Ads fuel debate over proposed alcohol tax as Anchorage ballot deadline looms

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — Proposition 9 — a proposed municipal alcohol tax — has been a topic of debate since it was announced on this year's municipal ballot. Supporters say that the five percent alcohol tax would generate millions of dollars to assist public safety programs and projects that would address the city's issues with homelessness and addiction.

During a recent interview with KTUU, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said the homeless community in Anchorage is made up of around 1,000 people — down 18 percent from levels recorded in 2017. Berkowitz says his hope is to use the revenue from this proposed tax to continue bringing those totals down.

"It will make a big difference in terms of our ability to address some of the public safety issues that exist in this town, and it will make a big difference in our ability to not only provide treatment facilities that should exist, but also the reduction in homelessness that would make this a better quality of life for all people in Anchorage," Berkowitz said.

The Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association or CHARR, says the tax would hurt local businesses for no benefit to the public.

"This proposal is very similar to Seattle’s model, where the city spends over $1 billion in tax revenue each year on homelessness, yet homelessness and drug use have increased. Anchorage cannot afford to duplicate those mistakes," CHARR President & CEO Sarah Oates said in a statement.

Several groups are taking to social media in attempts to influence the debate over whether or not a tax will solve the issues of homelessness and substance abuse.

One such organization is Recover Alaska, which has launched a series of videos depicting Anchorage residents voicing support for Proposition 9 while sharing drink recipes.

Another group, No New Taxes, has published its own video comparing the proposal to similar taxes in Seattle and San Francisco, implying a causal relationship between the passage of those taxes and increased homelessness, drug use, and property crime.

Mail-in ballots for the municipal election are due April 2.

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