Powerful and well-connected left-leaning activists, who comprise the newly formed Anchorage Equity Committee, are formalizing a strategy to root out what they deem to be unwanted “hate” speech, so-called “systemic racism” and other social or historical barriers they believe should be dismantled in Alaska’s largest city.

The Equity Committee serves as an advisory group to the Anchorage Assembly. On Dec. 22, the group met to discuss its priorities for the coming year.

Those in attendance included Committee Chair Thea Agnew Bemben, Co-Chair Rev. Leon May, Alaska Black Caucus President Celeste Hodge Growden, LGBTQ activist Candace Bell, Anchorage School District Equity Director Sonja Hunt, Issa Spatrisano of Catholic Social Services’ Refugee Program, Laurie Pickett of Alaska Literacy Program and Anchorage Assemblyman Felix Rivera.

The committee voted unanimously to add Mara Kimmel to its ranks. Kimmel is the wife of former Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and the executive director of the Alaska ACLU.

One of the most pressing issues, according to the Equity Committee, is to develop ways to undermine or rebut public comments at Assembly meetings which the group deems to be offensive.

The meeting began with a lengthy discussion on how to best convince the Anchorage Assembly to budget $60,000 in taxpayer funds to the Equity Committee. That money could be used to host events and training sessions to advance the group’s equity agenda.

Broadly speaking, the Equity Committee’s purpose is to identify and eradicate so-called “systemic inequities.”

According to the group’s charter, its goal is to empower certain communities that suffer from perceived systemic injustices and biases. These identity groups include Black, Latino, Alaska Native and other Indigenous, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other persons of color; members of religious minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) persons; immigrant and refugee communities; people with limited English proficiency; persons experiencing disabilities; older adults and elders; veterans; persons who live in rural areas; and persons otherwise adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality.

In order to achieve their overall mission, certain institutional and historical systems will need to be “dismantled.”

While the Equity Committee is still developing its strategy, its main purpose is to advise the Anchorage Assembly when it comes to planning, policies, legislation, budgeting and programming.

Candace Bell, who works with SAGE Alaska, an advocacy group for LGBTQ seniors, suggested that the Assembly pass rules that simply outlaw certain types of speech.

One of the most pressing issues, according to the Equity Committee, is to develop ways to undermine or rebut public comments at Assembly meetings which the group deems to be offensive.

The term, “hate speech,” was never clearly defined during the Dec. 22 meeting, but nearly every participant agreed that it needed to be discouraged during the Assembly’s public hearings.

Rivera told the committee that the Assembly wants them to help provide greater understanding about the legal challenges associated with curbing certain types of unwanted speech.

Rivera said there are challenges with regard to free speech rights.

“That said we are very interested in getting thoughts and advice around the hate speech issues,” he said.

Candace Bell, who works with SAGE Alaska, an advocacy group for LGBTQ seniors, suggested that the Assembly pass rules that simply outlaw certain types of speech.

Rivera acknowledged that the committee was upset about the tone and language of some public testimony, but explained that it is difficult to hinder speech during public testimony, as people have a legal right to petition their government.

Even if the Assembly is unable to ban certain words and ideas from its meetings, Rivera suggested that it might have other options.

“I see the frustration in people’s eyes, I get it, but part of my job is to make sure the municipality doesn’t get sued,” he said.

“I totally get that Felix,” Bell responded. “Then change the rules. It’s just frankly intolerable.”

Rivera suggested that the committee invite lawyers to a future meeting to brainstorm possible legal options to address what certain Assembly members perceive to be offensive speech.

Even if the Assembly is unable to ban certain words and ideas from its meetings, Rivera suggested that it might have other options. He acknowledged that Assembly members are not allowed to debate members of the public, but they can ask “clarifying questions” which could be used to condemn certain testimonies. Additionally, Assembly members could ask for a “moment of personal privilege,” which they could use rebut certain members of the public, he suggested.

Moving forward, Rivera said the Equity Committee could help the Assembly develop rules that would allow them to more “cleanly” address certain types of speech.

In addition to a lengthy discussion about unwanted speech, the committee spend considerable time criticizing Mayor Dave Bronson’s Chief Equity Officer Uluao “Junior” Aumavae.

Bronson fired the city’s first equity officer, Clifford Armstrong III, who was hired in April of 2021 by then acting-mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson to track and enforce the city’s “equity agenda.”

Former Mayor Berkowitz initially asked the Anchorage Assembly to approve a new equity officer position before abruptly resigning in October 2020. The goal was to have a member of his administration promote and highlight LGBTQ residents, communities of color, the disabled, immigrants and refugees. Berkowitz wanted the equity officer to develop “equity programs,” and establish “equity data targets” to address alleged “systemic disparities.” This information was to be presented to the mayor and Assembly so they could eliminate perceived inequities through enforcement.

Bronson, however, has deemphasized much of this agenda, and has directed his chief equity officer to focus on things like municipal hiring practices which ensure that job notices and position openings are widely disseminated both to minority groups and other qualified candidates. Bronson’s equity officer has also helped coordinate cultural events that celebrate Anchorage’s ethnic diversity.

After several Equity Committee members expressed frustration with the new direction of the chief equity officer, Rivera offered his own thoughts.

“As far as I can tell the chief equity officer is doing a lot of community organizing – to put it gently – work, but in terms of what the Assembly envisioned the chief equity officer would when we created the position several years ago, I would argue that the chief equity officer is not doing that,” he said.

Growden responded by asking whether there was anyway to get around the chief equity officer in order to advance their equity agenda.

Rivera said the Assembly could hire its own “equity analyst” to do the work they think the chief equity officer should be doing. This idea was suggested as a way to bypass the Bronson administration.

“They would do the real stuff that the chief equity officer would be doing but just under a different title and under a different branch of government so that the assembly would be directing them rather than the executive,” he said.


The Equity Committee will meet again on Jan. 26, 4:30-6 p.m. The meeting will occur at City Hall (Conference Room 155) and is open to the public. Click here for more information.

Click here to support Alaska Watchman reporting.​

Equity Committee plans to undermine unwanted speech at Anchorage Assembly meetings

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.


  • Richard Eide says:

    “Equity” does not mean equality. Godless individuals and groups will gladly silence the voices advocating traditional family values.

    • Brandy says:

      You can advocate for whatever family values you want to. You just don’t get to force other families to follow them. Everybody knows there is a difference between equity and equality. That is the point of calling it an equity group. Systemic racism has created many places where equality is impossible because there is too much inequity.

      • Steve Peterson says:

        Anchorage, and by extension, Alaska, has no problem with equity or equality. This is a “solution” to a problem that doesn’t exist; a means to waste money and control free speech. If there is any equity problem, it is that a very small portion of the population- that being the alphabet coalition- wants to dictate to the rest of us how we should think, act and speak.

  • Steve Peterson says:

    Anchorage, you’ll have these idiots lording it over you at your expense exactly as long as you continue to tolerate them. At some point you’d better show up in force and scare the hell out of them or they will keep you under their heel.

    • Steve Peterson says:

      In response to “Colonel Angus”; you obviously did not pay attention. It has nothing to do with any “cosplay” or “Q” presence, it has (to quote myself) everything to do with showing up “in force”. That means in numbers, buddy. It means a showing of people who are fed up. The kind of crowds who show up at school board meetings, the kind of crowds the left, such as you, just hate and love to call domestic terrorists.

      • Separation of church and state says:

        Sure steve, you’ll have to forgive us though the last time yall showed up “in force” at the capital there was an insurrection with people chanting kill Mike pence. Maybe the left wouldn’t call you domestic terrorists if you didn’t threaten to kill every politician who disagrees with you.

      • David Frazier says:

        Seat G on the Assembly will be open to change in 2023 with the vote on April 4. You gotta have a candidate to replace Rivera.

      • Friend of Humanity says:

        Separation of church and state, difference between us all (yall (sic)) and you all is that we might “chant” something, but it is only words. We did not go out and wipe out businesses by burning them down, trashing them, or stealing all of their inventory. We did not go out and purposely snuff out people’s lives. Back to the “chanting,” who chanted about Mike pence? I do not recall hearing that there was “chanting” about him.

      • Colonel Angus says:

        Steve, Steve, Steve….Haven’t you figured this out yet ? A small but vocal minority does not represent the interests of the community as a whole.

        How did those recalls of Meg and Felix turn out ? Oooofffff ! Dunbar ? He won handily over Ms Taylor. KPV ? Ditto. That new downtown seat ? Ooops, looks like Taylor loses again.

        Your fearless leader is on her way to Juneau and Bronson’s staff are fleeing like rats from a sinking ship. Demobski finally outlived her shelf live, I hope Ol’ Saint Nick threw in some soap along with her sock full of coal.

        Even Dan Fagan has thrown in the towel, off to greener putting greens while Alaska sinks deeper into the hands of the Satanic leftists.

        This feckless administration has wasted tax payer dolllars and time while maintaining a revolving door that drains institutional memory and expertise from the municipal workforce. How many more 6 figure salaries and sole source contracts are we going to dole
        out to his political benefactors before the taxpayers of this community have had enough ?

        Yeah Steve, just keep showing up an acting like a petulant child, Jaime is gone now, Amy is gone now, who’s going to lead you into battle now that the Side-Show has moved on, bud ?

        How about you just stay at home in moms basement (oops, I’m sorry, I forget, trailers don’t have basements) while you fantasize about storming the Assembly and spewing your gunned-up QAnon CONspiracy theories. Yeah, just stay home, Bronson won’t be there anyhow, he’s got a ribbon cutting ceremony every Tuesday until he leaves office. Better yet, perhaps you should spend your time helping elect better candidates if you don’t like the ones that we have ? That’s how you do it, not by storming the building like a bunch of morons.

  • Colonel Angus says:

    Cue the Hate Goblins

    • Steve Peterson says:

      Cue the trolls.

      • Colonel Angus says:

        How would you scare them ?
        By dressing up in your military cosplay costumes ? Would you attempt to threaten and intimidate them until they capitulate to your will ?
        How does that work exactly ?
        Is a mob of QAnon inspired incels going to storm the Assembly chambers and create mayhem ?
        C’mon Patriot, lay this out for me….

      • Friend of Humanity says:

        Colonel Angus, unlike your group that likes to go out and burn up everything, destroy everything, and murder people, Conservatives are going to make their voices heard in a legal and lawful way and we are going to keep speaking out, assembling to protest peacefully as a united group. What really scares the left and the globalists is that the right is not going to back down and we are waking up the people who did not realize the road to destruction that we are on under the White House’s current leadership and the globalists.

        In reference to “QAnon”, there is no “QAnon” – there is “Q” (which may not even be a real person!” and there are Anons. There are no QAnons – you sound like the main stream media echoing the narrative. It sounds stupid.

  • Neil DeWitt says:

    What a waist of $60,000 of tax payers money. Then tell these people to hire their own equality person. How about my USA CONSTITUTIONal rights and the First Ammendment for freedom of speech? Who the heck does Anchorage assembly think they are? They’re not demi gods to control people. It’s about time someone explains that to them before it’s to late and things get way out of hand. People have a right to speak their mind and yes they need to speak respectfully but everyone knows when people get upset some words come out that shouldn’t. Generally people don’t actually mean the words that come out in these situations but they are apologetic afterwards. I think some leeway is needed here.

    • Separation of Church and State says:

      Freedom of speech does not mean you get to have unrestricted speech, you can’t make threats to local assembly members, start spewing racial slurs and expect people to just have to listen to you because “muh freedom of speech”

      Freedom of speech, does not mean freedom from consequences.

  • Anchorite says:

    Leave Veterans out of your equity list, we work for a living.

    • Separation of Church and State says:

      And what, lgbt, black people, immigrants, and everyone else on that list doesn’t work for a living ? Idk about you but most of the lazy bums I see on the street are vets.

      • Steve says:

        Separation, have you ever taken a bullet? Have you ever had emanate fear for your life? Have you ever watched a buddy die before your eyes and not be able to do anything to save them? Have you ever done anything for your country other than demand? You’d probably fall to your knees and cry if you were to be place in situations that most of these vets have experienced. You ought to be ashamed of yourself with your reference of these vet.

  • Friend of Humanity says:

    I think that what is going on in Anchorage and the Mat-Su is amazing time-wise! Twitter starts allowing conservatives to have free speech again – Anchorage is trying to shut down free speech. The left was trying to remove Trump and others through made up charges and those charges are now being exposed as made up – Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley using Anchorage judges are on the attack against Conservative reps. Seems like attempted takedowns or removal of rights are tried in the lower 48 and then tried in Alaska. I wonder how many lefties have been planted here to up the game when instructed to do so, because we sure have been seeing more and more globalist activity here. Remember that the evil is after our children. This war is about our children. We need to protect the children and their future by getting involved locally anywhere and everywhere that you can. God bless the children and the bows that guide them.

    • Max says:

      Well said, glad someone realizes the agenda of Communism is to target the children. Funny, they even admit it, but everyone seems blind, distracted, selfish: divided against each other, as the the system takes it all. Most are blind the the war, hope they wake up before it is to late.

  • Max says:

    Would it be easier to just state allocate $60,000 to study how to discriminate against white people?

    • Steve P Peterson says:

      “Would it be easier to just state allocate $60,000 to study how to discriminate against white people?” You forgot straight (as in normal) people.

    • kc says:

      MAX: This isn’t about white and black,(We fought that in the 50’s and ’60’s, or at least I thought we did..) this is about conservative and non conservative and/or against atheism, Satan’s worshippers or true believers..please, your statement above sounds kinda like racism.

      • Friend of Humanity says:

        kc, I did not see the word, “black” in his statement. Where did you see that? I must have missed that somewhere!

  • John J Otness says:

    Ok they had their. little play time…. build the mental institutions…

  • Diana says:

    The assembly still has a lot of idiots in its ranks. They like to create fear and monger their way through testy speech to create a smoke screen so they can make rotten decisions and blame it on the “mayor” or one of his goals to better the communities of the Anchorage borough. Rivera is one of the idiots. Many others still there do lie and make excuses. Speech is speech and we are all protected under the US Constitution. Stupid is stupid as far as the assembly goes. They haven’t shown any good thinking because of their personal fears conjured up intheir imaginations since , when?

  • Trevor says:

    Good article Joel

  • Jen says:

    If the lay person reads Profiles In Courage, by john f kennedy, he will have some little
    knowledge why our america since 1854 as had such extreamism and extreme peoples.

  • Daniel Kiley says:

    That “simply” OUTLAW certain types of speech. JFC!

  • Lisa O Levang says:

    FLEABIT HYSTERIA enforces rules like ” NO personal ATTACKS ” and then proceeds to attack the PEOPLE”S mayor that represents 43, 000 Anchoragites. What if I told you all commentators need to be AT ASSEMBLY , twice a month, see muni schedule. Next meeting Jan 10th. 5 pm at library as long as you are able to stay.