Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’ emergency order expires on April 14 unless the Anchorage Assembly extends them.
Berkowitz has asked the Assembly to do so, allowing him extensive control over budgets and other major decisions until Nov. 15. It would allow Berkowitz to keep all businesses closed, and extend the “hunker down” order for seven months.
Not all Assembly members are comfortable with giving Berkowitz a blank check until after the General Election. But most who were up for reelection retained their seats. It’s uncertain how they’ll view such sweeping powers, but their decision comes after the municipal election is over, rather than while the public was still voting.
The Wuhan coronavirus has created a de facto lockdown Anchorage and many parts of the country, resulting in the arrest of citizens simply going about their family lives without the risk of putting others in harm’s way.
Meanwhile, the technology, medical knowledge and government recommendations have changed on nearly a daily basis since the coronavirus came to America.
Three weeks ago, Alaskans were told by officials that face coverings were not effective and needed to be preserved for medical professionals battling the coronavirus. Last week, the State of Alaska recommended face coverings be worn whenever people are out in public. Three weeks ago, the State didn’t have enough swab tests or hospital beds. Now, the testing kits are being developed in-state and the lab machines are more available. So are hospital beds.
The Assembly could, if it wants, review the emergency orders every week or every month because the Assembly meets every other week, unlike the Legislature, which has a more difficult time convening to approve emergency powers for the governor. Gov. Mike Dunleavy has had his emergency powers extended to Nov. 15 by the Alaska Legislature, which left Juneau last month. Legislators are now scattered across the state, hunkered down in their districts and subject to local and state travel quarantines.
Due to concerns over large gatherings amid the COVID-19 outbreak, community members are strongly encouraged by the Anchorage Assembly to provide testimony via email or by telephone. Because of the federal, state, and local health department guidance and emergency measures, the number of people allowed in the Assembly Chambers at the Loussac Library will be limited.
The Assembly encourages anyone wishing to provide Public Testimony to email written comments to [email protected] by 2 p.m. the day of the meeting. Comments will become part of the meeting record. In the subject line of the email, describe which agenda item you are providing testimony for (Example: “Emergency Powers of the Mayor.”)
To provide testimony on the phone, email [email protected] by 2 p.m. the day of the meeting with your name, phone number, agenda item number/title for which you wish to provide testimony. The subject line should read “Phone Testimony.” When the Assembly reaches your agenda item, the clerk will call you at the number you have provided. You will have 3 minutes to provide testimony on each item you wish to speak on.