Category Archives: redlining

denigration gap

Late last night an Anchorage police officer was shot five times while sitting in his cruiser on Medfra St. just north of 15th Ave., while filling out paperwork after an interview.  The case is mysterious, lacking an apparent motive and naturally has generated a lot of anxiety, speculation and strongly worded opinions.  I’m reluctant to consider comments on ADN‘s web site as reflective of mainstream community opinion, but one in particular is sticking with me [emphasis mine]:

jfries wrote on 01/09/2010 09:58:04 AM:

I firmly believe that Anchorage has some of the best police officers. Would very many among us want to respond to a call for help in that area at 2 a.m.? These officers serve with strength, respect, and dignity. Thoughts and prayers for the full recovery of this officer and to comfort his family and friends. I was touched by the following quote on the National Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial:
‘The policeman is a peace time soldier always at war. It is not how these officers died that made them heroes. It is how they lived.’

This post was the eighth most recommended [29 recommendations] out of 179 posts, before it was replaced late tonight by a newer version of the story [by the same reporter].

I would love it if whoever wrote this would discard their cloak of pseudonymity and expound on their negative opinion of Fairview a little bit.  Do they really have sheets of statistics that prove that Fairview’s a more dangerous place than the rest of Anchorage and Southcentral Alaska?  I’d like to see the documenation!

West Downtown, Inlet View and South Addition, immediately adjacent to Fairview are today generally considered “safe” areas, where Fairview is not, because they began to be populated with people of wealth and influence [or, what passes for same in Anchorage] who pinched their buddies on the Assembly and in City Hall to eliminate liquor stores in their neighborhoods.  This action did not eliminate the number of liquor stores in the city — the number of which is based on population — it simply pushed the stores to the boundary of the “safe” area, where they accumulated by the half-dozen along Spenard Rd., and Gambell St. in Fairview. 

That action [artificially] contributes to the urban legend that Spenard, Fairview and Mt. View are unsafe areas — becaue they are plagued by a bunch of drunks staggering in the streets and sidewalks, compared to the nearby “safe” area.  However,  the occurance of violent crime [such as the shooting of Officer Allen] is consistently random in the city at large, not confined to any one neighborhood.

I’m not trying to defend anyone who committed the crime  — they should be locked up — but the denigration of the neighborhood per se has to stop.  I’m not sure if jfries has much experience with Fairview, or has lived there or not?  That part of Medfra St., with well-maintained 1940s-50s era houses does not appear very much like a community that engeneders or tolerates random violent crime.  I have passed through there, between 15th and 5th innumerable times since the early ’80s.  I ride a bike through Fairview practically every work day.  I’d ride through there at 2 AM without a second thought.

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blacklisted again!

I caught a cab home from the airport yesterday morning. Interesting conversation with the driver. When she found out we were going to Mt View, she told me a long story about her boss laying out the ground rules, a few years back at the beginning of her employment. He said, as a female she was allowed to drop people off in Mt View but not pick up; and that she was not to go there after dark under any circumstances. This was because, sometime back in the ’70s or ’80s a couple teenagers robbed and killed a cab driver. [I vaguely remember the news of the murder but can’t recall if it had anything to do with Mt View.]
As we crossed midtown I gave her my stump speech about Mt View and a summary of all my experiences getting to know other residents and activists over the last nine years. “It’s too bad,” I said. “I know your boss had nothing but good intentions, to keep you out of harm’s way and all. But why should a reputation of a place have to suffer? Why not blame the criminals and not the neighborhood?”
It’s a continual problem for us, and we have talked about it at length, until we burned out and became more ambivalent. A lot of people, particularly conservaties believe that a culture exists in Mt View that has a high tolerance for crime; and that any investment or attempts to forge improvements are folly at best. I guess I don’t see that. As a city, Anchorage would be a lot better off to take the position that all of its neighborhoods have intrinsic value and are worth all the effort we can muster to ensure peace and tranquility. We know what needs to be done. We just have to generate the interest and willingness to try. A big part of this is convincing the cab driver’s boss and other well-meaning people.
The cabbie was bringing me home from 10 days in Seattle. I spent a fair amount of time in the Rainier Valley district. In the 1980s a drive up the length of Rainier Ave. was somewhat fearful, as if you didn’t want to linger. It’s a lot different today. I saw dozens of 100 year old houses under renovation, a lot of new investment on the commercial strip and a lot less obvious intractable poverty. Also saw former retail and warehouse buildings adapted to new uses. This and other parts of Seattle are in much better shape than they used to be, and are offering a chance for first time home buyers to get a stake in the area, even as they are priced out of other parts of the city. As in Mt View, houses in the Rainier Valley, and Delridge, White Center and other places in South Seattle sell for a fraction of other neighborhoods within the city limits.
Seattle decided these places matter, when there was a danger of them becoming real ghettos, as exist in the rust belt of the midwest — places such as East St. Louis, Detroit and Chicago.