Redistricting triggers debate amongst Anchorage Assembly members

Redistricting triggers debate amongst members at Anchorage assembly meeting
Published: Apr. 13, 2022 at 9:51 AM AKDT|Updated: Apr. 13, 2022 at 6:19 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Redistricting, housing and economic relief were all on Tuesday night’s agenda for the Anchorage Assembly, as well as a proposed resolution honoring the late Alaska Rep. Don Young, but it was one particular item that triggered debate among assembly members.

A resolution in support of a state Senate district revision option for Eagle River was heavily debated early in the night. Two options are currently before the Alaska Redistricting Board — option No. 2 keeps Eagle River with one Senate seat, as Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson would be paired with Muldoon in another seat, and part of South Anchorage would be paired with a district that stretches down to Girdwood in a third seat.

The second option, though technically called Option 3B, joins south Eagle River with South Anchorage, Girdwood and Turnagain Arm, including Portage.

The resolution states that “during the recent Municipality of Anchorage reapportionment process, residents from Eagle River, South Anchorage and Girdwood spoke out overwhelmingly against proposals that would combine these communities, with scores of comments opposing the combination.”

“The Downtown Community Council, the Government Hill Community Council have spoken on this item in the last 10 days and asked us to support map (No. 2),” said Anchorage Assembly Vice Chair Chris Constant.

However, Eagle River/Chugiak assembly members Crystal Kennedy and Jamie Allard joined with South Anchorage’s John Weddleton in opposing the resolution. Allard said the Senate redistricting issue is a partisan one, and that assembly members should be indicating their preferences privately. Kennedy echoed that same sentiment.

“This body never once gave its opinion when we were talking about the house redistricting, so it is very interesting to me that now when it becomes more of a political football, there are people who think they have to come in and support a certain option,” Kennedy said.

Constant pointed to other local government bodies taking a stance on the redistricting maps. The resolution did end up passing in a 7-3 vote. On Wednesday, however, Mayor Dave Bronson announced he was vetoing the resolution, saying Option 3B “allows for a demographically accurate representation of the Chugiak-Eagle River area.”

It takes a supermajority of eight votes to override a mayoral veto.

Other consent items that were passed during the night included an appointment of a citizen-naming panel for the purpose of renaming the Port of Alaska, “The Don Young Port of Alaska,” and a resolution in support of creating a housing trust to work with $60 million from the State of Alaska, in the form of 2021 American Rescue plan Act funds.

The assembly also voted to postpone discussion and action for an ordinance waiving certain fees established in the Anchorage municipal code. The move is meant to encourage and support local development and construction, transportation services and the hospitality industry, which were greatly impacted by the pandemic. The ordinance will be taken back up at the next regular meeting on April 26.

Clarification: This article has been updated to clarify that a section describing residents’ opposition to Eagle River, South Anchorage and Girdwood being combined through the reapportionment process came from the text of an Anchorage Assembly resolution.

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

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