Anchorage Assembly chair belittles public comments, votes to extend emergency declaration

    After two hours of public testimony which overwhelmingly opposed extending the emergency declaration in Anchorage, the Assembly voted 7-3 to keep it until at least Jan. 15.

    The passage allows Anchorage’s unelected acting mayor, Austin Quinn-Davidson, to continue imposing broad COVID-inspired orders across the city, including mask mandates, regulations on gatherings – including religious services – and orders that have crippled businesses over the past eight months.

    Public comments included four people who backed the emergency declaration and 24 opposed. In voting to extend the declaration for the sixth time, Assembly Chair Felix Rivera downplayed public testimony, suggesting that it was not reflective of the larger community.

    Felix Rivera

    “We were elected to make some of the tough choices before us,” he said. “We have this power, we have this responsibility, we have this duty.”

    Rivera added that he thought most Anchorage residents “get it” and support ongoing mandates across the city. Despite testimony to the contrary, he drew attention to what he claimed were “many more thousands (who) are watching online, who are watching on tv, who emailed us, who reached out to us … It is clear to me how my constituents feel about this emergency declaration.”

    Throughout the meeting, Rivera warned the public to refrain from short bursts of applause or brief laughter – saying it was rude and inconsiderate. At several points he threatened to remove anyone who failed to abide by his demands, including those who were not masking up.

    Following the vote, Christine Hill, who is active in political circles across the city, took to the microphone to address Rivera’s actions and those of the Assembly’s majority members.

    “You are hurting the community – it’s just quite horrible,” Hills said. “This is disgusting. And you are so correct Felix. What you see in this room here is just a tiny bit of Anchorage, Alaska.

    She said the Assembly’s actions have stirred Anchorage residents to get involved with local politics and that “things have changed, and you will see that when the elections come up.”

    “I have never seen anything like this,” Hill added. “You’re not allowing us to clap. You don’t allow us laugh. You are suppressing the people of Anchorage. It’s cruel.”

    Public testimony at the Nov. 16 Anchorage Assembly meeting.

    During public comment many addressed the impact that school closures and restrictions on businesses and group gatherings are having on the wider community’s mental and economic health.

    Russell Blacker, who owns Frontier Assisted Living facility, said his residents are suffering from isolation and loneliness due to COVID. He supported opening the city up more widely, while focusing on keeping the vulnerable safe.

    Following public testimony, two other invited guests from the medical community were asked to speak.

    Dr. Nick Papascostas, who serves as vice president of the Alaska chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, spoke in favor of extending the emergency declaration. He said it was necessary because hospitals were running close to capacity and that a continued rise in COVID cases could compromise the ability to serve patients.

    He did admit, however, that hospitals almost always operate near capacity, but especially this time of year.

    The Assembly also asked infectious disease doctor Andrea Caballero to provide testimony. She works with Providence Alaska Medical Center, Alaska Regional Hospital and St. Elias Specialty Hospital. While hospitals still have adequate capacity and ability to treat patients, she echoed Dr. Papacostas’ concerns that this might not be the case if COVID continues to spread.

    Anchorage Assemblywoman Jamie Allard asks questions during a Nov. 16 meeting.

    In a city of 290,000 residents, Anchorage currently has 81 people hospitalized who have tested positive for COVID, although that does not mean they are hospitalized due to COVID-related illnesses. In terms of capacity, Anchorage has available 74 inpatient beds, 47 ICU beds and 138 ventilators.

    Assemblywoman Jamie Allard asked  Caballero whether local hospitals were needing to prioritize patients at this point due to overcapacity. That is not the case, Caballero said. Upon further questioning from Allard, Caballero also acknowledged that both Providence and Regional are continuing with elective procedures and that there is adequate personal protective equipment for health care workers.

    Assembly members Allard, John Weddleton and Crystal Kennedy all voted against extending the emergency declaration to the end of the year. Weddleton, however, said he actually supported the resolution but thought the vote should have been postponed one day to allow Kennedy to bring forth amendments.

    Kennedy said the emergency orders are far too broad, and give acting mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson far too much power to impose “any orders necessary” to combat COVID. She worried about the government being able to enforce restrictions even inside private homes if the mayor sees fit.

    “We don’t put any parameters on that,” she said. “It is so dangerous to have this level of power in a time when things are so unknown that nobody really knows what’s coming down the pike in terms of restrictions and requirements and mandates … That’s just totally unacceptable.”

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    Joel Davidson
    Joel Davidson
    Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 20 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.

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    1. Felix caved to the commies. Fire him next vote. And these health (professionals) ya I went to UAA where alot if these people went thru the nursing program. They are the dumbest individuals I have ever heard speak. They are lemmings who will believe anything their bosses tell them. Most of them are not MD. They have a 2 year degree at most and they’re good at shoving needles in your arm for blood draw but these are not the people that i would give any credit to. They are dipshits. Brain washed by liberal teachers who restrict them to a reading list that serves the communist agenda. That’s why i dropped out after my second semester. I saw this happening in 2013. I left and never looked back.

    2. Glad I’m getting the hell out of dodge. The fallout from this is going to take years to recover from. *If* you ever recover from it.

      Gutless republicans won’t fix the rampant voter fraud, so things will just continue to get worse. Keep waiting for the next pointless vote that you allow the enemy to count, see how well that works out “conservatives” of Alaska. I’m South Dakota bound before the the Winter hits, good luck!

    3. It will take MASSIVE civil disobedience to force these people to submit to the citizenry. There must be rallies, and public disobedience to go along with the legal challenges. If Anchorage’s outraged citizens don’t do this, you are pulling the rest of Alaska down with you all.

      • Amen brother! How do we get massive disobedience? The few protests I’ve been to only have a few hundred people in attendance. I was thinking that those who can handle the cold could make signs such as “Enough, revolt”, “Down with dictators”, “Rise up”, etc. and stand at busy intersections during rush hour. Maybe that will get people thinking..

    4. These Nazi’s vomit ‘science’ as their excusing demigod when actual science disputes it. Yet all the data and science is immaterial to the people’s right to assess and determine their own risk as vulgarities arbitrarily elevate the totally fluid, religion of ‘safety’ above the oath of their elected offices. Safety has no definable parameter except those established by whomever is given the authority to. Businesses of Anchorage need to collectively bring a constitutional suit. These foul assembly members should not be given excuse even after leaving office.

    5. Just do what they do down on the peninsula,, when the mayor proposed an unconstitutional annex on ridgeway residents they all went to the gathering at the high school and flat out told the mayor,, u send your goons up the hill to enforce your bullshit and you wont get them back! Couple weeks later the mayor passed away and the annexation kinda went to the way side. Of course residents of soldotna and kasilof aren’t neutered whimps like those idiots in anchorage and palmer

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