ANCHORAGE (KTUU) The Anchorage Assembly voted 9-2 Tuesday night to extend Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s emergency proclamation to July 31. During the meeting, the administration argued that the freedom allowed by the proclamation to move funds and people quickly was still necessary as Anchorage continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The proclamation allowed us to push resources quickly to problems we needed to solve and to redeploy individuals from their day jobs to their current positions,” said Municipal Manager and Incident Commander Bill Falsey.
On top of quickly moving people, the proclamation removes many barriers for how money can be used, allowing the municipality to fund a large number of emergency programs.
“Right now, the municipality has ongoing costs related to, among other things, our sheltering program, our isolation and quarantine program, our feeding program, our non-critical transport program, security programs, the emergency operations center itself,” Falsey said.
The two no votes came from Eagle River/Chugiak Assembly members Crystal Kennedy and Jamie Allard. Kennedy questioned whether many of the actions currently taken by the municipality could be accomplished through Assembly action, while Allard raised concerns that the proclamation would allow the municipality to return to a state of closures.
“So we can actually enforce the code and shut down businesses if they don’t abide by this proclamation?” Allard asked Municipal Attorney Kate Vogel.
However Vogel clarified that the emergency proclamation only gives the Mayor the power to issue emergency orders, and removes those restrictions on employees and funds.
“This proclamation doesn’t shut down any businesses,” she said.
She added that individual emergency orders will need to be extended by the mayor.
While extending the emergency proclamation does give the mayor the ability to return to hunkering down if he gives the order. Berkowitz downplayed the likelihood that something like that would happen.
“Hunker down was the only tool at our disposal when we began this process,” he said. “It it an option of last resort.”
Assembly members Meg Zalatel, representing Midtown, and Jon Weddleton, representing South Anchorage, questioned officials about upcoming changes to the state’s travel restrictions, but Falsey said that the city is still in the dark about many of those details, citing an additional need to be able to respond quickly to changes.
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