Bronson vetoes Anchorage Assembly’s emergency mask ordinance

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 1:38 PM AKDT|Updated: Oct. 13, 2021 at 1:55 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson has vetoed the emergency ordinance passed Tuesday night by the Anchorage Assembly that requires residents to wear masks in public spaces in the municipality for no more than two months.

The emergency ordinance was introduced during Tuesday’s regular meeting by assembly member Pete Petersen and passed on a 9-1 vote, with assembly member Crystal Kennedy voting against it. Because of a procedural error, the assembly had to vote twice. Assembly member Jamie Allard voted no in the initial vote, but did not participate in the second vote, for an official result of 9-1.

Bronson announced he had issued his veto in a statement released Wednesday.

On Wednesday afternoon, the legislative liaison for the assembly announced a special meeting has been set for 5 p.m. Thursday, where they assembly will address the mayor’s veto. To override a mayoral veto, the assembly needs a supermajority of eight votes. The power to enforce municipal ordinances resides in the mayor’s office, the city’s executive branch.

Ahead of Tuesday’s regular assembly meeting, a public hearing had been scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. to continue hearing comment on the original ordinance that had been being considered. The assembly announced Wednesday that the public hearing has been canceled, as has a second special meeting that had been scheduled for Thursday for additional public comment.

Legislative Liaison Clare Ross explained via email that, due to the nature of the measure being an emergency ordinance, other assembly members did not know about it ahead of time, and its sponsors, Petersen and assembly member Meg Zaletel, would have no way of knowing whether it would receive the nine votes needed to pass.

“If the (emergency ordinance) was not introduced and passed last night, they would have needed to roll right into the special meetings today and tomorrow, which is why those meetings were only cancelled this morning once it was determined that yesterday’s actions eliminated the need for today’s meeting,” Ross wrote.

In a release late Tuesday night, the assembly said the testimony that stretched over two weeks helped inform the new, updated emergency ordinance that was passed during the assembly meeting.

It includes more exemptions, such as for children under 5 and anyone participating in athletic activity. It also removed a controversial section that would have allowed residents to take private enforcement action against others not in compliance with the requirement, which people said they feared would pit neighbors against neighbors.

“The Anchorage Assembly has made a concerted effort to protect the public process to ensure that as many people as possible had an opportunity to voice their opinion on the subject before we made our decision,” the Tuesday night statement read. “However, the public process has been abused by members of our community who have conspired to prevent the Assembly from translating those perspectives into much needed action.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information.

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