Monday’s continued public hearing was another six hours of testimony from the public, and again, the public was overwhelmingly against the ordinance by Assemblywoman Meg Zalatel, to make masks mandatory in Anchorage.
Since last week, the Assembly has taken nearly 20 hours of testimony about the mandate, which is intended to stop the spread of Covid-19 in the community.
Unlike previous nights, Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance used her gavel lightly and rarely admonished the crowd when they clapped after testimony. Unlike last week, no one in the crowd was handcuffed and hauled out of the chambers, and in general the mood was improved due to LaFrance relaxing the decorum rules in what has been a highly contentious battle between the Assembly’s leftist majority and the public.
After 18 months of anger about local Covid policies that have created unintended harm, LaFrance’s approach seemed to soothe the annoyed Anchorage residents.
A few from the public spoke in favor of the proposed mandates. One, Travis Neff, used to be a paid tracker to do damage to the campaign of U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan on behalf of Senator Mark Begich.
A clip of his statement, which was in reality much longer and accused Mayor Dave Bronson and Assemblywoman Jamie Allard of being Nazis, he used his three minutes to make personal attacks on Assembly members and the mayor, while Assembly Chairwoman Suzanne LaFrance refused to call him out of order until he had finished:
Another supporter of the mask law is a federal healthcare provider, who likened the audience of ordinance opponents to “communist China.” He said he was there to oppose them and his testimony was especially dramatic:
Most of the people who approached the podium were respectful but passionate about their experiences with Covid mandates over the past 18 months of public policy that has impacted their lives. One woman, who spoke through a voice box due to having had throat cancer, gave a profound accounting of the impact on disabled people, who are discriminated against by those who don’t realize they cannot wear a mask:
Assembly Vice Chair Chris Constant was the enforcer on the dais, pointing at people who were too loud and threatening them, “You’ve been warned.” It was good-cop, bad-cop with LaFrance holding the gavel.
Assembly members Zaletel, who is the maker of the ordinance, Pete Petersen, Austin Quinn-Davidson, and Felix Rivera stopped showing up at meetings weeks ago and only call into them now. They refuse to face the public outcry over their attempts to enforce masks.
Assemblyman Kameron Perez-Verdia was present for half of the testimony on Monday, and then left, and was said to have called in after he departed.
The hearing continues at the Anchorage Assembly chambers at 5 pm on Tuesday, with evidently several more people who intend to have the ruling body of Anchorage hear of the impacts the masks have on their health, their businesses, and their quality of life.