Anchorage Assembly's new meeting broadcast system cuts off internet attendees in more ways than one - Must Read Alaska
Connect with:
Sunday, December 6, 2020
HomePoliticsAnchorage Assembly’s new meeting broadcast system cuts off internet attendees in more ways than one

Anchorage Assembly’s new meeting broadcast system cuts off internet attendees in more ways than one

THOSE WAITING TO TESTIFY BY PHONE ARE NOT BEING CALLED BACK

The public has been more engaged than ever this year with the Anchorage Assembly. But also this year, Anchorage residents have found themselves cut out of meetings — both in person and on the internet broadcasts.

For several weeks this summer, the Assembly didn’t permit the public inside the Assembly chambers. The protests grew and the Assembly finally permitted limited entry into the chambers and the spill-over room at the Wilda Marston Theater, both of which are on the ground floor of the Loussac Library.

But also this year, the Municipality has started migrating all of its online broadcasts to a new YouTube platform.

That platform is irregular and frequently goes black with an error message, leaving those who are watching the meetings from home struggling to find a way to get back into the meeting.

The technology problem is pervasive, according to reports received by Must Read Alaska.

Assembly member Jamie Allard said that at times during the Tuesday, Oct. 27 meeting, her phone “started blowing up,” when people all of a sudden saw their screen go black and were unable to reconnect to the meeting.

The entire meeting is usually posted hours later, but is frequently not available in real time to the public, which has been discouraged from attending the meetings in person. The online observation system is one that the Assembly says meets the requirements of the Open Meetings Act.

But relying on online broadcasts is not giving the public a true picture of what goes on during Assembly meetings.

In a previous meeting of the Assembly, Acting Chair Austin Quinn-Davidson had a person removed from the room when that person would not don a face mask.

The video of that section of the meeting was edited and the incident was removed, as seen in this eight-second clip:

Critics say that part of the meeting was not a small incident and and that the public has a right to witness its lawmakers throwing people out of meetings.

Being able to testify is also an increasing problem. During the meeting on Tuesday, Chairman Felix Rivera cut off public testimony after 10 pm, even though several people were waiting in the queue. The phone testifiers normally get into a queue and Rivera then asks the Clerk to call them when it’s their turn to testify. This is so the public doesn’t come down to sit in the room for hours waiting to testify.

“So far from the technology standpoint they have done a very poor job. they have left dozens if not hundreds of people stranded on line, thinking they are going to be able to testify, but never being able to do so. The public testimony by telephone has been basically a failure.” said Frank McQueary, president of Alaskans for Open Meetings.

It’s also impossible to see the documents the Assembly and mayor’s staff are sharing online. The slides being shown in the room are unreadable for those observing online, McQueary noted.

The Assembly is struggling to get through its agendas, a problem that appears to be increasing. During Tuesday night’s meeting, the Assembly was unable to get to at least seven items on its agenda, including a big decision — whether or not to hold a special election for an acting mayor.

Was avoiding the special election question just poor meeting management or was it by design? It’s impossible to know. Frequently, the Assembly adjourns by the midnight deadline, with a lot of work left undone.

The next Assembly meeting will be a special one on Nov. 4, the day after election.

Donations Welcome

Share

Written by

Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • None of these wacky goings on will change until we change out the members of the assembly and get a new mayor in place….We have only two members of the Assembly who care one wit about the citizens of Anchorage, and there is little just two can do against the mob that are in control.

  • Ahhh a YouTube blackout…….
    Who woulda thunkded.

  • I don’t understand why this issue of mayor needs to be voted on. Is there not a law clearly written in regard to this?

    • The city lawyers have determined that city ordinance allows for three voting options with respect to selecting a new mayor.

    • The municipal charter says a special election shall be held in “not less than 90 days” after mayor’s office is vacated. You see the obvious problem with the text, it does not set a limit on how long the assembly can wait to have a special election. The Charter wording needs to me corrected to “not more than 90 days” but this bunch of criminals currently running our town will never get it done.

  • The whole technology setup for public participation is truly horrendous. Black screens, static and other issues keep us citizens out of the loop continually. Channel 9 isn’t much better and masks create mumbo jumbo discussion. There’s gotta be a better way!

  • The more they push off a decision re: special election, the more it plays into their hands to justify (wrongfully) not having a special election).

  • Just a question. I don’t live there but do they broadcast on radio? Why Youtube anyway? Too much competition from cat videos. Can Mitsy catch the ball of yarn?

    Yet another reason for people to stare at their “smart phone”, and yell. Back in the day a person talking and or yelling when they are by themselves was a sign of mental issues, maybe it still is.

  • I watched that segment where a uncooperative member of the public was ejected. The person was asked to comply, warned that they would be ejected if they refused to comply, which they did not.
    If the policy of the Anc Assembly is that all must wear a mask, then Quinn-Davidson properly – without any sign of malice – directed that person to leave.

    Reference restricting public testimony, it appeared to me that Riveria made an honest effort to accommodate people, alternating between those physically present and those calling in to testify. The problem, in my opinion, was the insistent of persons such as the Jesus guy, Dustin something or another, to make irrelevant meandering comments on each item of business. Was that his right? Of course! Did it serve any useful purpose other than to waste everyone’s time? No.

    • You are obviously among those who believe the US Constitution and Bill of Rights can be suspended during this virus scam. There exists no such provision in the constitution to impose restrictions on my freedoms to make you feel better because you are afraid of a virus that is going to go through the entire population, no matter how you feel. It is no different than attempting to restrict my driving of my truck because you are afraid I will run over your Subaru. It is completely unconstitutional to impose restrictions on the healthy population because of an incredibly minute segment of the population that should be taking precautions because they are the susceptible population to this virus.

      • I find it strange that you consider a mask a restriction of such high magnitude.

        Why are required to wear a seatbelt? For your safety, also importantly, for the safety of the greater community at large in keeping you from becoming a projectile and creating collateral damage.

        Why are you not allowed to drive after drinking? To protect yourself from an accident, but more importantly to protect to community at large.

        Why are you not allowed to smoke indoors anywhere? Again to protect to community at large.

        Why do these laws exist? Because society has demonstrated time and time again they do not do what is best for their community, but instead act in selfish interests, not even in their own, best interests.

      • I think some people are having trouble thinking out-side the box. Let’s agree for a minute that everyone will eventually get Covid-19. If you remove mask wearing and other mitigating restrictions right now, then people may not die, but there would certainly be a mass influx in people needing health treatment and hospital beds. Now think about one of your family members who needs a kidney transplant? Uh oh.. Sorry, we are fresh out of hospital beds in every state in the union because people feel their rights were being trampled on.. Stop the madness…

      • You are obviously one who makes incredibly stupid statements without a shred of evidence.
        The Constitution is what the courts say it is – get used to it! The courts allow public bodies to establish reasonable protocol for conducting their meetings.

%d bloggers like this: