Anchorage Assemblyman Christopher Constant

During the February 9, 2023 Anchorage Assembly Rules Committee meeting, Assemblyman Christopher Constant mentioned his interest in converting past emergency ordinances to permanent code. The effort has been termed “EOs to AOs.”

During the meeting, Constant expressed a desire to get the ball rolling on this effort.

“I still don’t have a good sense of us working on what we previously – during the mask issues – called EOs to AOs,” he said. “Like, we really need to put a list together – and I think there are people working on it – of what elements of the emergency ordinances we want to become permanent.”

For starters, he wants to permanently codify the recent emergency ordinance that empowers the city ombudsman to view personnel and all other records of the municipality regardless of whether they are deemed confidential by a municipal attorney or HR director.

“We should codify that the ombudsman has those powers, because, if not, then we have a black box in which only the executive can look, and what we’ve found is that’s insufficient at this time,” Constant said. “And so, the EO to AO effort, we have our own little working group starting that process. I want people thinking about that. What of these temporary procedures should be made permanent or what changes. And so, that’s what I’m working on right now.”

While Constant’s statement is somewhat vague and incoherent, it is alarming to hear. Remember, a number of the municipality’s emergency orders were viewed by many Anchorage residents as violations of individual rights and fundamental liberties. 

Based on municipal records available within the Public Portal to Assembly Documents, 2020 saw the issuance of 11 emergency orders. In 2021, there were 13 more, and 2022 had nine emergency orders. So far, 2023 has seen the passage of six more emergency orders. Some records are incomplete and appear to be placeholders for EOs that may have found their way to the round file before being introduced. Not all are related to the proclaimed COVID emergency.

Considering recent experience regarding emergency orders, many Anchorage residents might oppose these measures becoming part of the city’s permanent code. Here are two that come to mind.

EO 2020-3, “enacting restrictions on non-critical businesses and entities during the COVID-19 public health emergency, supplementing EO-03, the proclamation of Emergency “Hunker Down” Order issued by Mayor Ethan Berkowitz on March 20, 2020.”

EO 2021-3, “an emergency ordinance of the Anchorage Municipal Assembly regarding public health and safety measures for the COVID-19 pandemic, Assembly Members Petersen and Zaletel.”

Of the COVID specific emergency orders, issued mostly by Berkowitz during the proclaimed COVID emergency, there appears to have been as many as 20 – each containing layer upon layer of Chinese style authoritarianism. Are these the emergency orders Mr. Constant is working on listing and incorporating into code?

Later in the meeting, Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance brought up the EO to AO effort again, claiming the Assembly needed to continue pursuing this effort.

“I want to say that for Title 7 (Purchasing, Contracts, and Professional Services) we had a growing list of areas that needed reworking, and the intent is that through the consultant, through the RFP, we’ll get some additional ideas and maybe also from just going through this process of having the EOs and what works, what doesn’t, and some further insight. And, I think also, some of these changes were underway like the Ombudsman code. So that one, Chris, like we talked about, should be, I think it’s moving forward.”

The views expressed here are those of the author.

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Anchorage Assembly aims to permanently impose its ‘Emergency Ordinances’

Lucas Smith
Born and raised in Alaska, Lucas Smith’s professional background is in civil engineering. He is an active member of the Anchorage community, where he keeps a close watch on city politics and culture.