For the fifth time, the Assembly is extending the declaration of emergencies, giving the mayor special powers to take emergency orders and take other action to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
The proposal to extend the declaration of emergency passed 9-1, and MP from Jamie Allard voted against. Allard has consistently opposed the extraordinary announcement and voted against any previous extension.
“How can we extend the emergency powers of a person who has just resigned?” Allard said.
The Berkowitz administration had asked for the extension to continue until the end of the year on December 31st. The coronavirus is spreading rapidly in and around Anchorage, and city officials have said the declaration is a necessary response to the public health threat.
Municipal manager Bill Falsy said the emergency declaration allowed the municipality to act quickly in response to unforeseen conditions and challenges arising from the pandemic, such as supporting COVID-19 test sites.
But a proposal tabled by Assembly Crystal Kennedy and approved by the body means the city is moving towards a phasing out of the state of emergency and will find other ways to deal with the pandemic.
A section added to the proposal states that “the purpose of this extension is only to provide time for the recovery of all processes outside the current emergency status and in normal MOA management processes”.
Assemblywoman Susan LaFrance also proposed shortening the extension from late December to November.
“My concern is that we continue to carry out emergency orders instead of taking the next step, which is to understand what the transition to a more permanent solution should be,” LaFrance said. She noted that the Assembly could adopt regulations in line with the pandemic.
She said she would work with the mayor’s assembly and administration on an ordinance that “would recognize the significant continued impact of COVID-19, but would also de-escalate the ongoing state of emergency and receive special powers.”
If the state of emergency was not extended on Tuesday, all current mayor’s emergency orders will no longer be in force. Emergency orders still in force include a mandate for city masks in public spaces and EO-14, which limits the capacity of bars, restaurants and breweries and limits indoor collection.
A public hearing will be required before any further extension of the declaration of emergency, as amended by the Assembly and introduced by Assemblyman John Weddleton. MEP Meg Zaletel proposed an additional amendment to the extension, which requires a public hearing to be held two weeks before the declaration expires at the end of November.
The use of the mayor’s extraordinary powers to manage the pandemic led to controversial public testimony at earlier Assembly meetings.
On Tuesday, a crowd gathered again in the halls to speak out against the enlargement and the mayor during a tense public demonstration. Speaker Felix Rivera twice warned the crowd, which occasionally erupted in shouts, to be respectful. He said those who did not show respect would be removed from the cells.
Several people who testified asked the Assembly how it could extend the mayor’s extraordinary powers after his resignation. Several spoke of the negative economic impact of COVID-19 restrictions.
“By upholding these orders, you are condemning your constituents to certain death. “People are starving, people can’t afford to pay their bills, people are really struggling right now,” said Rosa Millie.
The resignation of the mayor will take effect on October 23 and at that time the President of the Assembly will assume the position of acting mayor. Rivera is currently chairman.
The current extraordinary powers of the mayor would expire this Friday and were issued for the first time in March as the Assembly tried to take action against the growing COVID-19 pandemic.