The public could be confused, and it could be what is intended by the Anchorage Assembly. The Assembly scheduled a surprise meeting for 5 pm Sunday. There is no agenda, no location posted, and no transparent notification that could remotely be seen as adequate to meet requirements of the Alaska Open Meetings Act. It’s a phantom meeting.
The Assembly also has posted a special meeting for Monday, from 1-2 pm, at City Hall Room 155, also with no agenda, but describing it as a “Meeting for Emergency Shelter Plan Items for Action and Appropriation.” That’s the real meeting.
It appears the Assembly leadership is aiming for maximum confusion and minimum participation by the Anchorage public. Last week, it passed an ordinance that called a halt to the most important part of public participation in its meetings — the initial audience participation half hour. Now, it is publishing confusing, conflicting, and inadequate meeting announcements, some of which are arguably illegal.
The Assembly, faced with a legal opinion by the Bronson Administration that the Assembly itself had passed an ordinance forbidding the use of the Golden Lion Hotel as a homeless shelter, is going to reverse that ordinance.
Last week, the Assembly approved its own expansive plan for homeless shelters, which included the Sullivan Arena and the Golden Lion Hotel. The appropriating body is making a play to take over the duties of the executive branch because Assembly leadership disagrees with the direction the mayor has taken, which is to set up a navigation center to provide help for the homeless, including temporary shelter, hot meals, and social services.
The Golden Lion Hotel is controversial, however, and people in midtown Anchorage particularly object to the city taking that private property and turning it into what will most certainly become an danger to children in the nearby neighborhoods and at a preschool two blocks away. The Golden Lion Hotel is so controversial, that some say the reason Mayor Dave Bronson won election as mayor is because of the push by the Assembly and previous mayor to create a homeless industrial complex in Anchorage.
The Assembly majority is still trying to force the Berkowitz plan as it seeks to eventually spread homeless services and shelters throughout every neighborhood the city.
The hotel, at the corner of 36th Ave. and New Seward Highway, was purchased by former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz with funds that cam from the sale of Municipal Light & Power to Chugach Electric. It was taken off the property tax rolls and has been sitting vacant ever since. The Golden Lion was initially intended to be used as a treatment center for addicts, also a use that the neighbors fought. That’s when the Assembly amended its controversial ordinance to reassure the public that the drug treatment center would never devolve into a homeless shelter. Meanwhile, the State of Alaska says it will be taking the building through eminent domain processes to use for the improvement of the intersection.
On Monday at 5 pm, the Assembly plans to reverse its ordinance from 2020, going back on its word to the public, and attempt to force the mayor to use the Golden Lion Hotel.