Home Politics Community Politics Live. Work. Play. Lose.

Live. Work. Play. Lose.


Remember this couple of minutes of awesome?

Brian Dollarhide’s “Stuff” video was the winner of a contest put on by the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, in partnership with the group’s advertisement campaign: “Live. Work. Play.”
As the AEDC explained it:

In 2008, the available workforce in Anchorage was tight. Many of our investors were finding it difficult to hire skilled, qualified and experienced workers in the city. Because of this, many businesses were looking outside of Anchorage to hire young professionals in the lower 48 and bring them up to Alaska.  The challenge for these businesses was dispelling the myth of Alaska as being only cold and dark.

And thus an ad campaign was born, and a goal was articulated: AEDC’s president and CEO Bill Popp declared that by 2025, Anchorage would be “the #1 city in America to Live. Work. and Play.”
2011 brought us the first report, and first optimistic rankings among US cities.
Live: #10. Work: #1. Play: #9.
On January 30 of this year, the AEDC hosted their annual Economic Forecast Luncheon and revealed our progress. Live: #8. Work: #3. Play: #11.
We slipped in two out of the three categories.
Anchorage, by AEDC’s metrics, is becoming less desirable. Popp opined about the cause of the decline: “I think any number of the business people can tell the personal stories of how difficult it is to find qualified workers to fill the jobs that they have available right now and in the future.”
Richard Florida was the keynote speaker at the annual AEDC luncheon. An urban theorist and national best selling author, Florida has dedicated his life to understanding what makes cities great. And, from Abu Dhabi to Anchorage, he’s recognized certain steps or missteps that translate directly to the fate of any given locale.
When the AEDC picked the “Live. Work. Play.” moniker, he took notice.

Live, work, and play. That’s been the mantra of my work for more than a decade…. In economic development, we think about keeping our business climate strong; making sure companies have the right set of incentives; making sure our real estate prices are in order; making sure our business environment is competitive. But what we’ve learned over the past couple of decades is even if you do all of those things right, you can still fall behind if you don’t have the kind of community that people want to live in.

Florida made no qualms about how the uniqueness of our geography served as a barrier towards the AEDC’s goal. He called us a community of flux – a new evolution of American society that departs from the structural solidity in cosmopolitan staples such as New York and Pittsburgh and Boston; cities with centuries of infrastructure, history, and rooted ancestry. We don’t even have consistent bus schedules. Our circles of friends change with the prime time lineup on television.
The “work” part of the “Live. Work. Play.” dynamic is our bedrock; what the municipality does best. How we become the best city in America is weighted heavily on our retention of high quality workers and the jobs available to them. Flipping burgers does not grant a city a workforce rated between #1 and #3 in the country.
Those not-McJobs illustrate one of Florida’s key findings about what makes a city work:

You’ve got to have good basic services. If your roads are terrible, if your infrastructure doesn’t work, if the lights go out and flicker all the time, if your schools are bad, if people don’t feel safe and secure on the streets, if there’s a crime ridden place, you can’t go anywhere.

After giving a brief presentation on his Education Summit, Mayor Dan Sullivan listened as Bill Popp delivered the economic forecast. He saw our rankings slipping under his tenure. He shared the stage with Richard Florida and presumably sat in the audience during the keynote speech.
The message of the night was fairly clear: Don’t piss off your workers. Those workers can take their ball home, somewhere else and to our collective detriment.
Mayor Sullivan managed to take that message and ignore it entirely. Two weeks later, he insulted our city workers with Ordinance 37.
Under the mayor’s proposal, disagreements between the administration and labor require unions to pay half of the costs of mediation. The added financial burden is combined with a new provision that avoids arbitration by awarding the final say in contract disputes to the Assembly, who would be vested with a brand new power to “impose the last best offer of one of the parties.”
Upon any contract deliberations, if the administration decides not to budge, it simply has to dig in its heels and continue not to budge until it’s gone through the mediation process (which labor now has to pay for) and has arrived back in the chambers of the Loussac. Once back before the body, the administration’s original offer can be chosen. As long as the administration holds the majority of votes on the body, negotiations can take place, at expense to the union, without any negotiating on the part of the municipality.
And, just in case the labor unions getting hosed in the process object to the process, the bill includes a ban on strikes, work stoppages, and slowdowns without exception.
Work. Live. Play. But don’t expect much, especially not a say in the matter.
We provide opportunity for Americans coming from states who tax them out of their shoes or frack them out of their drinking water. So long as they’re willing to work hard, we call them neighbor. Union households call them family. That’s what we do. That’s who we are.
Anchorage has a strong workforce supported by the jobs we secure for them. That workforce secures us a safe place to live our lives; raise a family. And the formula works. The AEDC found that Anchorage has the highest household income among cities. We’re ranked third in per capita personal income. And we are the least taxed city (as a percentage of income) in the United States.
We pay a very little amount to make sure we don’t have to pay an immeasurable lot when a big storm hits or your house catches fire.
The cornerstone of Richard Florida’s work suggests that “flux” cities depend on talent recruitment and thrive on talent retention.
James Dokken is one of hundreds who have spoken out against Ordinance 37. Monday night very likely will be the last opportunity to do so. Dokken spoke about what Ordinance 37 means to that retention rate; to this community that has prospered so much from the mere presence of people like him:

I came to Anchorage as an infantrymen in the Army in 2003. My plan was to get some experience in the army and then become a peace officer in my home state of Washington. However, after spending several years in this community and coming to know it better, I decided to apply for the Anchorage Police Department, and was fortunate enough to make it through the application process….
My daily contact with firefighters, EMS, and other servants… revealed a mirror image of my department’s goal to make this city the best place in this country to live and work. I wear this pin on my lapel to signify the pride I am filled with to serve the people of this great city for five years. I am filled with sadness and frustration that the proposed law changes which will force my family and me to leave public service in this city. If I were to weather the pay and benefit cuts that my union representatives have advised me that this ordinance would impose on my family, I would not be able to maintain my current living arrangements. Also, as I have read myself, it would not stop there….
I think maybe the reason you would consider these drastic changes is because you haven’t had the unfortunate pleasure of experiencing the emergency services this city has to offer. Maybe you haven’t experienced the compassion these people show above and beyond the task they are given of keeping you safe, treating your wound, and saving your home. But then I remember all of the services this city provides so well other than that. Power outages are few and well contained even in the harshest of storms. Last year, our employees removed enough snow from Anchorage roads to fill five acres of property several hundred feet high in an all time record snowfall. I’m in this city every week. I see the work your employees provide and am constantly amazed at the level of service they don’t have to give but do. You will lose these people if you pass this ordinance….
If these changes are passed, I will take what little I have in my 401k, my training, my experience, and my skills to another state.

Live. Work. Play. And do it better than any other state by 2025.
Under AO37, I ask: How?


  1. AEDC is nothing more than a not very elaborate hustle. As are most ‘economic development’ organizations. Staffed by career grifters, living off a mix of private and public funds, who in their spare time support the failed policies that run counter to the supposed aims of AEDC. The public pose doesn’t match up with the actions of the principle players. AEDC, first and foremost, can be expected to protect the interests of it’s ‘investors’.
    That list of investors will give you a good idea of the actual paramount interests of AEDC. I’ll give you a hint, collectively, despite the face they paint through their public relations filter, their best interests are not representative of what’s actually going to be best for Anchorage or its residents.
    Corporate interests will prevail and to imagine otherwise, to buy into the posturing and buy into the public relations campaign, is to sit idly by while the grifters and hustlers play you for a fool.
    AEDC will hold their gala events, they’ll bring in celebrities and token keynote speakers to extoll virtues they do not possess, ….behind the scenes, they’re working to protect other interests, the public image, the public front is there to distract and deceive.
    If the corporatists can convince you they are only looking out for your best interests, their work is complete.

    • Curt, whatever the motivations of the AEDC, good PR can be really helpful for attracting people to a city. People aren’t necessarily going to be able to separate the messaging of the AEDC from the mayor. I didn’t get the sense that Aronno was putting the organization on a pedestal.

      • What would you rather have, Erin, actual good news or manufactured public relation type ‘good news’ ? Would you propose to choose putting up a good front, the creation of a mere posture, over the evolution of actual events and circumstance?
        As far as AEDC and what they wish to attract, it’s not ‘people’ they’re trying to attract, the last time I looked they were serenading the petrochemical industry trying to get them to move up here and make a good part of Alaska resemble Houston Texas. Chemical laden smog anyone?
        There’s your good public relations, AEDC is telling the petrochemical industry that it’s the wish of every day Alaskans that they bring their polluting industry to the area. Telling them we’d love to have them here, telling them that we’d probably even carve out some tax breaks and subsidies so they could operate here in Alaska as cost free as the multinational oil corporations do.
        You’re up for that Erin? Is that the ‘PR’ you’re endorsing? That’s just one example of what AEDC is up to that they aren’t spending any time telling you about, it’s not the only surprise they would like to spring on Alaska. Who do you think is throwing out the welcome mat to unsustainable, extractive and exploitive industry? That’s your AEDC.
        I’d rather that people hear the news that as Alaskans we are actually responsible and that we practice good stewardship of our resources, that we provide living wages in jobs that are constructive and sustainable, instead of unsustainable, polluting and exploitive booms and busts, that way maybe we’d attract actual constructive, productive responsible citizens instead of devil may care boomers hoping only to cash in on the spoils of irresponsible resource exploitation.
        Check the names and the ‘investors’ at AEDC, Erin, you’ll see that same revolving door spinning from public sector to private corporations, it’s the same players and you shouldn’t be surprised to know that the support for Sullivan and his policies comes directly from the same people cranking out their public relations. Public relations is built on deception and deceit. Don’t be so naive as to think there is ‘good pr’, it’s a conflict of terms, an oxymoron. Deception and deceit are never good.

        • Curt, you obviously have more experience with the AEDC than I do, so I’ll cede to your judgment on that. I’m not naive, but PR does have a place in attracting workers and visitors to a city. However, the messages being advertised by the AEDC or any other tourism firm don’t do anyone any good when there is clearly nothing to back up the pretty picture that’s being painted. Especially with a mayoral administration that seems to be doing its damnedest to alienate a good chunk of the population. We’re in agreement there.

          • If you confuse ‘pr’ with actual news or with actual facts, you will be making the mistake that the public relations people want you to make. They want you to believe their fictions are actual facts or that their fictions can stand in for actual facts. Actual fact is not ‘pr’. ‘PR’ is fiction.
            Public relations work is all about taking fictions, restructuring those fictions, reframing them so as at make them seem credible or believable. Public relations managers want you to believe their fictions are not fictional and that those fictions can take the place of fact.
            That the resulting public relations messages are not actually credible or believable is the crux of the art of public relations management. Making those messages ‘seem’ credible is the aim of public relations. Making people believe the fiction is the aim of public relations. It’s textbook marketing, it’s written clearly into the business plan for any public relations firm.
            Putting lipstick on the pig is the job of the public relations managers. If the pig didn’t need lipstick, there wouldn’t be a need for public relations management or their fictions. If workers and visitors are attracted by public relations fictions, they are going to be disappointed with the reality. Actual facts and actual news is what we ought to rely on to attract both workers and visitors. Then neither side of the equation would be working from false pretenses.
            Public relations management of fictions has no place in a reality based society. The aim of a reality based society should be to stop lending any credibility to fiction and fantasy. A reality based society has no use of an industry built to promote unreality. It wouldn’t be logical.
            Those pr managers should be deprogrammed, rather than apply themselves to fooling their neighbors, they could be given a new focus, they could learn to apply themselves constructively in order that they actually contribute to society rather than what they do now, which is to attempt to put one over on society. In today’s society, public relations managers are rewarded for how well they can fool the general population. Why would you want to endorse or lend credibility to that kind of crime against society?
            Not long ago, public relations managers convinced most of a nation to support an illegal act of war and they convinced those people merely by selling them a fiction.
            Public relations is a scam, it was invented and designed to be a scam, it’s techniques have been honed and refined, ….some people have actually attempted to lend public relations management some legitimacy. It has no legitimate purpose, it’s a scam, it’s nothing more or less than a criminal fraud enterprise.
            It should never be lent any credit, it ought, instead, be thoroughly prosecuted as the crime against society that it is.

          • Did anyone think to question AEDC’s premise which spawned the ad campaign? What’s really behind the origination of the Madison Avenue jingle, Live, Work, Play?
            Bill Popp asserts that his ‘investors’ came to him one day with a story. Can you take that ‘story’ at face value? Or were those ‘investors’ working off of another less obvious motive?
            When those ‘investors’, (actually multinational corporations), ..when those corporations say they ‘were finding it difficult to hire skilled, qualified and experienced workers’, was that the fault of Anchorage or did those corporations do poorly attracting workers for unrelated reasons, such as not treating their workers as well as they once did, cutting hours, cutting benefits, demanding more productivity without increased compensation? We do know that is an actuality, an actuality which is ignored in this public relations fiction presented by AEDC on behalf of its corporate handlers.
            Would the corporations like to increase the unemployed labor pool to give them more leeway and a hedge against shortages of labor when it comes time for labor negotiations? Well sure they would.
            Do the corporations care what impact increasing the unemployed labor pool has on the community’s ability to absorb the extra pressures of that larger pool of unemployed laborers? They never have been shown to harbor any type of that kind of concern.
            Think about the ‘message’ these criminals are promoting on behalf of their corporate masters, let me quote them, “In economic development, we think about keeping our business climate strong; making sure companies have the right set of incentives; making sure our real estate prices are in order; making sure our business environment is competitive. But what we’ve learned over the past couple of decades is even if you do all of those things right, you can still fall behind if you don’t have the kind of community that people want to live in.”
            Hear the spin? Hear the traditional conservative talking points?
            ‘Economic development’ = corporate exploitation
            ‘Keeping business climate strong’ = corporate tax breaks and subsidies
            ‘Controlling real estate prices’ = rigging the market, creating zoning incursions, etc
            ‘Making sure our business environment is competitive’ = deregulation and cutting oversight
            And that final thought they implant in your head? Having the ‘right’ kind of community that people want to live in. In other words, pony up and improve the infrastructure on your dime because the corporations aren’t about to contribute to the level they believe they need to retain the kind of excess unemployed labor they wish to be able to choose from.
            Tell me again why this is being promoted here? What is it that’s supposed to be attractive about AEDC’s campaign to pull off this hustle?
            Is critical evaluation to be ignored? Is objective reality to be dismissed? People ought to be telling these grifters to pack up their scams and run them out of the country. They don’t have your best interests in mind, so why even give a thought to getting on board with their scams?

  2. I would be pissed if I moved up to Anchorage to work with one of these unions and then discover what a hostile environment the mayor is trying to create for union workers. What’s his problem?

    • Well, then you’d be pissed to hear the public relations lie and find that the reality doesn’t match the PR.
      Sullivan doesn’t see any problem, his supporters only see the upside of being able to maximize their profits through minimizing labor costs. His supporters are the same ‘investors’ supporting AEDC cranking out their ‘good pr’. Win win for the corporatists.
      You can’t ‘separate’ AEDC from Sullivan’s generating of anti-labor policies, they are mutually supportive entities. The corporations, the Chamber of Commerce, the lobbyists, the self serving public sector politician, ….it’s all one big happy family.
      And your best interests, Erin, and those of your neighbors, your best interests don’t figure into the bottom line.