It’s unclear when the Anchorage Assembly will finally reach a vote on its proposed mask mandate thanks to an outbreak of covid-19 among Bronson’s administration, but when it does it will almost assuredly have a veto-proof supermajority.
Over the weekend, Assemblymember Kameron Perez-Verdia posted a statement on Facebook confirming his support for the measure and lambasting the delay tactics employed by extreme-right Mayor Dave Bronson. Perez-Verdia was one of the lone question marks on the assembly… largely because he opened the debate with an open mind on the opposition.
“It seems there is a general misunderstanding about where I stand on this issue, and I want to set the record straight. I am in favor of the proposed ordinance,” he wrote on Facebook. “I am a process-oriented person and—as with every preceding issue—I approached consideration of AO 2021-91 with the same commitment to the process of public testimony and reasoned discussion. Unfortunately, that process has been corrupted.”
He then went to echo the frustration that several of his assembly colleagues have had with the increasingly obvious attempts from Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson and Assemblymembers Jamie Allard and Crystal Kennedy, who have been cultivating the opposition to the measure, to delay the vote. Both the testifiers and the Bronson administration have drawn out the process with a hostile tactics, disruptions, diversions and repetitive questions that have given testifiers far more than the allotted three minutes of testimony.
Several observers have also pointed out that the in-person testimony isn’t reflective of the support they’ve seen written testimony from people unwilling to attend what one pro-mask testifier called a “plagued arena of science-denying bullies.”
At the Thursday-night meeting, Assembly chair Suzanne LaFrance hoped to put an end to the delay tactics by ending the additional questioning, which will still allow people the three minutes to testify. The move was met with opposition from the Bronson administration, who then removed plexiglass shields from the chamber and to ordered private security to stand down.
It’s not the first time that the administration has tried to force control over the Anchorage Assembly—they also withheld resources from holding a Saturday meeting (after using the chambers for their own pep rally prior to the debate) and reportedly attempted to turn off the municipal livestream of the hearing.
For Perez-Verdia, those tactics were part of the deciding factor and why he also supports LaFrance’s efforts to speed up testimony.
“There is a line between passionate testimony on an important issue and abuse of the process to delay consideration of the proposed solution. This week, we crossed that line. Thankfully, thousands of Anchorage community members have stepped up to offer their genuine perspectives on the proposed mandate – both in person and through email – and after reviewing their statements I am very much decided on this issue,” he said on Facebook. “Regrettably, members of our community have abused the public process in an attempt to prevent myself and the rest of the Assembly from translating those perspectives into much needed action. 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. 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.”
It’s not entirely clear what form the mask mandate will eventually take. There are reportedly more than a dozen different amendments that have been offered on the measure that could add some exemptions or further restrictions to the measure.
Bronson is expected to veto the measure, which takes eight of the assembly’s 11 members to override. But given Bronson’s trend of ignoring the rule of law, it’s unclear just how the measure might be enforced. Initially, the ordinance would have allowed individuals to file complaints against businesses (similar to how Texas’ anti-abortion law) but that measure was ultimately sidelined before the hearing even began.