By the time the polls closed May 5, Ethan Berkowitz held an unbeatable lead in the long-running race for Anchorage mayor.
With all but two precincts reporting Tuesday night, Berkowitz had nearly 60 percent of the vote, according to unofficial election results. He’s set to take office July 1.
Two weeks before the mayoral runoff, he sat down to talk about business, public safety and development in Mountain View: Here’s what he had to say.
Mountain View Post: What community solutions — aside from a fully staffed Anchorage Police Department — do you believe could help improve public safety in Anchorage?
Berkowitz: We need language access services, particularly in Mountain View, where you have so many people speak so many different languages. We need to make sure that when people access services, that they can do it in the language that they’re most comfortable with. For example, it’s stunning to me that some of the emergency numbers and emergency contacts are only in English. We should make them available in other languages.
I would like to expand the use of municipal and school district facilities so they’re available to people on more than one basis. Boys & Girls Club is packed: We can make schools do more with schools, which is not just for the kids that are in school but also for things like child care. If we had more child care available, it would be safer for kids and allow people that wanted to go to work to work.
The other thing is, how do you keep Mountain View clean — physically clean? Because clean neighborhoods are empirically safer. And so if you can keep Mountain View cleaner, keep the lighting good…that will be significant.
All this is in conjunction with, the more vibrant a community is, the safer it is. And so the more we can encourage more activity within the Mountain View area, the better it’s going to be for everyone there.
Post: How does residential and commercial development in Mountain View fit into your vision for Anchorage, and what types of policy solutions would you consider to facilitate it?
Berkowitz: In a lot of ways, Mountain View is the leading edge of what we should be doing. You’ve got denser housing, mixed use between residential and commercial, and it’s a strong neighborhood. It is really inspirational for the rest of Anchorage — it’s a model. How does that fit into my vision? I love that vision. And the other thing about Mountain View; it has its own unique character, and I like the idea of each neighborhood having its own unique character. We can all be complimentary, as Anchorage, but it’s nice that Mountain View has the character that it’s developed and I love the diversity of it. Even architecturally, it’s starting to develop its own look. There’s an aesthetic to it, and that can happen across the municipality.
I tend to feel that when you have larger scale projects, if we can make sure that there’s a single individual who shepherds a project through the permitting process, it adds certainty and speed to the process, which is what developers want to have.
Post: What are your thoughts on Anchorage’s public transportation system, and where does it fall on your list of budget priorities?
Berkowitz: I think we need a more robust public transportation system. I’m looking for innovative ways to get there. The individual in charge of the transit system (Public Transportation Director Lance Wilber) has a number of terrific ideas. Frankly, if we just go about implementing them, we can do that — we can make things better. But over the long haul, it’s not just a public transportation system. It’s also about making sure the neighborhoods are more walkable, so people can be within their own neighborhoods and not have to go across town to run a string of errands.