A new group called Alaskans for Open Meetings had its second organizational meeting and fundraiser Tuesday at La Mex restaurant in Anchorage.
Organized by activists Christine Hill and Frank McQueary, the meeting attracted over 50 Anchorage residents on a bright and balmy autumn evening.
Craig Campbell, a former member of the Assembly who serves as a spokesman for the group, said in his years on the Assembly and subsequent observing of local government, he had never seen the public shut out of the process as it has been this year.
During the shutdown, the Assembly passed several controversial measures, while the public was held at bay outside the building protesting the closed process. A security guard barred the door.
Those controversial measures include: Passage of a ban on so-called “conversion therapy” within city limits, the willful laundering of CARES Act funds to purchase hotels and other properties in Anchorage for homeless and vagrant services, without a plan for how to pay for the proposed services, and hiring of an “equity officer” in the mayor’s office.
Mario Bird, the attorney for the group, explained how the lawsuit to be filed against the Assembly will be based on the Alaska Open Meetings Act, and that it secondarily will ask the court to void the actions taken during the meeting shutdowns this summer.
The use of televised meetings does not substitute for public participation, Campbell said; the televised option is supposed to augment transparency, not replace in-person meetings.
The mainstream media did not cover the Alaskans for Open Meetings gathering. Normally, the news media is very interested in government transparency and usually leads the charge to ensure the public — or at least reporters — have full access to all governmental operations.