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Anchorage abandons proposal to cut city flower program

November 22, 2018

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Anchorage officials abandoned proposed budget cuts to the city flower and horticulture program after residents showed strong opposition to the idea.

Assemblyman John Weddleton had suggested cutting the entire $1.7 million horticultural budget to shift that money toward efforts to clear out illegal homeless camps and move people into emergency shelters, the Anchorage Daily News reported .

Weddleton changed course Tuesday, saying more than 400 emails had been sent since last week in support of downtown flowers and public greenhouses.

“People made really clear, you don’t want to cut everything that makes people happy about Anchorage,” Weddleton said. “And the flowers are awesome — I’m good with that.”

Opponents of the cuts had appeared at the Assembly meeting, clutching roses and carnations. Pots of poinsettias and lilies were placed near the Assembly table.

Sandy Potvin, the city’s horticulture supervisor, said the proposed action would destroy the city’s decades-old public greenhouses.

The Assembly passed the $525 million operating budget Tuesday, withdrawing or rejecting all proposed cuts. The budget includes $800,000 that could be directed for illegal camp cleanups and other services.

Residents have been pressuring city officials to take more action on camps, which neighbors claim have become more extensive and unsafe.

Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s administration said it found ways to pay for more homeless services, including from a potentially larger Permanent Fund dividend next year.

The administration is planning for a higher dividend of $2,500 following the election of Mike Dunleavy as governor, said Lance Wilber, the city’s budget director. Dunleavy had pledged to restore cuts to the dividend.

The city expects to collect more revenue from garnishments, such as unpaid traffic tickets, as a result of the higher dividend. The city is also expecting more revenue next year from bed taxes.

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Information from: Anchorage Daily News, http://www.adn.com

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