For second straight night, Anchorage Assembly postpones vote on $22.5 M for homeless services locations

A big turnout for public comment in part led to the Assembly delaying its vote on homeless services ordinance
Anchorage residents line up for public comment at an Anchorage Assembly meeting on July 15th, 2020.
Anchorage residents line up for public comment at an Anchorage Assembly meeting on July 15th, 2020.(KTUU)
Published: Jul. 16, 2020 at 12:54 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Wednesday brought another long night of public comment to the Anchorage Assembly chambers, as the group considers an ordinance that would send $22.5 million in CARES Act funding and proceeds from a large municipal sale primarily to development of several homeless services.

A long line of residents waited hours to share their opinions on the proposal, which would allow for the purchase of four different Anchorage buildings, including three solely for homeless services and one treatment center that would be available for anyone in Anchorage.

Unlike Tuesday’s turnout, there was a relatively balanced mix of responses Wednesday night from members of the public who chose to testify.

“I personally cannot fix this, I don’t have enough money to fix it, but if we all work together,” said Spenard resident Matt Duncan, “we can actually do something. Even if you think this is wrong, this is something I would really like you to vote ‘yes’ [on], so we can move this ball down the road.”

“I have a problem, and I think most of the community has a problem with the process,” explained Eric Connick, the general manager of the Lithia Kia of Anchorage, near the old Alaska Club on Tudor. That building is part of the proposal.

“You tell me you let everybody know about a community council meeting?” he continued. “I’m 50 feet from the shelter, and I found out five days ago.”

The Anchorage Assembly is considering $22.5 million in funding going toward the purchase of Bean’s Cafe on 3rd Ave., to become a service engagement center; the old Alaska Club on Tudor near Old Seward, to be turned into a shelter and engagement center; the Golden Lion Hotel off 36th Ave., which would become an addiction treatment center; and the America’s Best Value Inn on Spenard, as a housing and resource center. The treatment center location would also be for public use for all of Anchorage. If passed, $12.5 million would come from CARES Act funding. Another $10 million would come from the pending sale of ML&P to Chugach Electric.

Before the Wednesday night meeting got underway, Assemblyman Chris Constant and Rabbi Yosef Greenberg of the Lubavitch Jewish Center of Alaska made amends after an incident Tuesday, during which Constant made several comments asking for input from Greenberg about an email sent in by someone else. The email mentioned keeping homeless people fenced-in encampments as a solution to Anchorage’s homelessness problem.

“Thank you, sir, for coming tonight,” Constant said to Greenberg, “and I stand here humbled before everybody in this room, body, administration, and this room, to offer up an apology for words I said last night.”

“I just want to take this opportunity to thank the mayor and the members of the Assembly who reached out to me and apologized for what happened last night,” Greenberg said. “And again, I want to thank you for your apology, and I accept it.”

The meeting will continue on Thursday night. If the Assembly approves the ordinance, the next step would be moving to a bid process for operators.

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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