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Question of Eagle River leaving the municipality renewed with 2 proposed advisory votes before the Anchorage Assembly

Eagle River reps to introduce their own proposal in addition to the one from downtown Anchorage’s assembly representative
Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 7:16 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The topic of Eagle River and other northern communities breaking off from the Municipality of Anchorage is back up for discussion.

Questions over whether or not to separate the northern area of the municipality will be coming before the Anchorage Assembly this month. Assembly Vice Chair Chris Constant proposed an advisory vote to start conversations with the community and policy makers.

The question being raised by Constant, who represents downtown Anchorage, would ask whether the areas of Eagle River, Chugiak and Eklutna should be detached from the municipality and form a separate local government?

This has been an idea floated around for years, and more recently has been pushed by the group EaglExit, who advocate for a smaller local government.

“Well the deadline to move items onto the ballot is the end of this month, and so now is the only time to do that on an annual basis,” Constant said.

Constant began the drafting process on this last year, but due to COVID-19 he said it wasn’t the time to do it. Constant now believes it’s the right time and he isn’t the only one.

Constant’s measure does not include Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson as part of the communities that would separate, and the question before voters would simply be an advisory vote, rather than an action.

Assembly members Crystal Kennedy and Jamie Allard, who both represent the Eagle River district, are bringing their own advisory vote proposal on the separation before the assembly, but worded in a different way.

“There’s been a lot of conversation over the years about how would we do it, what it would look like, how much will it cost,” Kennedy said. “That’s what people want to know.”

As opposed to asking whether Eagle River and the northern municipality communities should separate, Kennedy and Allard’s proposal would ask whether the community should investigate or explore the potential for the area to be its own governing body, and whether or not they can establish their own local governance.

“So we need to figure out how you split those assets,” Kennedy said. “So it is kind of a property battle if you will, but people want that information before they make that decision. People want to know what does it look like, what will our services look like, so we want to make sure that we can get enough information that the people really do have enough information to make that informed decision.”

Kennedy said the closer a government is to the people, the better served the people are and they can make better decisions for the people in this community than anchorage can for this community.

Not everyone in the northern part of the municipality is in favor of this exit. Gretchen Wehmhoff, who has been living in the area for 26 years, said she wants to stay as part of the municipality.

“My hope is that people will see Eagle River as a valuable part of this community, which is what I think it is,” Wehmhoff said.

They are going to have to convince us a lot more and I am concerned that a majority of Anchorage has heard their message and thinks all of Chugiak/ Eagle River wants to secede and that’s just not the case,” she went on to say later in the interview.

The assembly will still have to vote on these questions before either of them could be placed on the April 2022 election ballot. Each measure would need a simple majority to pass.

Even if voters were to say “yes,” the results would be non-binding due to this just being an advisory vote, and the communities would not actually detach from the municipality.

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