After assuring Anchorage residents they would have another opportunity to continue testifying on a controversial plan to force residents to wear face masks, the Anchorage Assembly quickly introduced and passed an emergency ordinance at 10:35 p.m. on Oct. 12 with no public notice.
Introduced by Assembly members Meg Zaletel and Pete Peterson, it passed 9-1 with Assemblywoman Crystal Kennedy opposed and Assemblywoman Jamie Allard refusing to take part in the vote.
Unlike past meetings, the large crowd was missing, as most residents were under the impression that the mask ordinance would be discussed at a scheduled meeting on Oct. 13. That has now been cancelled with passage of the emergency mandate.
Just before the vote, the meeting turned ugly when Assemblyman Christopher Constant pointed out that one of the mask mandate opponents was “on a ventilator and may or may not make it.”
It later became clear Constant was referring to Anchorage resident William Topel who died a few hours later after Providence Hospital rejected his repeated requests for Ivermectin to treat his COVID illness. Allard worked with Topel and his family, desperately attempting to help him get Ivermectin in the days and hours before he died.
Constant noted that he was “not somebody who spent the last year supporting my positions on matters, but has in fact been somebody who spoke consistently against the issues that I support and believe in.”
Constant claimed that his “heart breaks when I think about the fact that someone who was in this room two weeks ago is probably going to die from this virus.”
Allard, who had power of attorney for Topel, broke in and asked for a point of order.
Constant denied her request saying, “No, this is my time.”
“Well, if you’re talking about my friend, we have a problem,” Allard broke in again.
“You are out of order,” Constant quipped.
“And so are you,” Allard said, adding that Topel was not on an intubator.
“You have no idea what you’re talking about,” she said. “You’re a disgrace as a public official.”
“You are out of order Constant,” repeated. “And I hope he recovers.”
During the initial vote on whether to pass the ordinance, Allard voted no before again calling out Constant for deciding to “use somebody’s situation against them.”
“How irresponsible,” she said. “You’re absolutely disgusting.”
The initial vote had to be redone due to a technical issue. On the second vote, Allard refused to participate.
Mayor Dave Bronson adamantly opposes forcing residents to mask, and he condemned the Assembly’s action.
“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,” he said via his Facebook page. “They have broken the public trust, and this Emergency Order Mask Mandate will be vetoed.”
It takes eight Assembly members to override the mayor, which they appear to have.
The Assembly chastised residents for abusing the public process by testifying in such great numbers that they were unable to actually vote on the measure.
Enforcement of the mandate, however, is under Bronson’s authority and he has repeatedly stated that he would not require residents to mask against their will.
As written, the mandate requires residents to wear masks over their noses and mouths when they are indoors in areas open to the public or communal spaces shared with other individuals not from one’s household.
Enforcement falls on the backs of local businesses owners who must deny admittance to anyone who refuses to mask. It exempts religious assemblies, Mayor Bronson and his executive team, athletic events and those working out in gyms.
Effective immediately, the mandate will expire after two months or when Anchorage has either “reached a point of sufficient medical capacity” or “there is no longer substantial or high community transmission of the virus.”
ALASKA WATCHMAN DIRECT TO YOUR INBOX
After effectively bypassing additional public comments on the highly controversial mandate, Assembly leadership issued a statement claiming that it “truly appreciates the engagement from so many members of our community on this issue. It is important that we engage in vigorous and healthy debates on issues before passing measures that will deeply impact our community. It is also important that the Assembly protects our community’s right to due process and to be heard and moves forward with the critical business of making hard and important decisions for our city.”
Over the past two weeks, hundreds of residents packed the Assembly Chambers, most adamantly opposing the mandate.
The Assembly statement also chastises Anchorage residents for what they referred to as abuse of the public process by turning out in such great numbers that the Assembly was unable to actually vote on the measure.
Repeatedly noted during the meeting was the fact that Anchorage case counts, while high, are in steady decline, and Alaska’s COVID mortality rates are the third lowest in the nation.