Anchorage police body camera vote delayed as Eagle River assembly members and Black Caucus look for new funding sources

Published: Dec. 12, 2020 at 8:34 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The vote on an ordinance that could bring body cameras and other technology upgrades to the Anchorage Police Department was delayed to January at the Anchorage Assembly’s Tuesday meeting.

The motion to postpone came from Assembly Member Crystal Kennedy, one of the representatives for Eagle River and Chugiak, who asked the body for more time to find a different source of funding rather than the proposed increase in property taxes.

“By doing the tax levy, it just seemed like an undue increased burden on the taxpayers,” Kennedy said. “Especially in a time when we’re looking at how our economy is really going to be impacted by this.”

The delayed ordinance would put the question on the April ballot of whether to raise property taxes by an estimated $5.32 per $100,000 of value to fund the technology. Kennedy said she’s now working with fellow Eagle River/Chugiak Assembly Member Jamie Allard, as well as Celeste Hodge Growden, President and CEO of the Alaska Black Caucus to find possible funding sources that wouldn’t raise taxes.

“The last thing we want to do, I want to do, the Alaska Black Caucus does not want to add additional burdens to individuals,” Hodge Growden said.

Hodge Growden testified at Tuesday’s meeting against sending the ordinance to the ballot. Her opposition centered around that taxpayer burden, arguing that asking Anchorage residents to vote to raise their taxes during a pandemic would hurt the bill’s chances and the community. She made it clear she doesn’t oppose the implementation of body cameras.

“We believe and we know through stats that it will bring about transparency and accountability, and that’s a priority for the Alaska Black Caucus,” she said.

Looking at funding, the three are now considering different options, namely grant funding and reallocation of existing municipal funds. The city’s new alcohol tax, which contains language dedicating part of the fund to public safety is one possible option they’ve identified. Most of its revenues for 2021 have been dedicated already, but Kennedy argued that doesn’t lock them down forever.

“We don’t necessarily know that we want to keep the funding in all those particular buckets the way they’ve been aligned,” she said. “So there’s potential for reallocating those particular allocations in the future.”

The group doesn’t have a set deadline to decide on a new funding source, though the original ordinance will be up for consideration again at the Assembly’s January 26 meeting. It will need to pass that night to make it onto the April ballot.

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