During the waning minutes of the Anchorage Assembly meeting on Tuesday night, the leftist governing majority pulled a fast one on the public.
In spite of overwhelming testimony against forcing residents to wear masks indoors, in a preplanned move that may have broken open meetings laws and city code, the Assembly majority passed an unpopular mask ordinance by making it an emergency order item on the agenda, requiring no public hearing.
Earlier in the meeting, Chairwoman Suzanne LaFrance, who had turned the gavel over to Assembly Vice Chair Chris Constant since she was not present in the room, assured the public there would be more public hearings on the ordinance, but they would be postponed to Wednesday and even Thursday if needed.
It was a ruse organized by the nine leftist members, but predicted by Must Read Alaska.
“That could be a ploy. With a supermajority, LaFrance could call a halt to the hearing tomorrow and bring the matter to a vote, hoping that she can succeed in doing so without many members of the public present. The chambers has been filled with protesting public for over a week on this item. The emergency order has been requested by Kameron Perez-Verdia, and there appear to be enough votes to pass the ordinance,” Must Read Alaska’s story forecasted on Monday.
Mayor Dave Bronson took to social media to say he will veto the ordinance. He has 36 hours to do so. A supermajority of the Assembly — 8 — can override the mayor.
“Under the cloak of darkness and while misleading the public that they would be allowed to testify on the mask mandate before a vote, at 10:35pm the /anchorage Assembly snuck in an Emergency Mask Mandate that didn’t take public testimony. They have broken the pubic trust, and this Emergency Order Mask Mandate will be vetoed,” he wrote.
Bronson was not physically at the meeting, nor was City Manager Amy Demboski or any of the other members of the Bronson team normally there. All were quarantining due to exposure to Covid-19.
The Assembly likely intends to override his veto at the meeting Constant said would take place on Thursday.
Only three members of the Assembly were physically present, as the rest were phoning in due to Covid-19 exposure. That calls into question the legality of the ordinance, because the Municipal Charter says six members must be present.
Last year, the Assembly changed municipal code to allow members to attend telephonically in the case of an emergency. There is no declared emergency by the mayor or the governor, but President Biden has the country under a national emergency effective through February, 2022.
Assemblywoman Jamie Allard, calling in from home due to Covid exposure, fought the ordinance but was not able to stop it. She said that many people will simply not comply in acts of civil disobedience.
“I will not comply,” she said.
The ordinance has changed since first introduced. Amendments to it mean that there are now no specific fines, but that the city may do what it needs to do to enforce compliance. Originally the fines were up to $300 for a first violation and considered a complaint against a non-masked person to be equivalent to a public health hazard complaint.
It also doesn’t contain the Assemblywoman Meg Zaletel provision to turn neighbors into enemies by having them rat out each other for disobeying the law.
The Zaletel provision was criticized by dozens of testifiers in the days leading up to the passage of the ordinance.
The mask ordinance is in effect for 60 days but is also is tied to hospital capacity and the “crisis standards of care” that many hospitals say they are operating under.
The ordinance exempts the executive branch of Anchorage government, a separation of powers issue.
Constant spoke at length about a member of the public who was in the hospital with Covid and who was probably going to die. He was referring to Bill Topel, a longtime conservative activist in Anchorage, whose power of medical attorney was Assemblywoman Jamie Allard.
Allard reacted harshly to Constant speaking about Topel and mischaracterizing his situation, using a man’s grave condition as a political stunt.
Topel had given directives to not be put on a ventilator, but Constant said into the record that he was on a ventilator. While Constant was saying how sad he was that an opponent of the mask mandate was dying, Allard was not only attending the meeting telephonically, but was informing Topel’s family that Toppel was taking his last breath and would soon be gone. Allard called Constant’s remarks “disgraceful.”
The deed was already done long before the meeting took place. There were few members of the public left in the Assembly chamber when the final vote went down. Constant had security remove the few people who yelled in opposition and by the end of the meeting, hardly anyone but security guards were left. He adjourned the meeting as soon as the vote was finished.
The Assembly had prior to the meeting re-erected the Plexiglas barricade that he keeps the public behind, which is part of its Covid mitigation plan. Last week, the Bronson Administration had removed the barricade, infuriating the Assembly but drawing cheers from the public present.