Summary of the Anchorage Assembly meeting on July 7, 2009
Compared to the previous weeks of testimony, Tuesday night’s Assembly meeting was surprisingly tame. There were no massive red banners, no long lines winding through the lobby, and never more than maybe twenty people picketing along 36th Avenue. The busloads of schoolchildren and out-of-towners were conspicuously missing. Despite Pastor Jerry Prevo’s email earlier in the day telling those who had not yet testified that it was “imperative that you be there tonight,” his flock seemed to have found better things to do. Was this just a one-time respite, or has the opposition been worn out by this marathon of their own creation? Do they think they can rest just because Dan Sullivan is in office? Only time will tell.
Early in the meeting, newly returned Assemblyman Matt Claman introduced a pair of amendments to the Municipal Charter which would add sexual orientation to the city’s protected classes and give the Assembly authority to enact appropriate measures to protect people from discrimination on that basis. It takes eight votes to place the charter amendments on the ballot, and Claman struggled even to muster the three votes necessary to schedule a public hearing on the issue. That hearing has been tentatively scheduled for August 11th, which would theoretically give the Assembly time to finish testimony on the proposed ordinance before considering the charter amendments. Jeff Mittman of Equality Works says that the 8/11 meeting will be the next time we need a strong showing of support before the Assembly, although it appears that they will be taking testimony on the ordinance at their July 21 meeting as well.
Once Claman’s proposal was considered, Jeff Mittman and other members of the Equality Works steering committee joined community members on the front lawn of the library for a quick meeting and status update. The most significant item shared was that Patrick Flynn is working on an S-2 version of the proposed ordinance, which Equality Works anticipates being able to fully support. Jeff also gave a brief and very politically correct overview of where the members of the Assembly stand on the issue, with most being in support: in short, Ossiander and Johnston
are the two who need the most positive pressure from our community, as all of the others seem to have made up their minds. Respectful messages to Mayor Sullivan would also be helpful, as he is largely unfamiliar with these issues and needs to be educated on the impact that discrimination has on our community. One attendee suggested that phone calls and in-person contact would be most effective, especially for Assembly members, since their email inboxes have been flooded with hundreds and thousands of emails regarding the proposed ordinance.
While I did not listen to much of the evening’s testimony, it was limited (they didn’t begin hearing people until after 9:30pm) and my understanding is that it was just a rehash of the same opposition arguments that we’ve been hearing week after week. The Assembly was in the mid-480s when I left around 10pm, out of over 600 names on the list. Those who can make it on July 21st will be welcomed, and people who are signed up to testify should definitely come to make sure they don’t miss their spots. Definitely plan to come to the August 11th meeting, though, so that you can sign up to tell the Assembly why it’s not okay to let the citizens vote on the rights of a minority. Until then, spend a few minutes reminding your Assembly member(s) and our new mayor why this is important to us, and take some time to enjoy this strange and unfamiliar phenomenon they’re calling “summer.”
Originally posted at SOS Anchorage.