With All Due Respect #52: Stemming Alaskan Out-Migration

With All Due Respect #52: Stemming Alaskan Out-Migration

1/3/2022 8:10 AM

Listen Here

Alaska's silent killer has stalked us for nine years and it's time for a plan not a bigger government handout. We review a book about an invisible power broker who probably touched your life. Mayor Bronson has decided to jump start Anchorage's economy with a project that will never happen.

Show 52

Introduction

Virginia Military Games
Major Benson Winifred Payne


Exchange

Disclaimer

Content

On this episode of With All Due Respect
…in politics
…a silent killer has been stalking
…Alaska for nine consecutive years
…and it’s time to make a plan

Since 2012
…Alaska has consistently lost population
…and today we have 27,000 fewer working
…age adults in Alaska

It's time to stop
…talking about larger dividends
…and start talking about
…how we save Alaska’s workforce

In Entertainment
…I’m going to tell you
…about the best mob book
…I have ever read
…and how I stumbled upon it
…purely by accident

And in closing comments
…on last week’s podcast
…we detailed chapter and verse
…about the long history
…of fantasy project that
…state policy makers
…have been chasing for decades

…but today

…it appears our local mayor
…has caught the fever
…for the flavor
…white elephant

I’ll tell you how the pursuit
…of Ship Creek is
…a fools errand
…which will harm
…existing downtown businesses

Don’t look now
…but all signs point to a new podcast episode
…so let’s talk some politics







Politics:

Alaska’s silent killer
…has now stalked us for nine consecutive years

2021 represents 9 years in a row we have lost population
…which is slowly killing our labor force
…and the bottom line is
…it’s not getting the attention it should
…from policy makers

Today
…we have 14,000 fewer
…working age adults
…in Anchorage

…and 27,000 fewer
…working age adults
…in the entire state
…compared to 2010

Now
there are two segments that comprise our population:

Net migration
…which is people moving in and out of Alaska
…and
Natural increase
…which is births minus deaths

…Alaska has traditionally been a mobile state
…while the national average is 2% transient population
…Alaska is more like 8% transient population
…and up until 2012 there was a balance

…50k a year would move out
…50k a year would move in
…and any small difference
…was made up in new births

However
…over the last
…nine years
…Alaska has consistently had
…more people move out
…than have moved in
…and it’s been exacerbated
…by the fact that average yearly
…births have drop from 8,000 to 5,000
…during that same time

The end result
…is a population
…that is growing older
…having fewer children
…and failing to attract
…working age adults

So in the next ten years
…where does the workforce come from?
…if we don’t change course we could be short
…30,000 workers by 2030

Historically
…Alaska has been able to attract
…population due to the counter cyclical
…economic cycles

…When Alaska’s economy is strong
…traditionally the lower 48’s economy
…has been week allowing us to
…attract new resident searching for employment

…However
…the current economy
…in the lower 48 is strong

…workers are in demand everywhere

…and with the passage of the infrastructure
…legislation from Washington D.C.
…and billions in spending on the way
…every state will be competing for workers
…just like Alaska

Bill Popp at AEDC
…has been sounding the alarm
…on this for years

Even Governor Mike Dunleavy’s
…while campaigning for governor in 2018
…was asked about the outmigration
…and replied
…“the wrong people are leaving Alaska”

well guess what
…they’re still leaving

So what’s the solution?


So
…Instead of big dividend how about

….becoming a leader in child care to help current workers
…every community is suffering
…(Juneau, AK State Chamber, AERDC report)
…In Juneau
…In Anchorage
…the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce

How about

…Investments in communities to help attract and keep residents
…including a focus on affordable housing

How about

…Investing in the University System programs to attract new students

as well as a
…concerted effort to improve education outcomes

And finally
…we need to embrace immigration

This is too big of a job for Anchorage
…or any other Alaskan community
…the only one who can solve this problem
…is the governor and the state legislature

For the last three years
…Alaska’s public policy debate
…driven by Governor Dunleavy
…has been about budget cuts
…and bigger dividends
…meanwhile
…we have lost population
…for nine straight years
…because we’ve failed
…on the public policies
…that make Alaska attractive

Alaska is not going
…to recover our workforce
…or
…return to economic glory
…by paying larger
…cash dividends to Alaskans

Alaska’s economic recovery
…rests on addressing
…child care cost and availability,

…making long term commitment
…to the University of Alaska
…to attract new students,

…leveraging AIDEA to provide
…community development opportunities
…to boost local investment,

…and realizing that local communities
…cannot grow and prosper
…without help from the state

For the last six years
…Anchorage has lost it’s ability
…to invest in itself
…and if you don’t believe me
…just ask Mayor Dave Bronson

In the last three weeks
…Mayor Bronson has asked
…for state money on everything
…from solving Anchorage’s homeless problem
…to solving it’s port problem
…in addition to hoping
…Governor Dunleavy will
…throw in some cash to
…solve Anchorage’s child care problem

This is where Alaskan communities
…are at after five years
…of state budget cuts

Alaskan communities are unable to
…meet the needs of existing residents
…let alone become an attractive
…destination for new residents

For five years
…Bill Popp at AEDC
…has been warning us about this
…impending work force crisis

…and during that same
…time Alaska’s workforce
…has been contracting

…we’ve been cutting investments
…in education, transportation
…and community support
…while arguing for
…a larger cash handout from government

Alaska’s silent killer
…has been stalking us for nine years
…and the reality is
…the governor and lawmakers
…are the only ones
…who have the resources to
…address this growing problem

If we do not reverse these trends
…Alaska’s economy
…will suffer significant harm

Look
…I know Alaska is one big
…Hamilton/Jefferson debate

Half of Alaska is Hamilton saying
…we need a plan

The other half of Alaska is Jefferson saying
…we don’t need a plan
…we’ll figure it out as we go along

Well let’s just remember Hamilton
….gave us the current day financial system
….
…while Jefferson
…gave us Louisiana

…I’ll take Hamilton

Alaska’s economy needs a plan
…not a larger dividend

A plan
…that builds the workforce
…that builds communities

…and recognizes

…that without
…comprehensive state investments
…we will be left with
…a less educated workforce
…and fewer of them





Entertainment:

In entertainment
…a great book about
…one of the
…most powerful
…and invisible mobsters
…you’ve never heard of

In order to talk about the book
…I first need to tell you
…how I came upon this book


Last summer I was reading – entitled -  The Kid Stays in the picture
- a 1994 autobiography by Robert Evans
- a former Hollywood studio mogul
.who produced such hits
at the Godfather and Chinatown

1/3 into Evans story we are introduced to a mysterious figure
who is described as a 6’3 ruggedly handsome man
dressed in a dark suit and tie in 110 degree Palm Springs heat
without a drop of perspiration.

Throughout the book this mysterious character
named Sydney Korshak appears in time of need
to move mountains with one phone call

This intrigued me.

So I began to research Korshak
…and stumbled upon
…the best mob book I have ever read

The book is called:
Supermob
…How Sidney Korshak and
…his criminal associates
…became America’s biggest power brokers.

Am I exaggerating?

Absolutely not.

Here is an example of one phone
…call made by Sydney Korshak
…that more than likely touched you

Story of the Godfather…Al Pacino

within twenty minutes
…the head of the rival studio
…called Evans and after a few
…obscenities said he’d release
…Pacino to star in the Godfather
…and the rest is history

Evans would later ask
…Korshak how he persuaded
…the rival studio owner to
…release Pacino

Korshak replied that
…that the head of
..the rival studio
..was at that time
…constructing
…the new MGM Grand Hotel
…in Las Vegas

…so when Korshak phoned
…the studio head
…he simply asked the man
…would you like to finish
…your hotel?



The book is called:
Supermob
…How Sidney Korshak and his criminal associates became America’s biggest power brokers.
Gus Russo – 527 pages

This is a must read
seriously…this book is crazy good


Closing Comments:

Closing comments:

Last week on this podcast
…we talked about how
…Alaska’s political class
…had wasted time and money
…chasing fantasy developments

…well ladies and gentlemen
…I regret to inform you
…that
…Anchorage City Hall has now
…caught the fever
…for a fantasy development

In September
…Mayor Bronson created
…the Anchorage Economic Revitalization Development Committee
…a group of 16 business leaders
…who dedicated 14 weeks
…at the direction of the Mayor
…to identify economic development
…projects to jump start
…Anchorage’s economy

In addition
…as I mentioned earlier
…the committee drafted
…a fabulous report
…on how action is needed
…to address the issue of
…child care in Anchorage

…just great work
…that both the assembly
…and the mayor need
…to put action behind

So
…after fourteen weeks
…the committee came up with
…five recommendations

…with the top recommendation
…chosen by the Mayor as

…the development of Ship Creek
…with a new waterfront

Now
…I am very familiar
…with the Ship Creek Redevelopment Plan

First
…it’s not a plan it’s a wild eyed concept

Second
…it will never be built in our lifetime

In order to understand this better
…we need context
…which means
…we need a history lesson

Yo Van
…hit me one time

(History lesson)

In 2013 when
…the state legislature
…was spending billions
…in capital projects
…then Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan
…got a $400,000 grant to do a
…Ship Creek visioning plan

I was at the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce
…at the time
…and actually met
…with the consultants
…to talk about the project

At the end
…of the day
…it was a beautiful
…$400,000 dream


Pictures showed a cruise ship
…docking at a modern dock
…attached to a glorious waterfront
…with vibrant retail
…residential
…and commercial activity

…accompanied by

…visions of Anchorage residents
…cross country skiing right up
…to the front door of a Starbucks
…with stunning inlet views

It was a $400,000 fantasy

Now
…given my knowledge
…of the Ship Creek plan

…I was curious as to why
…the mayor’s committee
…who was tasked
…with jump starting Anchorage’s
…economy would have picked
…a project that won’t be built
…in our lifetime

…and oh by the way
…if ever were to be built
…it would simply
…cannibalize downtown

In reviewing the committee
…minutes it’s clear
…the Ship Creek project was added
…at the very last minute


When I asked about
…what materials the committee members
…had reviewed in order to make this decision

…I was told the
…committee was comprised
…of individuals who posessed various
…levels of knowledge about Ship Creek.

Okay
…but if even if
…you possessed
…the smallest amount of knowledge
…about the Ship Creek plan

…again

…why in the world would
…you recommend this project
…to jumpstart Anchorage’s economy


Allow me to explain:

First
…the actual site of Ship Creek
…would be the most expensive
…land to build on in Anchorage
…if it’s even permittable
…and that’s highly doubtable

Even the Ship Creek analysis
…warns about the cost
…and uncertainty
…due to the extreme topography

Second
…the actual site of the Ship Creek Development
…in on land owned by
…the Alaska Railroad
…and is home to a working rail yard
…which creates extreme conflicts
…and costly remedies

So if you’re a private developer
…not only is it going
…to cost you more money
…to build at ship creek
…but you’ll never own your land

Third
…this particular Ship Creek plan
…at this particular
…time will simply cannibalize downtown

…this is a project to consider
…when you Anchorage is growing
…and the private sector is strong

…However today the state
…is losing population
…and the city already is going
…to Juneau with a tin cup
…for everything from the port
…to child care and homeless shelters

…so why are we wasting time on this

Ship Creek
…is not downtown

Ship Creek is not
…easily accessible from downtown

Even the projects analysis stated
…the elevation difference has historically
…created a barrier for connections between
…the Ship Creek site and downtown

So why when downtown faces
…so many challenges
…would we be diverting our attention
…away on something that would
…basically compete with downtown

How does a development
…of retail, multi family housing
…and commercial space in Ship Creek
…help downtown merchants

It doesn’t.

And let me tell you
…from my experience
…they are not going to appreciate
…the competition

For over twenty years
…a civil war brewed downtown
…between 4th Avenue merchants
…and the Saturday market

For over twenty years
…4th Avenue merchants complained
…that the Saturday market was keeping
…tourists from their shops
…and the market was located
…only one block away

Now-
…imagine
…how 4th Avenue merchants
…will feel losing tourists
…to Ship Creek retail shops
…over a mile away

First
…it’s important to
…understand what has kept
…downtown Anchorage stagnant
…for so long
…and continues to stymie progress

Downtown is comprised of small city lots
…owned by individuals
…which makes it difficult for developers
…to find a big enough piece of property
…to make money developing

Anchorage city lots are only 7,000 square feet
…so if a developer can’t piece together three
…or four lots
…it doesn’t pencil out

For instance
…the Nordstrom building in downtown
…sits on five different city lots
…owned by three separate entities

Downtown has really old infrastructure

…and in many cases new developments
…have to pay the cost of upgrading old
…infrastructure like water and sewer
…which makes redevelopment too risky

Downtown is split by two federal highways
…both 5th and 6th Avenue are federal highways
…and it’s impossible to have a real downtown
…feel when three lanes of cars
…are whizzing by at 35mph

Look at the difference between
…4th Avenue and 5th Avenue
…4th Avenue is more walkable
…and more retail friendly

But the biggest challenge for downtown
…is that few live downtown

Without a population base
…downtown is almost
…exclusively a destination

You might go to the PAC,
…you might go to your office downtown
…You might go to downtown restaurants,
…you might got to downtown community events

…but then you go home

When offices shut down at 5pm
…downtown shuts at 5pm

…this creates a real challenge for
…downtown merchants who are
…small independent businesses
…who don’t have the benefit of
…downtown residents on
…the street after 5pm

A few years ago
…I was speaking with a Wahlgreen’s executive
…about opening a store in downtown
…he said
…we simply didn’t have enough feet on the street

…normally cities need at least
…15,000 downtown residents to attract
…a grocery store or pharmacy
…and currently Anchorage
…has less than 3,000

For the previous six years
…under both the Berkowitz
…and Davidson administration
…we focused on building housing
…downtown and getting feet
…on the street

Those efforts resulted
…in the first two housing developments
…in downtown Anchorage in 40 years

So why now
…under Mayor Bronson
…are we taking focus away
…from what Anchorage downtown
…actually needs
…which is to get more people
…living downtown

Why are we taking focus
…away from improving the core
…of downtown
…and supporting current
…downtown merchants

…to chasing
…unicorns in the
…Ship Creek mud flats?

I get the dream is always
…sexier than the reality
…but once again we live in reality

The committee could have
…landed on any number
…of ideas to strengthen downtown
…especially now with the
…so called stars aligned

…For the first time in a decade
…you have a Republican Mayor
…and a Republican Governor
…who helped him get elected

Now
…they should be able to
…accomplish things were
…others failed to get traction

How about…

…pushing AIDEA for development incentives
…to increase downtown housing

…pushing the DOT to work with local
…groups to adopt traffic calming
…on fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenues
…that will slow traffic, increase on street parking
…and provide a better retail environment

…pushing to DOT to upgrade sidewalks
…on fifth and sixth avenue that are the
…responsibility of the State of Alaska
…and have been ignored for years

There are so many
…needs in downtown Anchorage
…and meeting them talks so long
…as it is

In 2015
…after being on the job
…at ACDA for only
…three months
…I sat for coffee with Larry Cash
…who is an absolute downtown legend

…On a dark October morning
…as we sat at our corner table
…at Kaladi’s downtown
…I pointed across the street
…to the transit center
…and all of it’s misery
…and I said Larry
…we’re going to fix that building

Six years later
…the project is still underway

Getting things
…done downtown
…takes a lot of time
…especially in a boom and bust
…economy like Alaska

…that’s why consistency
…is so important

…that’s why focus
…is so important

Allow me to close
…with an example
…of consistency and focus

Many of you have probably
…either heard about
…or have seen
…Oklahoma City’s
…amazing downtown
…revitalization story

Between 1990 and 1995
…Oklahoma City suffered
…two major setbacks
…that forced themselves
..to look in the mirror
…and rethink their commitment
…to their city

First
…in the early 90’s
…Oklahoma City was publicly
…embarrassed
…when United Airlines chose
…not to relocate it’s new
…headquarters there
…after United’s employees
…called the city a dead end

Second
…in 1995 the city was rocked
…by the bombing of their federal building
…which left the community soul searching

In response
…the city made a commitment
…to invest in itself

…the public approved a 1% sales tax
…that would be used to boost economic
…development downtown

…for the last twenty five years
…mayors of Oklahoma City
…have taken pride in improving the work
…the prior mayor had accomplished

…for the last twenty five years
…their consistency, their focus
…their commitment to their city
…has created a world class downtown

…that’s what Anchorage downtown
…has always needed
…a consistent focus
…from mayor
…after mayor
…but unfortunately we’ve never had that

…instead we’ve had a succession of mayors
…for the last twenty five years who have
…been both hot and cold about downtown

…starting in 1994
…former Mayor Rick Mystrom
…was a downtown champion
…he helped create the Anchorage Downtown Partnership
…he created City of Lights

…then you had Mayor George Weurch
…who for three years was indifferent towards downtown

…then we had Mayor Mark Begich
…who for six years was a downtown champion
…a new convention center
…new downtown street improvements

…then we had Mayor Dan Sullivan
…who presided over the longest six years
…in downtown history

…bar break violence, riots in the street
...gangs in Town Square
…and ironically the only thing
…Sullivan did for downtown was
…spend the $400k on a fantasy
…of downtown
…instead of trying to fix the real one

…then
…for six years we had
…Mayor Ethan Berkowitz
…and Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson
…both who championed downtown
…and as a result delivered the first new
…downtown housing in decades
…and returned the police headquarters
…back downtown

…today we have Mayor Dave Bronson
…and he appears to be picking up
…where Mayor Dan Sullivan left off

…ignoring the real needs of
…downtown businesses
…and instead chasing unicorns
…on the Ship Creek mudflats

…Any focus on Ship Creek
…is a fools errand

…and it takes
…the focus away from
…the downtown core
…where small business owners
…are paying property taxes
…with the hope of getting
…a more vibrant downtown
…not subsidizing
…a Ship Creek fantasy

Other recent stories from Andrew Halcro/With All Due Respect:

About & Contact

The writers and artists at True North are independent voices, publishing what they choose, when they choose. Each is his or her own editor and publisher. We are collected here for the benefit of readers looking for thoughtful, timely, out-of-the-mainstream commentaries on contemporary issues in Alaska life and politics. If you’d like to join our roster of regular contributors, or submit a single piece for publication, email us at the address below.

Email True North
This Site Built & Maintained by Abo Dabo Brand