To prevent Mayor-elect Dave Bronson from having input on how American Rescue Plan funds are used, the Anchorage Assembly approved $51.1 million in spending during a special meeting on Tuesday, including a last-minute amendment from Assemblywoman Meg Zaletel, to buy a building for the Alaska Black Caucus.
The American Rescue Plan Act poured trillions of dollars into communities across the country, and the Anchorage Assembly split much of the funds off for nonprofit groups. The funds for the Alaska Black Caucus building were stripped from an allocation for the University of Alaska Anchorage.
The nonprofit will get $437,000 to purchase office space, with the justification that the minority communities have been disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the Alaska Black Caucus will provide service in the areas of economic recovery, education, and community action to address systemic challenges. There do not appear to be any deliverables associated with the expenditure.
Another $500,000 has been appropriated to a building that will be purchased for Choosing Our Roots, a nonprofit that wants to provide congregate housing center for 10 or more gay or transgendered people from ages 18-24. The group is run by a board of directors who have various gender pronouns associated with themselves, including being referred to as “au/auto,” “they/them,” “He/Xe/Fae/Faer,” “Kin,” and a confusing assortment of other identifiers that describe their sexuality interests.
Assemblywoman Jamie Allard said she wanted to delay the $51.1 million in appropriations until the mayor-elect had a chance to take part in the discussion. The bulk of the expenditures were set by Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson, who will return to her empty Assembly seat in July.
Assemblywoman Crystal Kennedy also asked for a delay to allow more review of the amendments, a sentiment echoed by several people who testified that the amendments had not been vetted by the public process. But Assemblyman Pete Peterson said that no matter what they do, the Assembly gets criticism.
“We’re just gonna do it our way. Sorry folks,” he said in exasperation with the public. Peterson is in his last term on the Assembly.
A partial list of the appropriations is at this link, but does not include the amendments from Tuesday.