Wednesday, May 6, 2015

"It doesn't matter if you're straight or gay, or heterosexual -- this is our Anchorage,"

^Those are the words of your new mayor-elect Ethan Berkowitz. After facing a runoff election with opponent Amy Demboski, Berkowitz won tonight in what can simply be described as a blowout! As of this posting with 98% of precincts reporting, Berkowitz has a commanding lead with 59% to Demoboski's 40%. Normally we at Joop try not to show any overt excitement for a particular candidate (unless it's Mark Begich, who we still love), but the fact of the matter is this was a truly important election. In my opinion this was the most important municipal election in decades. More than ever, the contrasts were black and white when it came to the issues that this blog covers. Amy supports the Knik Arm Bridge. Ethan is against it. Amy is for conservative values of limited government, limited oversight, and limited regulations. Ethan Berkowitz is not that man. You may also recall earlier at the start of the runoff, it was reported that Amy completely blew off a survey sent to her by a Anchorage bicycle group looking to her for her position on bicycle safety and her plans to better integrate bicycle commuting. Ethan on the other hand embraced his biking constituents and was articulate on his position with regard to bicycle safety and infrastructure. Their positions represented a battle of cultures. It's only to be expected that a candidate from Chugiak-Eagle River was not going to champion smart urban policies. Ethan on the other hand lived in South Addition before heading over to West Anchorage (full disclosure: Joop world headquarters are in West Anchorage). To have an "inner-city" candidate triumph over the exurban candidate was crucial should the city of Anchorage continue to move forward. 

But beyond the context of what this means for urbanism, Berkowitz's win represents a new hope for the city. What we just saw tonight is Anchorage redeeming itself after the very ugly fight over LGBT equality that played out in 2009 and once more in 2012 during the Sullivan administration. For a city that wishes to keep its young people and attract millennials from abroad, Anchorage was doing all the wrong things. But tonight the voters have spoken, and they have said that they've had enough of Sullivan's culture wars, Jerry Prevo's lies from the pulpit, and the Alaska Family Council's fear mongering. In Ethan Berkowitz, we are getting both an urban champion, and a champion for diversity and equality. Anchorage is once again open for business. Let's continue to transform this city.

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