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Public hearing on Anchorage mask ordinance will continue this week

Anchorage City Hall.
Anchorage City Hall.(Jeremy Kashatok/Alaska's News Source)
Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 9:41 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Public testimony on a proposed mask ordinance will continue into a seventh day on Wednesday, after being delayed when two members of Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

The Anchorage Assembly has been hearing public comments on a proposed ordinance that would require mask wearing within the municipality while the city is still experiencing high transmission of COVID-19. The meetings have been marked by unruly crowds, outbursts, arrests and clashes between the assembly and Bronson’s administration.

The public hearing was scheduled to continue last Friday, but was canceled after Municipal Manager Amy Demboski and Municipal Attorney Patrick Bergt tested positive for COVID-19. Several assembly members who attended last Thursday’s meeting in person were exposed through their close contact with the administration members.

No other members of the administration have since tested positive, spokesperson Corey Allen Young confirmed Monday.

Now, the public hearing will continue at 6 p.m. Wednesday, according to a legislative liaison for the assembly. It is possible it could also be extended again to Thursday at 6 p.m.

The assembly cannot debate the ordinance or make amendments until the public hearing has closed, though at least 14 amendments have been proposed so far. The hearing has stretched over two weeks as hundreds have lined up to testify and the mayor has openly opposed it moving forward. The assembly has also received thousands of emailed comments on the measure.

The next regularly scheduled assembly meeting will also go forward at 5 p.m. on Tuesday in the Loussac Library. The mask ordinance will not be discussed during the regular meeting, nor will two other ordinances that have been pushed back to later dates.

One ordinance introduced by Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance and Vice Chair Christopher Constant would seek to speed up the timeline for the assembly to hold confirmation hearings for executive appointments made by the mayor. That measure will now have a public hearing on Oct. 27.

The second ordinance was sponsored by Constant and would give authority over meetings in the Anchorage Assembly Chambers to the assembly chair. The measure is “intended to clarify a long history, custom, and practice of the Municipality,” according to the ordinance text.

The ordinance would add new language that says “the presiding officer of a meeting shall have management authority over the premises,” meaning the chambers or other room in which an assembly or committee meeting is being held. That measure will have a public hearing on Dec. 7.

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