Molly Dieni walks into the audience and holds the hand of Spenard Jazz Fest Director, Yngvil Vatn Guttu, while performing with Pipeline Vocal Project, a contemporary a cappella trio on the front lawn of the Anchorage Museum in downtown Anchorage on Friday, June 4, 2021. (Emily Mesner / ADN) (Emily Mesner/)
One of the hardest parts about the last year has been isolation and the absence of community. We’re all human, and the stress and uncertainty has been hard on all of us.
At the Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Ltd. (ADP), we know public health includes mental health. Since it’s always our goal to keep Anchorage going stronger and healthier, we’re invested in ways to keep our community together over the last year even as we’ve been physically apart.
Last summer, Town Square Park was filled with physical distancing circles. We still danced salsa, did yoga, Zumba, Barre and Friday hip-hop dance classes. Last winter, during some of the darkest days of the pandemic, we ran scavenger hunts, put up holiday lights, and hosted a “Snow Suits and Bunny Boots” block party.
Now, summer is back. As vaccines take effect, many of us are transitioning to new routines. This is a critical time to rebuild connections. It’s good for us to feel the supportiveness of the community around us. And ADP has planned a summer of events and programs to help us get out, reconnect, and get down together.
We believe Downtown is a unique space in our community which belongs to everyone. It’s where we come to celebrate, raise our voices, eat, work and play. If you’re looking for a way to ease back into social activities and try new things, but you’re not sure where to start, you’ve come to the right place.
Here are some standards to try:
• Two powerful takeaways from the pandemic: 1) Outside is best, and 2) Food tastes better there. This summer, downtown provides al fresco dining opportunities in droves.
• Go for a bike ride down the Coastal Trail. As you exit, you can enjoy a cold beer with stunning views of Susitna, the port and our blue and gold trains — which are carrying passengers north and south again.
• A great new spot just opened down Third Ave. to the east, with outdoor dining and fun cocktails.
• Oven-baked thin crust pizza, crisp cider and outdoor dining await you at a local favorite on E Street.
• A classic Anchorage tradition is to stroll down Fourth Ave. with a freshly grilled hot dog.
• G, K, and F streets all offer coffee shops and delis with spots in the sun at outdoor tables.
• There are at least four options for fabulous ice cream treats on 6th Avenue, at D Street, E Street and K Street.
• A recent addition to Sixth Avenue outside the mall has a locally grown menu and an opportunity for dining in the sun.
• Visit the taco stand on L street, which gets incredible sun and has great outdoor dining.
• An Anchorage breakfast favorite on Fourth Avenue and L Street has added patio tables, and you can place an order to go and enjoy the fresh air.
• The authentic cajun food place on Ninth Avenue offers everything from gumbo to jambalaya, with views of the Delaney Park Strip and the Chugach Mountains.
• The hot dog truck on L Street offers year-round hot dogs and the crunchiest fries in Anchorage.
• Local favorite pizza place: Two slices and a Diet Coke is one of the best deals downtown, especially when you can enjoy it on G Street in the sun.
Weekly ADP Events:
• Mondays at 6 p.m., join us in Town Square Park for an after-work Zumba party to ease you back into the work week.
• Live music in Peratrovich Park every Monday and Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m.
• Tuesdays from noon to 1 p.m. at Town Square Park is all about Zumba, bringing people together to sweat it out through a calorie-burning fitness party.
• Wednesday after work from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., join us for Pure Barre — a total-body workout focused on low impact, high-intensity to tone and stretch!
• Thursday from noon to 1 p.m. join us in Peratrovich Park for children’s storytime with Anchorage Public Library.
• Thursday after work is all about the live music: Live After Five, our signature concert series in Town Square Park, will be on from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
• Friday from noon to 1 p.m., join us in Town Square Park for Hip Hop dance classes with Underground Dance Studio.
• Friday and Saturday nights, we’ve partnered with the Anchorage Museum and Alaska Center for the Performing Arts for a series of live art performances that begin at 5:30 p.m. on the Anchorage Museum Lawn and continue at 7 p.m. in Town Square Park.
• Finally, on Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Anaya Latin Dance brings salsa dancing to Town Square Park.
Amanda Moser is the executive director of the Anchorage Downtown Partnership.
The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.
A pedestrian walks past a pair of Christmas trees in Town Square Park on Dec. 10. The 32-foot tall white spruce on the left was harvested in the Chugach National Forest near Portage. "The tree will bring additional holiday spirit to downtown and encourage people to shop at stores and businesses that are open during the pandemic," said Schawna Thoma as she watched the tree being placed earlier this month. The live tree on the right has been growing in the park for years. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)
In the middle of the winter of 1996, Anchorage’s then-mayor, Rick Mystrom, traveled to Winnipeg, Canada, for the annual Northern Intercity Conference of Mayors.
During one of the week’s evening events, a few of the visitors joined the Winnipeg mayor for a driving tour of the city, and in the northern midwinter, most of the city blocks around the outskirts were dark and lifeless. But one neighborhood was a different story: There, streetlights and stands of lights shone brightly, shoppers bustled along sidewalks heading to stores and restaurants, and patios were full with laughter and conversation — even in the cold night.
So what was the difference between this thriving oasis of light and activity and its dark outskirts? The mayor of Winnipeg explained that the area of the city had decided to pay an assessment and invest that funding back into services that would attract business to the neighborhood, creating a business improvement district.
At the time, Anchorage’s downtown had been long neglected. Many Anchorage residents saw the area as somewhere to get business done — then leave. Graffiti, trash and crime were rampant, and business owners either had to hire employees to shovel sidewalks and remove loiterers — or just cover their eyes when they got to work.
But inspired by the vibrancy of Winnipeg, Mayor Mystrom recruited some visionary downtown business leaders, including Larry Cash, founder of RIM Architects, and Chris Anderson, owner of Glacier Brewhouse, who — along with other community leaders — partnered together to foster a better downtown. The concept of a business improvement district was a viable solution to revitalize the area and remind property owners that through investment and hard work, the fate of a neighborhood can be changed. In 1997, after a tremendous effort by the group of concerned citizens including Mayor Mystrom, Cash and Anderson, the Downtown Improvement District was born with the approval of a majority of downtown property owners.
From its inception, Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Ltd., which provides clean and safe services within the Downtown Improvement District, has been centered on actions to improve the value of downtown. The mission of a clean, safe and vital downtown focuses on issues of snow and ice removal on the sidewalks, removing graffiti, and general clean up services. Perhaps most importantly, ADP runs trained ambassador patrols that act as the eyes and ears on the ground, ready to respond to vagrancy, clean up trash and provide a friendly security presence for the many visitors to downtown.
Of course, the services were never perfect, and downtown continued to suffer from problems related to homelessness, drugs and crime. But the results of the investment paid off, creating a clean and safe environment with increased downtown residents, successful restaurants and bars, a thriving tourism industry, and regular community events every month of the year. Currently, corporate headquarters, federal, state and municipal offices, as well as locally owned small businesses, operate out of downtown. Almost all tourists to Alaska pass through downtown via cruise ships, the Alaska Railroad, or to fly in and out of Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. And, for nearly 25 years, ADP has worked with business owners to direct services and respond to all types of challenges.
2020 brought unimaginable changes to downtown. This year, as many bars and restaurants face permanent closures, retail shops struggle and offices stay closed, ADP shows up each and every day to respond to the critical situation in the district, proving this investment is more important than ever.
Downtown belongs to our community. There is a reason Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Ltd. carries that name; it is a partnership — between property owners, business owners, Municipal government, residents, and organizations. The strength of ADP is through its collaborations with AEDC, ACDA, Downtown Community Council, Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness, and more. The issues facing downtown cannot be solved by one organization. They require creative, multifaceted solutions that engage everyone involved, working in partnership.
This year, the Downtown Improvement District is up for its 10-year renewal by downtown property owners. The coronavirus pandemic has caused unprecedented financial hardship, and the idea of an assessment isn’t high on anyone’s mind. But property and business owners also know that investing smartly in the future will pay dividends later.
Now is the time to band together, invest in our future and creatively resolve the problems facing our downtown as a united community. Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Ltd. can lead the way, but we, as downtown property owners, business owners, residents and community members, need to follow their lead and continue to invest in and care about our community.
Rick Mystrom is a former mayor of Anchorage. Amanda Moser is the executive director of Anchorage Downtown Partnership. Larry Cash is the founder of RIM Architects.
The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to email@example.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.
A person puts on a mask before entering Kobuk Coffee Co. in downtown Anchiorage on November 6, 2020. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
There’s no doubt Anchorage has been hit hard by the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Downtown streets are empty, restaurants are shuttering for the season or permanently, hotels face high vacancy rates, and many retail shops are barely hanging on. Pandemics particularly affect areas like Anchorage which rely on tourism and visitors to stay afloat. Unfortunately, the brunt of that impact is borne by frontline workers who have lost employment or worse — those who have gotten sick with COVID-19. Add the almost 20 hours of darkness each day in Anchorage in winter, and the isolation faced by many quarantining and working remotely, and the stress and burden during these times climbs even higher for our community.
But we also hold the power to band together with Alaska resiliency, determination and grit to emerge from the darkness as we’ve done before. Anchorage was built on the idea that businesses and families thrive when neighbors help neighbors. Our city would not have recovered from the largest earthquake ever to hit the U.S., or the collapse of oil prices in the mid-1980s, if we didn’t band together in tough times. It’s partially a matter of necessity as we are geographically separated from the rest of the country living in a place of extremes, but our tenacity also comes from understanding the strength of our collective spirit.
One of the hardest-hit industries is the hospitality industry. Statewide, the industry lost 13,800 jobs in one year. That number doesn’t capture the employees who remain on staff, but with fewer hours and continuous uncertainty if their job will be the next one cut. Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Ltd. (ADP), Alaska Caberet, Hotel, Restaurant, & Retailers Association (CHARR), Alaska Hospitality Retailers (AKHR), and the Brewer’s Guild of Alaska (BGA) have seen these impacts firsthand. Many of their members have boarded up shop and expressed the desperation and hopelessness that echoes around the future.
Many of these workers are facing the fast-approaching holidays strained financially and without the spare cash to buy gifts for their children. In order to support our hospitality workers and their families, ADP, CHARR, AKHR, and BGA are banding together to provide the resources for hospitality industry workers to buy holiday gifts for their kids, generously sponsored by local business donors and the Municipality of Anchorage. Each worker can apply for a $25 gift card for each child, to be used at different locally-owned and operated businesses. Apply at AnchorageDowntown.org and gift cards will be mailed directly. These dollars will then continue to circulate in our community, helping hard-hit local businesses while providing a token of hope for our hospitality workers and families.
Anchorage is a persevering community that comes together when times get tough. As we close out 2020, it is more important than ever that we take care of our neighbors. Soon the light will return and we can move into 2021 with normalcy on the way. But in the meantime, we need to find the light in each other and show kindness to those among us who are struggling. There is no obstacle we cannot overcome if we pool our collective strength. This holiday season find a way to unite with your community and remember we are all in this together.
Amanda Moser is executive director of Anchorage Downtown Partnership. Sarah Oates is president of Alaska CHARR. Lee Ellis is the president of Brewers Guild of Alaska. Silvia Villamedes is executive director of Alaska Hospitality Retailers.
The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.
People walk through Town Square Park after sunset on Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018, as the Christmas tree lights cast a warm glow at dusk. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)
Our priority at the Anchorage Downtown Partnership Ltd. is ensuring a clean, safe, and vital downtown for the community.
Throughout the winter, we always have a lot of ground to cover — our ambassadors patrol and remove snow from 120 blocks of the city center. We work with community partners to improve illumination, increase safety and boost cheer with the Light Up Downtown Initiative, adding holiday lights to shops, businesses and public spaces during these dark months.
We’ll make sure that happens in 2020 as usual. But the past eight months have been uniquely challenging. As an organization focused on the health and vitality of our community, we often arrange large scale events and focus on drawing big crowds. That’s no longer our reality, and we’ve worked to reinvent ourselves and reconsider our purpose.
We’re not alone. That process of reimagining is happening for every single business, organization, and family right now. According to data from the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, this summer saw 13% of Alaska businesses close, and another 9% reduce their hours. The impact on our economy will be huge, and the consequences are still building. So as you start considering your holiday plans, gifts, and traditions, we encourage you to look to small businesses first. Small Business Saturday, on November 28th, is worth participating in: When you shop local, 40-60 cents of each dollar stays in the community, continuing to circulate. In contrast, Jeff Bezos’ wealth jumped from $90.1 billion to over $203.1 billion this year, thanks to Amazon’s rocketing stock prices. Jeff doesn’t need any more of our dollars — our families, friends, and neighbors do.
And our locally-owned businesses are worth it: Kobuk, the old dry goods store on the corner of Town Square Park, offers the state’s best doughnuts and a kaleidoscope of hot tea and coffee. Skinny Raven, Anchorage’s most famous running store, features a treadmill in the window where expert staff analyzes your gait for that perfect fit.
For all the quilters, Quilted Raven offers cloth printed with the motifs of classic Alaskan artists like Barbara Lavelle and Jon Van Zyle. Copper River Fleece available, at Cabin Fever, offers anyone interested in a career in politics — or some Alaska street cred — the uniform du jour. Tiny Gallery features all Alaskan made products and a unique collection of goods.
The Sevigny Studio on G Street offers art and gifts made by scores of Alaskan artists, from Denise Ekstrand to Gina Edwards. Circular Boutique offers a delightful mix of style-conscious and eco-friendly fashion. And for a deal on high-end goods, consignment shops like the Second Run offer an array of jewelry, clothes, and shoes for the fashion-forward. This is just a handful of what our vibrant community has to offer.
The bottom line? Staying local this holiday season is the perfect way to meet your needs while helping the whole community. Whether it’s on Small Business Saturday, or just the weekly run to your local grocery store, supporting local businesses is an easy way to keep investing in the city we love during a winter that might feel a little darker than usual. We at the Anchorage Downtown Partnership are happy to provide the lights — but you’re the ones that bring the real glow.
Amanda Moser is the executive director of Anchorage Downtown Partnership.
A man and his dog walk on the edge of the ice along Knik Arm with downtown Anchorage and the Chugach Mountains in the background on Tuesday, April 11, 2017. (Bob Hallinen / ADN) (Bob Hallinen/)
The Municipality of Anchorage currently has six Assembly districts, with eleven total Assembly members. Five of those districts have two Assembly members. Only one of those districts has a single Assembly member representing all its residents.
We encourage you to not forget about Proposition 12 on your ballot. We believe all Assembly districts should have the same number of Assembly seats. Proposition 12 is your chance to vote for equal Assembly representation for our whole city.
Currently, District 1, which represents downtown, Fairview, Government Hill, Mountain View and South Addition, is the one-member district. District 1 has half the population of Anchorage’s other districts, so while representation is proportional, it is not equitable. For example, residents in District 1 can only run for one Assembly seat. In all the other districts, they have two seats to vie for. Only one Assembly member represents the entire downtown business community. Should that Assembly member have a conflict on an issue or can’t be present for a vote, there’s no backup. We believe the design of the Anchorage Assembly is flawed, and Proposition 12 amends the Anchorage Charter to right a historic wrong.
Until 1985, Eagle River-Chugiak had the single-member district. At that time, the one-member district moved to District 1. We’re glad our neighbors in Eagle River now have two representatives, but we believe that should never have been in question. We want a system where no resident should have to worry that they will have half the Assembly representation of a neighbor on the next block. Rotating the one-member district from one part of town to another has never been the solution to this long-term problem.
Having only one member for District 1 has been difficult, but we want to put a happier spin on things.
There’s no way one member could attend the hundreds of free events Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Ltd., puts on each year to activate Town Square Park and downtown. The Mountain View neighborhood, the most diverse neighborhood in the country, needs more than one member to capture the breadth of experiences from across the globe that reside in one community.
Changes with district shapes and population will be taking place due to the census and state redistricting. After the completed census the municipality reviews the population within each district; at this point, it is often determined to be malapportioned or that there is an inequitable or unsuitable apportioning of representatives to a legislative body. With Proposition 12, all districts will have equal number of Assembly members and proportional number of residents.
Without Proposition 12, the single-member district could move to any part of Anchorage. You could wind up in a one-member district with that redrawing. Imagine if Chugiak-Eagle River were to revert back to the one-member district seat. Or if the one-member seat rotated to Midtown. Remember: It could happen to you, and it shouldn’t. Let’s take that option off the table.
The time is right for the Municipality of Anchorage to create a better system giving all our citizens equal representation in government. Let’s build a better city. Vote yes on Proposition 12.
Kirk Rose is the CEO of Anchorage Community Land Trust, a nonprofit bringing out the best in Anchorage neighborhoods. He was named a 2017 Next City Vanguard, one of just 43 recognized urban leaders worldwide, and during his tenure with the organization, ACLT was awarded the National Development Council’s highest honor as the “Most Innovative Community Development Project” in the United States.
Amanda Moser is the Executive Director of Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Ltd. ADP is a nonprofit entity charged with the management of the Downtown Improvement District. The partnership is committed to a clean, safe and vital downtown.
Best friends were separated when they fled the Nazis. Now, 82 years later, they finally hugged again.
Betty Grebenschikoff, right, 91, reuniting with Ana María Wahrenberg, 91, at a hotel in St. Petersburg, Fla. The women, who were childhood best friends in Berlin before the Holocaust, had not seen each other since 1939, when their families were both forced to flee the country and the Nazis. (Courtesy of Betty Grebenschikoff)
For 82 years, Betty Grebenschikoff believed her best friend from Germany was dead. But just a few weeks ago, there she was in the flesh, standing in a St. Petersburg, Fla., hotel room.
The last time Grebenschikoff saw Ana María Wahrenberg was in the spring of 1939, when they were 9 years old. They shared a tearful hug in a Berlin schoolyard before their families were forced to flee the country and the Nazis on the cusp of World War II.
They both thought that would be their final hug. But on Nov. 5, after more than eight decades apart, the two women - now 91 years old - embraced once again.
“It felt like coming home,” Grebenschikoff said.
“It was very emotional,” echoed Wahrenberg. “It was like we were never separated.”
The story of their fated friendship, and the series of fluke events that recently brought them back together, was chronicled in the international news media, including in The Washington Post, earlier this year.
The Holocaust survivors had searched for each other for years, scouring databases and seeking information from anyone who might know something. They had no luck, mainly because both women changed their names later in life.
“She was always on my mind,” Grebenschikoff said.
It wasn’t until an indexer from USC Shoah Foundation - a nonprofit organization founded by Steven Spielberg, which produces and preserves audiovisual testimony of Holocaust survivors - noticed similarities in their testimonies and ultimately linked the women together.
For the first time, Grebenschikoff - who was one of 20,000 European Jews to settle in Shanghai - got clarity on what happened to her long-lost childhood best friend: In November 1939, Wahrenberg and her family fled to Santiago, Chile, where she still lives today.
In a reunion facilitated by the Shoah Foundation, as well as the Florida Holocaust Museum and the Interactive Jewish Museum of Chile, the two women and their families reconnected last November on a Zoom call. Talking in their native German, they vowed to meet in person, and one year later, they finally did.
As they hugged for the first time in 82 years, Grebenschikoff said, “we just had this feeling, like we really belonged together.”
The original plan was to meet in Florida, where Grebenschikoff lives, for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, in September, but the pandemic postponed their in-person reunion. By November, though, Wahrenberg felt more comfortable traveling and booked the trip with her son and his wife.
Grebenschikoff went to meet Wahrenberg at her hotel room, and “it was as if we had seen each other yesterday,” she said. “It was so comfortable.”
The feeling was mutual for Wahrenberg: “It was very special that two people, after 82 years, still love one another.”
The women, both of whom are widowed, spent four days glued at the hip. They went shopping, shared meals and, mostly, talked for hours - making up for lost time.
“We’re not the girls we used to be when we were 9, that’s for sure, but we kept giggling like we were little kids,” Grebenschikoff said. “It was such a joy for both of us.”
Plus, she added, “we took care of a few bottles of champagne together,” because, after all, “this was something to celebrate.”
They also exchanged sentimental gifts. Wahrenberg brought Grebenschikoff a Barbie doll wearing a Chilean costume, along with a framed photograph of herself and some jewelry, while Grebenschikoff gave Wahrenberg a small heart-shaped sculpture - which she also purchased a copy of for herself.
“We both have the exact same thing now,” Grebenschikoff said, adding that she keeps the doll and photo on display in her bedroom. “It’s something for her to remember me and for me to remember her.”
Spending time together felt especially natural, the women said, because since last November, they have corresponded regularly over text message and on the phone.
Every Sunday for the past year, they have had a standing phone call date, during which they each sit on their respective patios and sip their morning coffee together.
Still, the phone calls didn’t compare to their in-person gathering, they said.
For Grebenschikoff, her favorite part of their time together was simply “being close to one another, and holding hands while we were walking,” she said. “It felt right.”
The highlight for Wahrenberg was reminiscing about old times and introducing their families to each other over lunch.
“Her daughter and my son are now friends, too,” Wahrenberg said. “I’m very happy.”
The reunion was also deeply moving for staff at the Shoah Foundation, as well as the other organizations that were instrumental in bringing the survivors together.
“These two remarkable women being reconnected after losing each other is such a testament of hope,” said Kori Street, senior director of programs and operations and deputy executive director of USC Shoah Foundation.
Watching their story unfold, she continued, has “been such a treasure,” particularly “in a world where hope is hard to come by.”
The Holocaust survivors agree. Their journey proves that “good things can happen out of a bad experience,” said Grebenschikoff, who plans to visit Wahrenberg in Santiago in the near future. “It was the silver lining of all silver linings. It was the fulfillment of a dream.”
“I’m very thankful that something like this could be,” Wahrenberg added.
The two women, both of whom depend on canes to walk, have weathered war, strife and loss. At heart, though, they are still the same 9-year-old girls - who truly adore one another.
“This is the way it was supposed to be,” Grebenschikoff said.
Trucks line up to enter a Port of Oakland shipping terminal on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Noah Berger) (Noah Berger/)
Rob Handfield is the Bank of America university distinguished professor of supply chain management at North Carolina State University and director of the Supply Chain Resource Cooperative.
Shelves are empty. Online orders take much longer to arrive. The media are warning of a Christmas devoid of presents. The supply chain has probably affected you firsthand in some way, the shock of expensive or absent products likely throwing your world out of whack and bringing mild panic. But there are several prominent myths circulating about the supply crunch and its causes.
Myth No. 1: Self-driving trucks would solve the driver shortage.
Autonomous trucks “would improve supply-chain efficiency by increasing the speed and reliability of deliveries and by mitigating the shortage of truck drivers, which contributes to delays at ports and throughout the supply chain,” a Barrons essay argued last month. “Driverless trucks can’t arrive soon enough,” Axios proclaimed in November.
But we’re a very long way off from automation fixing our problems. The technology simply doesn’t meet safety standards, especially in cities where roads, wind and speed limits change, and pedestrians don’t always adhere to walk signs and crosswalks. Drivers must survey the landscape and react on a dime, with instinctive decisions based on broad observations. Machines aren’t there yet, as Duke engineering professor Missy Cummings, hired last month as a special adviser to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, told me recently.
A more realistic approach to the driver shortage is to improve the efficiency with which we deploy trucks. The lines are killer, as evidenced by the Los Angeles port, where the images of backed up trucks resemble a Black Friday frenzy outside a store with one guy working the register. Between the wait to get in the port, the line to pick up the container and a wait to leave, the ordeal can take each driver up to eight hours - which is why most trucking companies are steering clear of ports. Independent drivers are paid a fixed fee per pickup, so they lose money sitting in these lines.
Myth No. 2: Moving supply chains to the U.S. from China is easy.
A recent Associated Press story reported on manufacturers wishing they could bring their supply chains back from China to the United States. “I’m willing to make smaller margins if it means less anxiety,” one game-maker said. A February report from the think tank Heartland Forward said 70 percent of U.S. firms think they’ll likely reshore manufacturing in coming years.
But this would be much harder than it sounds. “Low-cost country sourcing” is when a corporation sends most of its manufacturing to places such as China, India and other countries in southeast Asia. This has been a common practice over the past 40 years - and now we’re seeing the consequence. Once you’ve outsourced a certain part or product, it’s difficult to bring it back to the United States.
The semiconductor industry illustrates this reality. That was one of the four supply chains studied in President JoeBiden’s 100-day risk and policy review, issued as part of an executive order in February. In response to the findings, Biden endorsed strategic engagement - for example, in addition to the CHIPS for America Act, he secured $75 billion in direct investments from the private sector and pledged to work with other countries in facilitating a flow of information between all parties. Both endeavors are a promising start. But as with any structural shift in policy, the results won’t manifest for a few years.
Myth No. 3: Supply chain shortages are temporary and will disappear in 2022.
At the annual meeting of the Federal Reserve in Jackson Hole in August, Chair Jerome Powell noted that he and the central bank’s Federal Open Market Committee believed the recent spike in inflation is temporary and tied to what he called “supply bottlenecks.” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo also said this month that the problems are “temporary” though she acknowledged it would take “a little bit of time” to resolve.
But there’s little sign that supply chain glitches will go away soon. Companies working in everything from tech (Hewlett-Packard) to cars (Ford) to clothing (Under Armour) to consumer goods (Clorox) have told stock market analysts this month that they expect shortages to persist until at least the third quarter of 2022. The pandemic just exacerbated the problem of ongoing supply chain shortages. Factories in China are now flush with orders, and some have backlogs of several months. Shutdowns in less widely vaccinated countries such as Vietnam could also hinder the flow of apparel and other products from companies such as Nike that rely on assembly lines there. There has been an exodus of factory employees who have gone back to their home villages from Vietnam’s southern industrial belt, the epicenter of the nation’s worst coronavirus outbreak. Millions more are poised to follow, as months-long mobility restrictions that confined workers to cramped housing recently eased. And shipping delays aren’t forecast to return to pre-pandemic levels for up to two years - even once the current Christmas rush is over.
Myth No. 4: Operating ports 24/7 or shifting to East Coast ports is the key.
President Biden said last month that running West Coast ports around-the-clock had “the potential to be a game changer” in resolving the supply chain crunch. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) also suggested last month that he’d just “cut the red tape” so cargo ships that can’t get into California ports could come to his state, instead.
But our biggest ports have already expanded to 24/7 operations. (Which raises further questions on driver pay, another key contributor to the shortage.) Some shippers did shift cargo to the East Coast in the early days, to mild success. But then the secret got out, and eastern ports are now seeing the same logjams as West Coast ones.
What’s more, shipping to the East Coast is costly, as it adds weeks to transit times from Asia. Unlike Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, smaller ports on the East Coast don’t have the warehouse space to handle big jumps in volume, nor do they have a steady supply of dock workers and truckers to facilitate the process.
Myth No. 5: ‘Just-in-time’ delivery is the problem.
But the concept of just-in-time delivery is still very sound. Developed by Taiichi Ohno, an engineer at Toyota in the 1950s, the philosophy calls for suppliers to deliver components to the production line just as they’re needed - the idea is to reduce the amount of inventory sitting in the supply chain and put working capital into production rather than building up surpluses. Making it work, though, required using suppliers located near automotive manufacturing sites. Japanese innovators in just-in-time (or “lean”) manufacturing such as Toyota and Honda often use suppliers located within five miles of their facilities, with deliveries made several times each day to the production line. In global supply chains today, lead times to get parts or products from suppliers is typically six to eight weeks at the best of times. That’s stretched out to months and months with bottlenecks at ports and shortages of drivers to pick up cargo.
Much of today’s mess was caused by relying on extremely fragile - and extremely long - supply lines. In many industries, before the pandemic, there was no regular communication with suppliers, deliveries occurred maybe once a month, inventory levels in warehouses were massive and damage in freight caused by rush deliveries often resulted in having to ship products back to suppliers. Ohno would have shuddered at the thought that his ideas were being applied in this manner.
For more than a decade, Insook Baik has made Thanksgiving dinner each year for hundreds of people.
As the owner of the Shell gas station in Mountain View, she said she knows there are many people in the community who may not otherwise have a hot meal. And she wants to take care of her neighbors, so each year, she stocks up enough ham, turkey, corn, mashed potatoes, stuffing and pumpkin pie for the whole neighborhood.
Glen Ellis, who is a manager at the store, said he and his wife help prepare the food. This year, that meant about four days’ worth of work, he said. A few volunteers, many of whom work nearby, dished up plates on Thanksgiving Day and passed them to people out of a walk-up window or drive thru.
The number of people stopping by for a meal has steadily increased as the years have gone by, Ellis said. This year he expects they’ll serve somewhere near 900 plates. Things during the pandemic have been hard, and a lot of people in the community have struggled to pay their bills.
“People that have homes are hurting, the money is running shorter this year and things cost a lot more,” he said. “Anything given back to the community helps.”
The best part of the tradition for Baik is just seeing joy on others’ faces and hearing about their successes, she said.
“One man a couple years ago, he said, ‘I was hungry, I moved here with no job, no car, no apartment, but you gave me food,’ ” she said. The man returned several years later and told her he was employed and had a place to live, according to Baik. He gave her money to help pay for more supplies for the next year.
On Thursday, Baik’s face lit up as a regular customer walked in the doors with a saxophone and played a jingle for a crowd of volunteers in the kitchen.
As the music drifted through the aisles, she stepped outside and into the snow to show a man to the pickup window line where he could get his meal. Once she was back inside, Baik stepped to her side of the window, passing bags of warm food into the hands of others.
“Happy Thanksgiving,” she said, the corners of her eyes crinkling as her face mask covered her smile.
Without a shoe for half the race, Chugiak runner leads Alaska girls team to victory at seven-state meet
The RunAK team made up of Chugiak High runners at the Nike Cross Nationals northwest regional finished first among 42 teams in the open invitational earlier this month in Boise, Idaho. From left, front: Kiley Dennis, Addison Capozzi; back: Emily Moore, Skyler Belmear, Ada Burrup, and Ellen Kruchoski. (photo courtesy Brian Kruchoski)
There was no time to stop, so Addison Capozzi kicked off her shoe and kept running.
A mile into Capozzi’s race against nearly 450 runners from seven states, she found herself at a sudden disadvantage. After going around a hairpin turn on the course, the pack around her tightened up, and a girl behind her stepped on the back of her left shoe.
“It wasn’t on the heel anymore, but it was still on the arch of my foot,” said the Chugiak High student.
She ran for about another half mile before deciding she was better off without her shoe. “It was slowing me down, so I decided to just kick it off.”
After finishing, the disappointment of her tough luck was replaced by elation when she found out her team, RunAK, had beaten more than 40 teams to win the open invitational at the Nike Cross Nationals northwest regional meet.
“At first I was really upset just because I was like, you know, ‘that totally cost me the race,’ " Capozzi said after returning from the Boise, Idaho, event earlier this month.
“But then I was going back to get my stuff at our starting line, and my coach came over and he was like, ‘You guys won!’ What? No way.”
Addison Capozzi, 16, runs without her left shoe in Boise, Idaho, earlier this month. She led RunAK, a club team made up of Chugiak High runners at the Nike Cross Nationals northwest regional, to first place among 42 teams from seven states in the open invitational. (Photo courtesy Brian Kruchoski)
The 16-year-old and five of her fastest friends from the Chugiak girls cross-country team had run with a fast crowd and proved they belonged.
Capozzi, Kiley Dennis, Skyler Belmear, Emily Moore and Ada Burrup had earned their place at the meet by being part of the girls cross-country running team that won state in October. The regional Nike meet would let them know how they stacked up against Outside competition.
The Northwest regional pitted them against elite teams from Alaska and six other states: Oregon, Washington, Montana, Wyoming and Hawaii.
It provides high school runners with a showcase event for the nation’s best to measure themselves against one another on equal footing, because courses vary greatly. The hills at Kincaid Park, for instance, don’t make for fast 5-K times.
The RunAK victory as a team took some of the sting out of Capozzi’s dismay at having thrown a shoe.
“It was kind of a bummer because I was super prepared for the race, and I was really hoping to get a good PR (personal record), but the shoe did not allow for that,” she said.
Brian Kruchoski, the RunAK coach, said it was apparent she had run through some pain.
“Her foot was bruised at the end of the race,” he said. “That night, it was bruised and puffy on the bottom of her foot.”
If RunAK (teams at the meet run under their club name but have to be from the same school) qualifies again next year, Capozzi might get another crack at that PR. And it might come on an even bigger stage. The team was seeded in the open class, one below the championship division, based on their times.
None of them are seniors. And Chugiak junior Campbell Peterson, who led the Mustangs to the state team crown by placing second, could be with them in 2022. Prior commitments prevented her from going this year.
Beyond that, 2022 might also offer the chance to compete against the best from the entire country if the Alaskans are fast enough. This year’s national meet was called off because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As for the girls’ more immediate plans, Capozzi expects them to be running for the Chugiak track team this spring. Last season, the girls 3,200 relay team finished second at state to South.
“Hopefully we can be strong again,” Capozzi said.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge's coastal plain in summer. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch/)
Almost exactly four years after Republicans used a budget bill to get oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge through Congress by the slimmest of margins, Democrats are turning the tables.
When House Democrats passed the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act on Nov. 19 without any Republican support, they set the stage for what is shaping up to be a mirror image of the political melodrama centered around drilling for oil in ANWR that played out in late 2017.
Much like how the overall Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed by former President Donald Trump had virtually no Democratic support, the Build Back Better budget reconciliation bill has been lambasted by Republicans as a package of wasteful spending. Many Democrats have dubbed it the “human infrastructure” bill, building on the much more bipartisan $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that President Joe Biden signed into law earlier this month.
Both the 2017 tax law and the reconciliation bill headed for debate in the Senate contain the seemingly ill-fitting ANWR provisions to avoid the 60-vote Senate threshold and a filibuster, which almost assuredly would have killed the 2017 rider mandating lease sales and would probably do the same today to Democrats’ language to repeal it, with both sides holding slim majorities at the respective times.
More specifically, Republicans, largely led by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who then chaired the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, in 2017 justified inclusion of the ANWR lease sale in the budget bill on the grounds that the sales would generate upwards of $1.1 billion over 10 years for the Treasury, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
CBO analysts wrote in a report on the Build Back Better Act that the federal leasing provisions are too broad to generate budget estimates.
Republicans have long sought to launch oil drilling in the area, citing the economic and national security boon of the estimated 10.4 billion barrels of oil and 8.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas contained in the deposit, according to a U.S. Geological Survey analysis.
Alaska’s all-Republican congressional delegation hailed passage of the ANWR lease sale legislation — via 51 Republican votes in the Senate — as a historic step toward economic prosperity in the state, while national Democrats and local environmental organizations derided it as a purely political move that would only help exacerbate climate change.
But by using the budget process to pass the ever-contentious ANWR provision, Republicans set Democrats up to repeal it the same way.
This time, the narratives have flipped, and with Vice President Kamala Harris acting as the tie-breaking vote in an otherwise 50-50 Senate, so have the political circumstances.
The first lease sale held by Bureau of Land Management officials shortly before Biden took office in January netted $14.4 million in winning bids, most of which came from the state-owned Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, or AIDEA. Half of the lease revenue also went to the state of Alaska, per language in the 2017 tax bill.
The members of the Alaska delegation and other backers of ANWR oil leasing largely blamed the political tug-of-war over the issue for deterring bidders.
Industry sources, however, generally say the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska on the other side of the North Slope is more attractive for companies. Politics aside, it is seen as more prospective geologically and importantly is closer to existing infrastructure.
The ANWR language in the Build Back Better Act is straightforward; it would repeal the lease program provision from the 2017 tax bill and refund all lease-related payments to the lessees within 30 days after it is signed into law.
As of early November, AIDEA had spent just more than $12.8 million on its leases, an amount that includes the initial bids, the first year of rent and administrative costs, according to spokeswoman Colleen Bryan.
Murkowski said in a prepared statement after the House vote on the Build Back Better Act that Democrats’ resource provisions are some of the most partisan in the entire 2,400-page bill and will only eventually benefit Russia, China and OPEC nations.
“In the midst of high energy prices and mounting inflation, responsible domestic (energy) production from Alaska, including the prospective 1002 area is needed more than ever. Despite that , House Democrats and the Biden administration are trying to throw it all away through an illegal taking that would fundamentally alter how U.S. leases have been administered for decades,” Murkowski said. “We will do everything we can to strike the ANWR provision — and others — from the reconciliation bill when it comes to the Senate.”
The ANWR coastal plain is regularly called the “1002 area”, a reference to the section of the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, or ANILCA, that describes it. ANILCA established many of the designated federal areas in Alaska, including ANWR.
Section 1002 of the exhaustive legislation called for the initial wildlife and hydrocarbon resource assessments and outlines the subsequent steps for oil and gas exploration and development if Congress were to approve it.
Zack Brown, a spokesman for Rep. Don Young, wrote in an email after the House vote that in a “worst-case scenario,” the State of Alaska could sue the administration in an effort to maintain the existing leases.
Murkowski also urged AIDEA leaders to sue federal officials ahead of the House vote. More generally, she has expressed a belief that some Democrats’ own misgivings over portions of the massive spending bill could ultimately sink it.
AIDEA actually already sued Interior agency leaders and Biden Nov. 4 for using an executive order the day they took office to suspend the lease sale program they were directed by Congress to carry out.
Justice Department attorneys have not yet responded to AIDEA’s complaint filed in the U.S. District Court of Alaska.
Elwood Brehmer can be reached at email@example.com.
Sarah Chen was selected as a 2022 Rhodes Scholar. She grew up in Anchorage and attended West High School before studying at Claremont McKenna College in California. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Chen)
Sarah Chen, a graduate of Anchorage’s West High School, will head to the University of Oxford in England next fall after being selected as a Rhodes Scholar.
She was one of 32 students selected for the award out of more than 2,300 applicants. The Rhodes scholarship, which funds recipients’ graduate studies at Oxford, is the oldest international academic fellowship and one of the most prestigious in the world.
Chen, who is 21, grew up in Anchorage and graduated from West High in 2018.
“At West High, I did a lot of mock trial and I was pretty competitive in debate,” she said in a phone interview Thursday. “And I think those sort of thinking skills, as well as exploring a variety of ethical and political topics, really helped me come here and experiment with what I wanted to do before I settled. ... What West and Anchorage in general gave me would be a really large appreciation for curiosity and also just a love of nature.”
Chen is now a senior at Claremont McKenna College in California, where she is working toward a dual major in international relations and philosophy, politics and economics. Much of her work so far has focused on cyberspace issues and wargaming, which focuses on building simulations and exercises that revolve around conflict and can provide training and preparation for those heading into those situations, she said.
Growing up, Chen and her younger brother bonded over playing video games, which she said shaped her interest in wargaming and has inspired her designs. She credited her family for their support and encouragement leading up to the Rhodes scholarship.
“In a really cheesy way, I couldn’t have done this without my family,” she said.
At Oxford, she plans to earn master’s degrees in social data science and social science of the internet.
“I want to explore more into technology and the ethical issues and vital implications,” she said. “And then I’m hoping to continue my path into developing more quantitative skills because I think that a large part of wargaming is developing accurate analyses and working with data.”
Chen learned that she had been selected Saturday night. She said the experience was so surreal that she didn’t realize she’d actually won until she started receiving text messages congratulating her.
She’s looking forward to continuing her education and also traveling to the United Kingdom, which she’s never visited before.
In the past five years, three other Alaskans have been named as Rhodes Scholars. After he was selected last year, Noorvik’s Wilfried Kuugauraq Zibell, who attended Harvard University, said he planned to study colonization and its economic impacts on subsistence economies in rural Alaska. In 2019, Cyrus V. Reza of Fairbanks was selected for the honor, intending to pursue a Ph.D. in Oriental studies at Oxford after graduating from Stanford University.
And in 2017, Samantha Mack — an Aleut woman from King Cove attending college in Anchorage — was named a Rhodes Scholar, the first from the University of Alaska. She planned to study politics at Oxford.
A Sitka black-tailed deer. (Bob Hallinen / ADN archive) (ADN/)
By now I am sure every gardener in Alaska has heard that the governor wants the state to release deer into the Mat-Su. No gardener or yardener would ever entertain such a foolish, misguided idea. It’s for the hunters, of course.
There is a reason Outside gardeners who do suffer deer call them “hoofed rats.” During the 10-year life of a typical doe there will be many daughters, and between them, the group will be responsible for introducing 100 or so additional deer. You do the math. The bottom line is there are not enough hunters in the world, nonetheless with access to Alaska, to make a dent in what will be a humongous population of hungry deer.
Don’t believe me, believe the Molokai experiment in Hawaii. There are now some 70,000 deer, descendants of introduced animals, but only 7,000 residents. Or Maui: on your last trip did you see any of the 50,000 deer that reside there? Talk about an invasive species. Introduce deer to the Mat-Su? Is the governor kidding?
A good way to tell if a mammal is invasive is to check its hunting season, a device designed to keep populations at huntable levels. More and more jurisdictions have year-round deer hunting. This means their populations have gotten too large. Where I grew up in New York, there was the occasional deer. Today, residents of the town frequently hire bowmen to sit in trees and take invaders out. They are permitted to do so throughout the year.
Even if every single person in Alaska was a successful hunter and bagged a deer, there would be a gazillion left to invade your yard, hit your car and spread diseases. The only way to really keep them out of the yard, incidentally, is with a high fence — 8, 10 feet or more as deer can really jump.
Deer are not like moose. They eat a lot of the same things, but they sometimes dig for their food — as in retrieving your spring-flowering bulbs or heaving a beloved perennial out of the ground to munch its crown — which moose don’t. And deer also eat things the moose won’t. Wow, moose browse loss is bad enough. Why, governor, would we want to dramatically increase ungulate browsing?
The bottom line: We don’t need to add deer to the animals that eat our yard plants, and we shouldn’t really particularly want them out in the wild eating the native ones. Their presence usually results in an increase of invasive plants that they often avoid. In fact, the presence of deer can cause a complete change in a forest’s understory, resulting in all manner of deviations in plant succession, tree and shrub cover and all the while attracting deer predators that might not normally be in the area.
Do I dare mention the possibility of wasting disease, ticks and Lyme disease, and God only knows what else? Could these deer pass on diseases to our native moose? And, if Fish and Game approves, what is next? Elephants can survive here and would really be cool for hunters, I suppose.
Folks, spare me the letters. I am not against hunting. I am against harebrained ideas totally lacking in scientific support or even a popular demand. We have seen what uncontrollable populations of deer have caused elsewhere. We watch as Australians suffer through plagues of other species introduced with the best of intentions. The point is we don’t experiment with Alaska’s nature or its gardens.
Cleary, the guv doesn’t garden, nor does he understand that there is a huge Garden Party of citizens ready to pounce on ideas that negatively affect the state’s number one hobby. So, let’s not spend one more minute nor one more cent on this poorly conceived idea. The study hasn’t started yet. I am here to insist in no uncertain terms, on behalf of the gardeners and yardeners of Alaska, that Fish and Game immediately nip the idea in the bud. It is the only fate the idea deserves.
JEFF’S ALASKA GARDEN CALENDAR
Holiday lights at The Garden: Stroll The Garden’s main loop bathed in this year’s holiday light displays. Wow. Sunday, Nov. 28, through Saturday, Jan. 29. Information and tickets at www.alaskabg.org
Paperwhites: You will find these pre-chilled bulbs all over town. Once they bloom, they are done. Toss them.
Poinsettias: When selecting, look for the flowers in the middle of those red bracts. The more immature the flower, the longer the plant should last.
Leftover Thanksgiving nachos with cranberry salsa. (Photo by Kim Sunée)
Some find holiday leftovers uninspiring, but the remains of the day can be an invitation to break rules in the kitchen and sometimes even come up with a “new” favorite dish. Foods that might seem mismatched get a turn to shine with new and unexpected partners.
Have a waffle maker? Why not press some leftover mac and cheese or stuffing and crisp up a savory waffle to top with eggs or syrup? Or make mashed potato turkey patties by combining two large eggs with two cups of leftover mashed potato, two cups leftover shredded turkey, two cups leftover stuffing, chopped fresh herbs or green onion. Heat some butter and oil in a skillet. Cook patties in batches, about two minutes per side until golden and crisp; top with your choice of gravy, fried eggs, cranberry sauce, sour cream or salmon roe. Or toss some shredded turkey with herbs and leftover stuffing and roll the mixture in wonton wrappers or lumpia wrappers for Thanksgiving egg rolls.
Leftover pumpkin purée or apples from pie making create a flavor-packed healthful smoothie: Blend together pumpkin purée or apples, ice, uncooked oats, ground cinnamon and a milk of your choice or yogurt.
After the requisite turkey sandwich and stock making, I personally like fresh, clean flavors. Think citrus and raw vegetables with hits of heat like harissa, fresh chiles and lots of herbs. Warm up some leftover gravy or pan juices with big handfuls of greens, such as spinach or escarole, just until wilted and served atop crusty bread.
Too many cranberries? Make a refreshing salsa by coarsely chopping and tossing them with chopped cherry tomato and onion, fresh cilantro, salt, pepper, 1 teaspoon sugar and fresh lime juice. Let the flavors sit for 10 minutes before serving with nachos or chilaquiles. For the nachos, heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread a layer of tortilla chips in an ovenproof skillet or a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil. Top with everything from leftover turkey to stuffing, vegetables and cheese, and bake until golden and bubbling on top and serve with the cranberry salsa.
However you decide to make the most of what’s left of the feast, let your creativity and taste buds run wild. You might just come up with your new favorite signature dish.
Related recipes for using Thanksgiving leftovers:
Clients rest on the main floor of the Sullivan Arena mass care shelter on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021. According to the Municipality of Anchorage, 505 people stayed at the shelter on Tuesday night, far more than the stated capacity of 400. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)
A long cold spell that has gripped Anchorage for weeks is pushing the city’s emergency shelter for unhoused people to the edge.
On Tuesday night, 505 people slept inside the mass shelter at the Sullivan Arena, near downtown Anchorage, according to city data. That’s 105 people over the shelter’s official capacity.
An additional warming tent, set up in the parking lot, went up last week. Anchorage weather has been unseasonably cold this month, remaining in single digits or falling below zero for much of November, according to the National Weather Service.
The Anchorage Health Department has said the shelter’s operators, a new, for-profit business called 99 Plus One, have not been turning people away.
“We have been able to accommodate all guests at the Sullivan and will continue to do so,” said Robert McNeily, a spokesperson for the department.
While the Sullivan is over capacity, the emergency shelter system “is functioning,” said Owen Hutchinson, a spokesperson for the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness. “This is emergency shelter. It is not the ideal place to receive services long term or place to stay long term.”
Shelter operators “have responded to the cold snap as best they can,” Hutchinson said.
On Wednesday morning, a Daily News reporter and photographer entered Sullivan Arena unannounced in order to observe conditions at the public shelter. The journalists followed standard sign-in procedures and were allowed inside.
Clients sleep on thin pads atop the concrete floor of the mezzanine level at the Sullivan Arena mass care shelter on Wednesday. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)
A grid of cots covered the main floor. On the mezzanine level, dozens of people slept on thin blue mats. A few lay directly on the concrete. One man used a garbage bag for a pillow. People’s belongings and trash, including food and drinks, cluttered narrow corridors.
Employees of 99 Plus One were visible, wearing blue vests marked with their names and titles. The contractor is required to keep a client-staff ratio of 30 to 1. There was a line for portable bathrooms outdoors. Indoor bathrooms appeared to be fenced off. A few people lined up to microwave pre-made meals delivered by Bean’s Cafe, the nonprofit that ran the shelter until September and still delivers meals.
While employees could be seen working to refill soap stations and clean floors, it seemed difficult to keep up with the growing mass of discarded belongings, unfinished meals and other detritus.
Posted on the wall was a list of rules, with penalties for breaking them: Sexual assault and sex trafficking, drug dealing, arson or possession of a firearm would lead to immediate discharge and a call to police, according to the sign. “Tier II” infractions such as possessing a weapon, physical assault, drug use inside the shelter, theft, threatening or disrespecting staff and “behaviors affecting others safety” could lead to ejection for shorter periods, from two days to two hours.
The health department did not answer a question about how many people have been barred from Sullivan Arena.
Colorful drawings decorate the space around a cot at the Sullivan Arena mass care shelter on Wednesday. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)
“There is a policy being revised today regarding those who are expelled from the Sullivan Arena and it is broken into three tiers regarding the severity of the situation and with what is in accordance with existing criminal law in the Municipality of Anchorage,” wrote McNeily, the health department spokesperson, in an email. “A guest or client can be removed if code of conduct and/or infraction violations are committed. "
Several people waited in line outside an area marked as “The Hub” to speak with case managers. Starting next week, navigators from Bean’s Cafe will be able to visit the shelter to work with clients, said executive director Lisa Sauder.
A chain-link fence had gone up in the parking lot, cutting off parking lot access to the Ben Boeke Ice Arena and a corridor that leads to the Chester Creek trail.
With days of temperatures in the single digits and dipping below zero, the warming tent opened as a place with “no curfew” that people could come for a respite from the weather. People who’ve been kicked out of the shelter or who don’t want to be in the building can also warm up there, according to McNeily.
Staff from the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness visited the warming tents on Nov. 20 to take temperature readings of the air and ground, said Owen Hutchinson, a spokesperson with the group.
“The tent was warm,” he said. “The ground was dry and warm.”
Workers set up a warming tent in the parking lot outside the mass homeless shelter at the Sullivan Arena during a cold snap on Nov. 16. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)
The last outdoor death, defined by the Anchorage Police Department as a person found dead outdoors with no fixed address, happened on Nov. 16, when police found a 55-year-old man dead in a tent in a backyard in the Muldoon area. Police said the death was not suspicious.
Sullivan Arena has served as the city’s main shelter for unhoused people in Anchorage since the beginning of the pandemic, in March 2020. In mid-September, the city ended its contract with Bean’s Cafe to manage the shelter. A new, for-profit company called 99 Plus One took over management.
The transition was chaotic, with shelter guests reporting a lack of water and cots.
For the initial contract, which ran through Oct. 31, the city paid $371,883. The cost depends on the number of clients the shelter serves. The city did not respond to a question asking how much 99 Plus One is being paid monthly now, based on current shelter occupancy.
In October, the Daily News reported the story of a Tennessee woman who said she went to pick her father up from the shelter, where he’d been staying for more than a month, and found him near death.
The city called the man’s treatment unacceptable and said it had pushed 99 Plus One to make immediate changes, such as “continued foot patrols” and requiring employees to wear uniforms.
“What happened to this client should not happen to anyone,” a city spokesman said.
The same day the story was published, the administration fired Shawn Hays, the mass care branch chief charged with overseeing the shelter. Later, 99 Plus One’s original on-site manager Zach Zears, was fired.
Then John Morris, the city’s homeless coordinator, resigned on Oct. 28. He has not publicly explained why he resigned just five months after taking on the position.
“I regret that I have failed to convince you to take what I feel is the correct course,” Morris wrote in his resignation letter to the mayor.
“He resigned for personal reasons,” said city spokesman Corey Allen Young.
The city has not named a new homeless coordinator.
Staff from Beans Cafe and 99 Plus 1 help clients pack up their belongings at the Sullivan Arena mass care shelter on Sept. 16. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)
At the end of October, Bean’s Cafe was in talks with the city to resume management of the shelter, said Lisa Sauder, the executive director. But that didn’t happen: The city instead extended 99 Plus One’s contract through the end of the year. In November, 99 Plus One hired Shawn Hays — the person fired in October from her municipal job overseeing the shelter — to be the on-site manager for Sullivan Arena. The city division that oversees homelessness response has seen other recent staff turnover.
According to the city, a negotiation process between the administration of Mayor Dave Bronson and the Anchorage Assembly crafting a long-term plan to tackle homelessness was a success, and that planning is moving forward. The proposal involves building multiple small shelters. But that’s a way off.
For the foreseeable future, Sullivan Arena will remain the main place where people in Anchorage seek shelter from the cold. According to McNeily, about 40 people arrive every day.
A group of customers enjoy sitting in silence at "Green Lab," a cafe where people can find refuge from the stresses of daily life in "healing" spaces in Seoul, South Korea, on Nov. 19, 2021. (Washington Post photo by Michelle Ye Hee Lee)
SEOUL, South Korea — Tucked away in a side street near an urban park named Seoul Forest is a tea shop that barely seats 10. Here, you can’t talk. Your phone must be on silent. No shoes allowed.
The rules have one aim. Relax. Just space out.
As South Koreans enter the living-with-corona phase of the pandemic, some are easing back into social life by visiting public spaces where they can be alone and do very little. Nothing is the new something in South Korea as people desperately seek refuge from the pressures of living as functioning adults in a global pandemic in a high-stress and fast-paced society with soaring real estate prices and often-grueling work schedules.
At a Space Out Competition this year, competitors sought to achieve the lowest heart rate possible while sitting in a “healing forest” on the southern island of Jeju. The contest has spread internationally since it began in 2014, including to Hong Kong and the Netherlands.
And the concept is seeping out into a handful of public spaces in South Korea. This month, theaters throughout the country premiered a movie simulating a 40-minute plane ride above and through clouds. Tickets for “Flight,” a project backed by Megabox, a major movie theater company, are just under $6. A tagline reads: “Take a brief rest through the fluffy clouds.”
It’s a sequel to a movie released this spring, “Fire Mung”: 31 minutes of footage of a burning campfire.
Such spaces and experiences are not quite a mainstream phenomenon, but researchers say they tap into the growing sentiments of feeling trapped and lonely in Year 2 of pandemic life.
Yoon Duk-hwan, a consumer trends researcher and co-author of the annual book “Trend Monitor,” said he expects the relaxation escape to become a trend as the public grapples with the endemic phase of the pandemic.
“It’s difficult to cope with feeling both trapped and lonely at the same time,” Yoon said. “They want the space where they’re alone to be somewhere else other than their home. ... Until the pandemic situation is dramatically improved, we expect this trend to continue.”
Spacing out is known in Korean as “hitting mung,” a slang usage of the word “mung,” to describe a state of being totally zoned out. (In this case, “mung” describes a state of blankness.) With the weather change this fall, now popular are the terms “forest mung” and “foliage mung,” meaning spacing out while looking at trees or foliage. There’s “fire mung,” or spacing out while watching logs burn, and “water mung,” being meditative near bodies of water.
Cafes like Green Lab, the shop near Seoul Forest, have been featured in local media reports and have enjoyed a steady stream of visitors throughout the pandemic by offering spaces to heal and “hit mung.” Over tea, customers can read, write poetry, meditate or simply stare out at the trees.
Green Lab opened just before the pandemic with a concept called “ritual,” an emerging trend that encourages a daily practice of self-care. Until recent months, customers were unaccustomed to the idea of visiting a shop just to enjoy their own company. But nowadays, the three time slots offered every day are snatched up quickly, with little room for walk-in customers, said Bae Hyun, an employee.
“It’s so hard to find spaces in Korean society where it’s acceptable to do absolutely nothing,” Bae said. “People seem to be finding more interest in this, though I think it will take some more time for it to become widely popular. As people’s daily lives change in the pandemic; they have become more familiar with the concept.”
Customers receive their teas and baskets of flowers and stationery so they can take a break from daily life at "Green Lab" in Seoul, South Korea, on Nov. 19, 2021. (Washington Post photo by Michelle Ye Hee Lee)
On a recent weekday afternoon, Jung Jae-hwan, 38, took a group of colleagues to the shop. As the head of a skin-care brand, Hyggee, Jung said he had been looking for ways to find peace as he hustles in an intensely competitive business world. He has tried Pilates and yoga but wanted to find a place that would require him to do nothing - and ended up at Green Lab.
“I wanted to be able to press the stop button and take a moment for myself, but I feel like I constantly have to do something,” he said.
“In this space, the rule is that I must do nothing,” he said. “It made space in my brain. I even read a book, enjoyed the smell of diffusers, looked at flowers, wrote poetry. I started getting new ideas, one by one, and I felt so refreshed.”
One of his colleagues, Ahn Areum, said she had heard of the Space Out Competition but didn’t know such shops existed. She was eager to check it out and said she had been looking for ways to cope with her pandemic anxieties and daily stresses.
“I’ve been so tired, and I don’t even have time to space out. After work, I go home, and I have to do housework, and then I barely have 30 minutes to an hour before I need to sleep. I spend that time on my phone. So with a space like this, I can actually focus on taking a break,” said Ahn, 32.
Similar spaces have opened in other parts of the country.
At a Jeju cafe named Goyose, the upstairs area is designated by reservation for people to spend time alone. The cafe provides stationery so that you can write letters to yourself over coffee and dessert. According to local media reports, a cafe in the southern coastal city Busan offers a “fire mung” area where people stare at a screen showing a video projection of a campfire.
On Ganghwa Island, off South Korea’s west coast, a cafe named Mung Hit also offers no-activity relaxation areas. In one section is a single chair facing a mirror for anyone who wants to sit and stare. There are nooks for meditating, reading, sitting by a pond or the garden, or enjoying mountain views. No pets or children are allowed.
The cafe opened in April 2019 with the goal of providing a “self-healing space,” and it drew many visitors once the pandemic hit, said Ji Ok-jung, the manager.
“‘Hitting mung’ is a concept of emptying your heart and your brain so that you can fill them with new ideas and thoughts. We opened because we wanted to create a space for people to do just that,” Ji said.
“It’s a place where people can heal themselves. It’s something only you can do for yourself, not something someone else can do for you, and we wanted to facilitate that for everyone exhausted by the demands of modern life,” she said.
Ta Jung Kim, 32, found the cafe online and recently visited it to get away from the city. There were other visitors, but she found enough nooks to be alone with minimum contact with others and to clear her head.
“As I sat there, secluded and relaxed, taking in the view and drinking coffee, I couldn’t help but space out,” she said. “I felt so comforted, and I felt like my heart opened up. The busy thoughts in my head disappeared, and I came back with a more positive outlook.”
Conservative Alaska lawmakers hear from constituents about ivermectin, vaccine mandates, Fauci conspiracies
Mike Alexander testifies during an event at the Anchorage Baptist Temple on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021, that was sponsored by several Republican state lawmakers and billed as a listening session on COVID-19 mandates. (Jeff Chen / Alaska Public Media)
This story originally appeared on Alaska Public Media and is republished here with permission.
Dozens of Alaskans shared frustration and anger over pandemic restrictions, COVID-19 vaccines and what they see as the medical community’s suppression of alternative treatments for the virus at a gathering this week at Anchorage Baptist Temple.
The event Monday was billed as a listening session on COVID-19 mandates, though some speakers touted conspiracy theories about the origin of the coronavirus or veered into Christian symbolism. The event was sponsored by several Republican state lawmakers, including Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River.
Reinbold told the crowd that she would continue pushing legislation to block COVID-related mandates and she encouraged audience members to organize a Facebook group to share their stories.
“I think we’re headed for totalitarianism and authoritarianism if we don’t, I mean — we’ve seen the warning signs,” Reinbold said. “We have to encourage one another and be positive. No violence, please. Let’s just be positive, peaceful, persistent and insistent.”
Over four hours Monday night, around 50 speakers told Reinbold and the other legislators about frustrations and anger with mainstream medicine, politicians and the media.
Many spoke of losing jobs due to vaccine mandates and resisting mask rules. Some told heart-wrenching stories of losing loved ones to COVID-19 without being able to say goodbye due to hospital visiting restrictions. Many demanded the end to employer vaccine mandates and easier access to unproven COVID-19 treatments like ivermectin.
Ivermectin is mostly used as an antiparasitic but it has gained popularity in some right-wing circles that argue evidence of its benefits in treating COVID-19 is being suppressed. Scientists are still studying the drug but, so far, the Food and Drug Administration says the drug isn’t effective at treating the coronavirus. The agency has also warned against taking ivermectin without a prescription. Major hospitals in Alaska say they are not prescribing the drug to treat COVID-19 patients.
State Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, co-hosted an Alaska Legislature listening session at the Anchorage Baptist Temple on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021. (Jeff Chen / Alaska Public Media)
Some speakers on Monday accused doctors of killing patients by denying them ivermectin. They called out doctors like Leslie Gonsette who have spoken out publicly in favor of mask mandates and against COVID misinformation.
“Dr. Gonsette and her peers not only want the right to kill their own patients, but now feel it’s their right to kill the patients of other doctors, patients who have chosen to seek out different medical advice and treatments of which is their right as a free person in our society,” said Joni Baker. “This is murder, not medicine.”
Several speakers veered into false conspiracy theories, accusing Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, of engineering the coronavirus. Some also accused the medical community of creating the vaccine as a “bioweapon” designed for population control and some compared vaccine mandates to Nazi Germany.
“Sometimes we draw parallels to what preceded the evils that happened in Nazi Germany. And people accuse us of being salacious and hyperbolic,” said Rep. Christopher Kurka, R-Wasilla, an event co-sponsor. “But when you’re dealing with extreme evil, and when you’re dealing with authoritarian tyranny, I mean, what do you compare it to?”
Several speakers tied their fight against vaccines to biblical imagery.
“Do not trust people who take Hippocratic Oath in front of double serpent,” said massage therapist Mariana Nelson. “There is something wrong about that. Look at their logos, look at their symbols, what is a symbol of a pharmaceutical company? They’re all having same agenda and they do not deserve God’s mercy.”
Some speakers also shared online groups for collecting information about vaccine side effects and websites where clients can purchase ivermectin.
Roughly 110 people attended an event at the Anchorage Baptist Temple on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021, that was sponsored by several Republican state lawmakers and billed as a listening session on COVID-19 mandates. (Jeff Chen / Alaska Public Media)
About 110 people attended the event in person. It was also streamed online on empoweringalaskans.com, a website linked to Reinbold’s office. An aide to Reinbold didn’t respond to requests about the website.
Reinbold told the crowd on Monday that she was denied use of the Legislative Information Office for the listening session and was forced to meet at Anchorage Baptist Temple. In an email, Tim Clark, an aide to Juneau Democratic Rep. Sara Hannan, chair of the Legislative Council, wrote that Reinbold’s request to use the LIO was denied because the event happened outside of normal office hours and would have required extra security.
“She was given the option of holding her meeting during regular business hours at which members of the public could testify in-person or via teleconference, but she chose not to do so,” wrote Clark.
Other sponsors of the listening session were Sen. Roger Holland, R-Anchorage, Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, Rep. George Rauscher, R-Sutton, and Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski.
Alaska Public Media’s Jeff Chen contributed reporting.
Ambulances and fire trucks are parked near the Listvyazhnaya coal mine out of the Siberian city of Kemerovo, about 1,900 miles east of Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. (Governor of Kemerovo region press office photo via AP)
Update, 11:20 a.m. Thursday: MOSCOW — Russian news agencies say a fire at a Siberian coal mine has killed 52 miners and rescuers.
Officials previously said that rescuers found 14 bodies and the search for 38 people missing was halted for safety reasons, because of a buildup of explosive methane gas and a high concentration of toxic fumes from the fire.
The state Tass and RIA-Novosti news agencies cited emergency officials as saying that there was no chance of finding any survivors.
The Interfax news agency cited a representative of the regional administration who also put the death toll from Thursday’s fire at 52.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
In this Russian Emergency Situations Ministry photo Thursday, rescuers prepare to work at a fire scene at a coal mine near the Siberian city of Kemerovo, about 1,900 miles east of Moscow, Russia. (Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations photo via AP)
MOSCOW — A fire at a Siberian coal mine on Thursday killed at least 14 miners and rescuers and authorities were forced to call off a search for 38 others who were missing and feared dead about 820 feet underground.
Rescue teams were rushed out of the mine for safety reasons because of a buildup of explosive methane gas and a high concentration of toxic fumes from the fire.
The state Tass and RIA-Novosti news agencies cited emergency officials as saying that there was no chance of finding any survivors and adding that it could take a long time to locate and recover the bodies.
Authorities said 11 miners were found dead and three rescuers also died later while searching for others trapped in a remote section of the mine. Regional officials declared three days of mourning.
Kemerovo Governor Sergei Tsivilyov said 35 miners remained missing, and their exact location was unknown. Emergency officials reported three rescuers also missing.
A total of 285 people were in the Listvyazhnaya mine in the Kemerovo region of southwestern Siberia when a fire erupted and smoke quickly filled the mine through the ventilation system. Rescuers led to the surface 239 miners, 49 of whom were injured.
Russia’s Deputy Prosecutor General Dmitry Demeshin told reporters that the fire most likely resulted from a methane explosion caused by a spark.
Explosions of methane released from coal beds during mining are rare but they cause the most fatalities in the coal mining industry.
The Interfax news agency reported that miners have oxygen supplies normally lasting for six hours that could be stretched for a few more hours but would have expired by late Thursday.
Russia’s Investigative Committee has launched a criminal probe into the fire over violations of safety regulations that led to deaths. It said the mine director and two senior managers were detained.
President Vladimir Putin extended his condolences to the families of the dead and ordered the government to offer all necessary assistance to those injured.
In 2016, 36 miners were killed in a series of methane explosions in a coal mine in Russia’s far north. In the wake of the incident, authorities analyzed the safety of the country’s 58 coal mines and declared 20 of them, or 34%, potentially unsafe.
The Listvyazhnaya mine wasn’t among them at the time, according to media reports.
Russia’s state technology and ecology watchdog, Rostekhnadzor, inspected the mine in April and registered 139 violations, including breaching fire safety regulations.
Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.
Relief, optimism and acknowledgment that work remains after jury convicts 3 men of murder in Ahmaud Arbery’s death
Wanda Cooper-Jones, mother of Ahmaud Arbery, walks to her waiting vehicle after receiving flowers, balloons and a photo of her son outside the Glynn Country Courthouse. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Joshua Lott
BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Nearly two years after Ahmaud Arbery was chased down and cornered as he jogged along a two-lane suburban street, the three White men who pursued him claiming to make a citizen’s arrest were convicted of his murder.
The convictions of the men — in a case that went more than two months without an arrest — were hailed both here and across the country as a modicum of justice for the 25-year-old Black man who once dreamed of playing professional football. To some Black Americans, that a nearly all-White jury would convict three White men who claimed self-defense in the killing of an African American person was a sign that their lives do matter.
As the verdicts were being read Wednesday, Arbery’s relatives leaped to their feet, embraced another and spoke through their tears.
“Oh my God. Thank you, Lord,” said his aunt, Ruby Arbery.
Outside the courthouse, Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, spoke of the family’s struggle to get any kind of justice. “It’s been a long fight, she said. “It’s been a hard fight. But God is good.”
It took authorities 74 days to arrest her son’s killers. Two prosecutors recused themselves, including the first to touch the case; she later was indicted on allegations she helped shield the defendants. In the end, it was a leaked cellphone video of the encounter — shot by one of the defendants — that cast the case into the national spotlight, sparking outrage and pushing the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to take over.
“Back in 2020, I never thought this day would come,” Cooper-Jones said.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represented the family, hailed the verdicts as a victory for justice.
“We all did this together,” Crump said when he emerged from the courthouse. “Black, White, activists, faith leaders, lawyers and prosecutors — we did this together, and we told America we will make us better than we saw in that video.”
But, he added, “this is not a celebration. It is a reflection to acknowledge that the spirit of Ahmaud, defeated the lynch mob.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton struck a similar tone. “Let the word go forth all over the world, that a jury of 11 Whites and one Black, stood up in the Deep South and said Black lives matter,” he said as he left the courtroom, clutching Arbery’s mother. “And almost 10 years after Trayvon [Martin] . . . we knew if we kept marching and we kept fighting, we would make you hear us. We have a lot more battles to fight, but this was an important battle today — this has proven our children know their value.”
Added Sharpton, “Brunswick, Georgia, will go down in history as the place where criminal justice took a different turn.”
Dozens of Brunswick residents rushed to the courthouse to celebrate. Many were Black fathers who brought their sons.
“We feel like justice was served, and it was a relief to know the system actually worked in this case, and they didn’t find a loophole,” said Shawn Golden, 48, who was with his 10-year-old son. “We talk about a lot of things that have been going on around the country, and being here and bringing him face-to-face to what is going on around us, this is special and something he will remember for the rest of his life.”
That relief was felt across the country, as elected officials and civil rights leaders heralded the verdict as proof that the criminal justice system could deliver for African Americans. But residents here said much more work has to be done to make their community whole. The problems and dangers facing Black people in Glynn County, Ga., remain largely the same as they were the day Arbery was murdered. So, along with the immediate sense of relief, there also was an eye toward building a better future for Black residents.
The Rev. John Perry, senior pastor at Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church, said the guilty verdicts “literally brought tears to my eyes.” He also said they had helped restore his faith in his White neighbors.
“Our system isn’t perfect. It’s in need of a lot of tweaking, but this proves it’s not totally broken,” said Perry, a former president of the Brunswick NAACP.
“We were shaken by only having one Black juror,” Perry said. “But this particular case showed that there’s an awakening in the consciousness even of our White community and that they want to see justice despite skin color.”
The Rev. William J. Barber II, a civil rights activist, told CNN that it was “a good and powerful day,” but also a complicated one.
“It’s a sad and ridiculous day that we even had to have a trial like this, that a person would be shot down in this way, that a life would be wasted in this way, that Ahmaud can’t be with his family,” Barber said. “It’s a sad day that we had to hear the mother, even today, say ‘I never thought this day would come,’ that she didn’t even think justice was possible.”
And like many African Americans around the country, Barber was left wondering what would have happened if Arbery’s murder hadn’t been captured on video.
“It’s a complicated day because we have to ask questions like, ‘What if the killers had not taken video of themselves,’” Barber said. “We look around America, and the cases that are often successful, George Floyd and this case, are all cases where there’s been video. What if there wasn’t video?”
Wanda Cooper-Jones (Ahmaud Arbery's mother), Rev. Al Sharpton, center, Marcus Arbery Sr. and attorney Ben Crump , right, pray outside the Glynn County Courthouse on Wednesday. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Joshua Lott
Eric Terrell, a veteran civil rights activist and vice president of the National Action Network, said the verdicts will only help Black Americans feel somewhat better about the fairness of the justice system. He said the country still has a lot of work to do to undo ingrained racism within police departments.
“People still feel like they cannot trust our law enforcement, and what we need most of all is to be able to trust them,” Terrell said. “With this state of mistrust, it will still bring nothing but anger.”
Terrell cautioned that the outcome of this trial is only a partial victory because many Black Americans still worry the country is creeping back to its more openly racist past. Terrell, 63, has been participating in civil rights demonstrations since the 1970s. He said that since Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, there has been widespread belief in the Black community that civil rights “are going backward, instead of forward.”
Brunswick resident Shemeka Frazier Sorrells, 41, said her community still has a long way to go.
“There’s a sense from some people that the community is fine, that we’re unified and that this particular act was an anomaly,” said Sorrells, a founding member of a nonprofit called A Better Glynn County. “I don’t believe that to be the case. It was homegrown racism, and that same racism is evident in the problems we have here with poverty, housing, employment, wages, all of those things.”
Sorrells said that the societal problems that led to Arbery’s murder are deep-rooted and that it’s going to take more than these verdicts to end them.
“From an early age, I can recall hearing my family, grandparents, mother, father, cousins, aunts, uncles, say, ‘We don’t go to the other side of town because they’re not welcome there,” she said. “My husband and I have a home here in a historic district downtown, and I still hear Black people say, ‘Oh, they don’t want us there. That sentiment is still in the air, there’s still a divide.”
The Rev. DeWayne Cope of Saint Athanasius Episcopal Church in Brunswick said the Arbery case has made him and other Black parents more aware of the threats their own children face.
“I have a 16-year-old son, so I do have concerns about where I live, and trying to raise him, and graduate from high school and go on and do great things in life,” Cope said.
Those concerns will persist, even after the verdict he said, including his belief that people in Georgia are now “a little bit more open with their true feelings” compared with when he grew up four decades ago.
“Now, they don’t mind sharing exactly how they feel if they don’t like you,” Cope said. “They will just say, ‘I don’t like you because you are Black.’ Or, ‘I don’t like you because of what you stand for’ or ‘I don’t like you because of what you support,’ and people are just more open in how they voice their true feelings.”
Still, Cope is optimistic that, at least in Glynn County, he has witnessed a diverse, multiracial coalition of faith leaders, business owners, activists and neighborhood leaders work together to try to bring the issue of race and injustice to the forefront of local politics and community discussion.
“This [trial] is a small step, but what I have seen is the work that at least they are attempting to do says that they recognize that everything is not right in this county, let alone the world, but they are willing to at least have a conversation.
“And the conversation doesn’t mean that things change overnight, but at least they are willing to come to the table and say these are things that we know are wrong,” Cope continued. “And enough people, White and Black, are saying, ‘These are things we can do.’ And if it takes this moment to be the spark for us to try to make a shift, no matter how small it may be, I think it’s worth us being in conversation.”
A lot has changed here since Ahmaud Arbery was murdered. The chief of police has been removed, there are new county commissioners, and voters installed a new district attorney. State lawmakers overhauled a slavery-era citizen’s arrest law after Arbery’s slaying. But Perry hopes calls for further reform don’t disappear after these verdicts.
“St. Simons Island, one of the richest communities in America, is literally about a seven- minute drive from the city of Brunswick that was listed two years ago as being the poorest city in the state of Georgia,” Perry said. “That’s a great contradiction and we’ve got to figure out how we improve equality of opportunity in this county.”
For Sorrells, addressing that contradiction is what Arbery and Brunswick’s Black community deserve.
‘True justice would have been that he would be alive here with us,” she said. “He’d be with his family, that he could run on any street without anyone questioning his place there. And so I see this as the punishment fitting the crime, not necessarily justice. We have to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.”
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The Washington Post’s Hannah Knowles contributed to this report from Washington.
FILE - Women demonstrate against violence against women, Nov. 20, 2021 in Paris. French Junior Interior Minister Marlene Schiappa said France must further help women victims of violence to report abuses to the police, including via a new process to file a complaint at a friend’s home or in a place where they feel safe. (AP Photo/Adrienne Surprenant, File) (Adrienne Surprenant/)
PARIS — France is launching a new process for women to formally report domestic violence and sexual and other abuse, circumventing police stations where many victims feel uncomfortable filing such complaints.
The measure comes after tens of thousands of women in France shared testimonies online about police victim-blaming them or mishandling complaints as they reported sexual abuse. The government has also come under pressure in recent years to better protect women from deadly domestic violence.
Junior Interior Minister Marlene Schiappa said alternative locations for filing police complaints can include a friend’s home or some other place where abused women feel safe.
“There are women who tell us that they don’t dare to come to a police station because they are afraid of not being welcomed, because it’s hard to talk about things that are taboo (with) an unknown person in uniform in a foreign environment,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press. “That’s why we are lifting one after the other, the obstacles they are facing.”
An annual survey led by national statistics institute INSEE found that only 10% of victims of sexual abuse in France file a formal complaint.
And police this week reported a 10% increase in reports of domestic violence last year. It is estimated that more than 200,000 women each year are physically or sexually abused by their partner or ex-partner, according to INSEE.
The latest government initiative will try sending police officers where women have found shelter so that they can file formal complaints. This will allow victims to stay “in an environment where you feel safe, at a friend’s house, at your lawyer’s house, at the hospital, at your doctor’s house,” Schiappa said.
This comes in addition to other efforts made in recent years, including training more police officers, creating a list of questions asked to assess danger, and the possibility to alert police by text message or an internet platform, she added.
The junior minister is in charge of supervising relations between police and female victims of violence. On Tuesday, she visited a renovated police station in Paris’ 13th arrondissement, now including an office providing privacy for those filing complaints, and a room dedicated to children, with toys and books.
The visit was part of other events this week aimed at marking Thursday’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
European lawmakers called Thursday for binding rules across the 27-nation EU to better protect women, noting that one in three women in the bloc experiences sexual or other physical violence in her lifetime, and that half of women murdered in the EU are killed by someone close to them.
In France, the new process of filing complaints is being rolled out in select regions around the country for now with the aim to make it nationwide.
The measure comes after a viral campaign on French social media denounced the shocking response of some police officers as they reported sexual abuse. The hashtag #DoublePeine (#DoubleSentencing) rapidly counted at least 30,000 accounts of alleged mistreatment by police, according to activists.
“I want to value and support the action of the police forces ... and to remind everyone once again that in the vast majority of cases, complaints are handled with a lot of empathy, a lot of support,” Schiappa said. “But for the minority of cases in which it goes badly, it is obviously inadmissible.”
The Interior Ministry in recent months sent instructions to police about the legal obligation to accept all complaints, following accounts by women saying they had been discouraged by officers from reporting abuse — sometimes with the argument of insufficient evidence.
“Refusing to receive a complaint is illegal,” Schiappa said. “We want the complaints to be forwarded to the public prosecutor’s office so that the justice system can take it over.”
Axelle Garnier de Saint Sauveur, a psychologist working with Paris police to help take care of victims and train officers, said there are a series of obstacles to women reporting abuse.
When their partner has a hold on them, it “blocks everything. It prevents (them) from going towards protection, file a complaint,” she said. “You also have the fact that traumatic situations completely hinder the victim’s ability to think.”
Another reason is that “there is surely a part of fear, of ignorance about what to do when you are abused. How are you going to be treated” when filing a complaint.
“That is scary (for the victim) to think: ‘I’m not going to be heard, I’m not going to be welcome’. And then there is the obstacle to overcome: enter a police station.”
On Saturday, tens of thousands of people marched through Paris and other cities to demand more government action on the issue. “We recalled that violence is everywhere. That it is not unavoidable,” women’s right group NousToutes tweeted.
Activists want the government to dedicate 1 billion euros each year to fight violence against women, instead of the 360 million spent now — in part to create more shelters.
After agency lowers Anchorage’s credit rating, Mayor Bronson demands Assembly rein in spending and Assembly demands answers from Bronson
Downtown Anchorage, photographed on Friday, March 26, 2021. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)
A major credit rating agency has slightly downgraded the Municipality of Anchorage’s bond ratings, citing the financial impacts of the pandemic, the 2018 earthquake, declining population, climate change and state fiscal policy. The slide from AAA status to AA+ has the potential to affect the interest rate at which the municipality can borrow money for major capital programs like school, road and park projects.
After the report was released, several Anchorage Assembly members, including Chair Suzanne LaFrance, and members of former city administrations, questioned whether Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration accurately depicted the city’s financial situation and options during its presentation to credit rating agencies.
In a written statement sent to news media on Tuesday, the administration pointed to the credit downgrade and negative outlook as evidence of overspending in the city’s recent budgets.
“The outlook on all ratings is negative,” stated a report from S&P Global Ratings sent out with the statement.
“These ratings are critical as we determine what the budget will look like in the upcoming fiscal year,” Bronson said at Tuesday’s Assembly meeting. “Based on this new information, I will have to consider, based on Assembly spending, a bond holiday. We cannot keep spending more than we have. We cannot do things that will harm our children and our grandchildren’s ability to live and work in the city. We have to set up our great city with a successful foundation in order to build and grow. We, as elected officials, have a responsibility to start making sound financial decisions. We must make responsible spending decisions to stay below the tax cap.”
LaFrance asked that the administration present to the Assembly and to the public exactly what it presented to the credit rating agencies, and said she had “some real challenges with the information presented in the administration’s press release.”
“Depending on how information is delivered to the agencies, that can influence how they make their decisions. For instance, in the S&P documents, it’s noted that oil prices have recovered and the bed taxes haven’t. From our Budget and Finance meeting with the administration last week, we know that’s not true. If that wasn’t communicated to the rating agencies, then that’s a huge problem,” LaFrance said.
In the mayor’s opening remarks during Tuesday’s meeting, Bronson criticized the Assembly’s spending and called for a “bond holiday.”
The administration’s statement also pointed to a “negative $40 million year-end 2020 fund balance for the Municipality.” The accounting behind that figure does not appear in the credit agency reports.
LaFrance argued that the city doesn’t have a deficit and that it accessed its fund balance to protect the community from a “once-in-a-century global pandemic.”
The S&P report cites the recent disasters in Anchorage as contributing to the city’s financial prospects.
“Capital expenditures from the 2018 earthquake, revenue declines from COVID-19 and the cost and labor shortages associated with construction in Alaska, and delayed Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reimbursements have forced the municipality to draw down its reserves,” the S&P report said.
“We believe that economic conditions are slightly improving, particularly tourism when compared with 2020, despite longstanding population and job loss trends, and that a good management team is making efforts to address these challenges,” the report says. “However, given the substantial challenges facing the municipality’s available reserves in the short term, we are lowering the rating and changing the outlook simultaneously.”
Positive and negative changes in credit ratings are often bandied as a political cudgel in city politics, held up as evidence that policies either are or are not working. Tuesday’s reports were sent out by the Bronson administration just hours before the Assembly took up amendments on the mayor’s proposed budget, which sought spending reductions by eliminating positions and programming. The Assembly made multiple changes to the budget, restoring funding to many city programs that Bronson had proposed cutting.
Former Acting Mayor and current Assembly member Austin Quinn-Davidson said that the city expects to recover much of the funds spent on the earthquake and pandemic through federal disaster assistance from FEMA and that she is puzzled by the city’s rating downgrade.
In May, during her tenure as acting mayor, she and her then-Chief of Staff Jason Bockenstedt met with the agencies and received “stellar reviews,” she said.
“There’s absolutely no reason that this rating would change in the course of a few months,” Quinn-Davidson said. “I mean, there’s just no reason — the facts haven’t changed.”
The main reason for S&P’s downgrade, according to the report, is that the dual emergencies of the 2018 earthquake and economic fallout from the pandemic contributed to the municipality spending down its cash reserves to below the 10% of expenditures typically retained by AAA-rated entities.
If the municipality can’t replenish the fund balance to levels it maintained in recent years, along with an additional 2% to 3% reserved for emergencies, the outlook could worsen.
Municipal Manager Amy Demboski during Tuesday’s meeting told Assembly members that one of the agencies “made it very clear that if the municipality continues to spend in the manner in which it’s been spending for the past few years, they could further downgrade our bond rating next year,” although she did not say which agency.
“One of the ratings agencies kept us stable. Another agency noted we blew through our savings,” said Bill Falsey, who served as municipal manager in the Berkowitz administration and was recently hired to work as outside counsel to the Assembly. Falsey also ran unsuccessfully for mayor earlier this year in the election that Bronson ultimately won.
“It makes me wonder what information was conveyed to them, because the municipality certainly has a lot of options to restore these emergency funds,” Falsey said.
He noted that Anchorage, like many other cities and municipalities around the country, is still waiting for reimbursements from FEMA for costs incurred during the pandemic, for functions like running a temporary emergency shelter out of Sullivan Arena and standing up testing and vaccination clinics. That money, which is expected to flow eventually from the federal government, would replenish some of the reserve funds. Falsey said the mayor’s words seemed to emphasize the modest rating downgrade and gloss over that much of the S&P report noted the city’s fiscal fundamentals are generally strong.
“What’s getting lost in the press release is if you removed the earthquake and COVID, everything is fine,” Falsey said. “It seems like a strong emphasis on a pretty transient situation that isn’t the result of irresponsible spending decisions.”
Anchorage lost revenues during the pandemic that would typically be collected from hotel taxes and tourism. Local construction projects have been stymied by labor constraints and supply chain issues that have slowed planned building.
Another factor contributing to a negative outlook is population decline: The report notes that between 2013 and 2020, the city’s population dropped by 13,000 residents.
“We consider the municipality’s environmental risks higher than the sector standard given Anchorage’s history with earthquakes and changing weather,” the report says.
Also affecting the local budget are decisions made by the Legislature. Anchorage, like other communities across Alaska, has had to spend more since the state reduced its school bond debt reimbursement program. In 2021, that left a $20.4 million gap the city closed by increasing property taxes.
The S&P report notes that most of the municipality’s revenues, around 70%, come from property taxes, which have so far remained stable in spite of population loss and statewide recession. The agency pointed out that the city also grew its MOA Trust Fund, adding $220 million from the sale of its electric utility. Under the city’s charter, that fund can spin off up to 5% in transfers to the general fund, unless more transfers are approved by voters.
“At this time, Anchorage officials do not plan on advocating for any changes to the formula,” the report says. “The Anchorage Municipal Code describes how the trust fund is managed and the Assembly can make changes at any time.”
Bockenstedt, who also served as chief of staff under former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, said when he worked with the city, officials would meet with credit rating agencies for two hours and give a detailed presentation, with 40 to 50 slides.
“Without seeing that presentation, it’s kind of hard for me to put my finger on some of the things that ended up in the S&P document,” Bockenstedt said.
LaFrance said the Assembly worked with the previous administration to diversify its revenue so it relies less on state and federal money, strengthening Anchorage’s bond rating through the city’s electric utility sale, its 10 cent-per-gallon motor fuel tax and the city’s alcohol tax.
Some of the delays in FEMA reimbursements, Bockenstedt said, are because projects have to be fully completed before the federal government will send the money to local governments. Repairs to earthquake-damaged facilities are still ongoing. Likewise, across the country, municipalities are grappling with how to handle sprawling reimbursement procedures with FEMA to cover COVID-19 expenses.
“Every city in the country is dealing with this,” Bockenstedt said.