Assembly passes ordinance outlining power given to mayor during public health crisis

(KTUU)

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Tuesday night, the Anchorage Assembly unanimously passed an ordinance that would expand the powers of Anchorage Mayor Ethan Bertkowitz during a public health emergency such as the one seen amid increased cases of the new coronavirus.

This ordinance gives the mayor power of examination, treatment, and isolation, as well as sending people to quarantine who have or are suspected of having a contagious disease.

The discussion around the ordinance focused on the proposed amendments by assembly members John Weddleton and Meg Zaletel. The amendments cleaned up the language of the ordinance along with attempting to protect it from possible abuse in the future.

“It’s striking a balance between isolating and quarantining someone, and to a certain extent, protecting their constitutional civil liberties,” said assembly member Crystal Kennedy over the phone Tuesday.

Before Tuesday's Anchorage Assembly meeting, American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska Policy Director Triada Stampas offered recommendations on amendments to make sure the ordinance finds a lawful balance between public health and residents' rights.

“History teaches us that in moments of crisis moments of abuse can occur,” Stampas said Tuesday. “This law will outlast the current crisis, it will outlive the current mayor, current assembly."

There was limited participation in person at the assembly meeting on Tuesday due to Coronavirus concerns. A handful of assembly members attended in person, while others joined over the phone. Testimony by members of the public was banned, with the Assembly only taking testimony in writing, over the phone, or by email.

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