After covid-19 scare, Anchorage Assembly will continue masking hearing Wednesday

The Anchorage Assembly’s work on the proposed mask mandate ordinance was brought to an abrupt halt on Friday after two high-profile members of far-right Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration tested positive for covid-19. One of the members, municipal manager Amy Demboski, was not wearing a mask during the hearings that included several close interactions with the mostly masked and mostly vaccinated assembly, throwing what has already been a deeply contentious hearing into further uncertainty.

The revelation came shortly before a Friday afternoon meeting to continue the hearing, which led to its immediate cancelation with the possibility that this week’s hearings would also be sidelined.

Things are set to get back on track this week.

Today, the Anchorage Assembly announced that it plans to move forward with its regular hearing on Tuesday and then resume the public hearing on the masking ordinance, which began two weeks ago, on Wednesday at 6 p.m. with the possibility of continuing it into Thursday. Both hearings are currently set to be held in-person (though several members have been participating remotely throughout the process due to concerns for their personal safety and are likely to continue doing so).

The assembly’s entering its third week of testimony on the proposed masking ordinance, which has run longer than any public hearing in recent memory thanks in large part to a coordinated effort by the Bronson administration and its allies to turn out hundreds of angry, disruptive opponents to the measure and asking them several questions that stretch out the testimony well beyond the three-minute limit. At the Thursday hearing, the assembly began considering a measure that would cut off the questioning, which was met with escalations from the Bronson administration.

Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson glares at the Anchorage Assembly after a member of his cabinet removed the plexiglass dividers in the Anchorage Assembly chambers during the Oct. 8, 2021 hearing. (Photo by Paxson Woelber/Alaska Landmine. Republished with permission.)

On Tuesday, several progressive groups have planned a demonstration at the Anchorage Assembly to “Protest the Hate.”

The Anchorage Assembly’s announcement also notes that the public hearing on an ordinance that would clearly stake out the Anchorage Assembly’s control of the assembly chambers—an area where the Bronson administration has been trying to flex its powers by using the chambers as the location for a pep rally against the masking ordinance, for withholding the resources to hold a weekend meeting and, in a grim twist, pulling security and plexiglass screens from the chambers—to the Dec. 7 meeting.

The Bronson administration’s strong-arm tactics have played well with their right-wing supporters but have been an ugly, galvanizing factor with most others. The removal of the plexiglass screens was mentioned in Assemblymember Kameron Perez-Verdia’s statement affirming support of both the masking mandate and a measure to accelerate testimony.

“Shamefully, while opponents to the ordinance bring weapons to public meetings and harass members of the press, the mayor and his administration have further corrupted the process by removing security from the Assembly chambers in an effort to intimidate its members,” he wrote in a statement. “That is why I am also in favor of an emergency order that would effectively end this mockery of due process and allow us to move forward with the critical business of making hard and important decisions for our city.”

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