceries and fulfill their Amazon orders are essential. Blue collar workers who don’t service them personally are the expendable ones.
They can get their wine delivered, they are too good to ever step in a dive bar or a neighborhood diner, and they have state of the art entertainment systems and every streaming service they desire.
Who needs to worry about keeping theaters open and their staff employed when you can stream “Wonder Woman 1984” on demand?
Who cares if the business they ordered from lost money on their takeout because the owner is trying to keep as many people employed as possible by burning through savings?
What difference does it make if a business can’t make money or even open at 25 percent capacity? Those people and their employees probably should have made better life choices, like getting a law degree, making fat money off taxpayer dollars and perpetually running for office without a clue about how to run a business.
As they turn a cold shoulder to the heartfelt — and heartbreaking — words of the people whose businesses they are destroying they are also playing a shell game with federal CARES Act money while crying poor.
Rather than simply creating a few funds for business, nonprofit and individual relief and seeding them accordingly as most local Alaska governments did with their shares of the money, the Anchorage Assembly instead embarked on a quest to divert huge chunks of the $156 million into pre-COVID problems from homelessness to structural issues at the Girdwood Health Clinic and oh-so-desperately needed fat tire bike trail upgrades to be exclusively completed by the Parks and Rec union.
Despite receiving its first $116 million on June 22, the Assembly did not act swiftly to ensure business and individual relief was in place before former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz shut down the hospitality industry in August, nor did they replenish funds before Quinn-Davidson did it again in November.
The nine-member progressive majority saw the $156 million as a windfall to use as they saw fit to be doled out on their schedule regardless of who was suffering, and when the Treasury Department put the brakes on their plan to use $21 million of it to purchase dilapidated buildings around town for homeless services, they simply lumped CARES money into “first responder payroll” to free up unrestricted general funds.
This complicates an accurate accounting of just where the money is going, but even the muni’s claim of about $103 million in economic relief still leaves more than $50 million not going to that purpose.
Meanwhile they call Anchorage’s $156 million allocation “a drop in the bucket.” That is one hell of a drop, but hey, they work in government.
In her mercy, the Mayor Select handed out extra paid time off using those general funds as a Christmas bonus to every member of municipal payroll even as her policies wrecked the holiday season for thousands by forcing them into a month of unpaid time off.
Thanks for your sacrifice, Anchorage.
Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected].