New ways to give testimony at Anchorage Assembly meetings

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) Waiting for hours to speak at an Anchorage Assembly meeting is not a way many people want to spend their Tuesday nights. Fortunately, some recent changes to Assembly procedure have made it a little easier to make your voice heard.

Previously, public comment at Assembly meetings was restricted to two sections: individual agenda items, and a time for audience participation at the end, which oftentimes can be as late as 11:30pm.

“For people, particularly who have kids, or have to get home to make dinner or have other engagements, it just didn’t feel really reasonable to ask people to be there at almost midnight in order to share their thoughts with us in person,” said Assembly Vice-Chair Austin Quinn-Davidson.

Quinn-Davidson recently introduced a group of ordinances to streamline the Assembly meetings. One of the proposed changes was a time for audience participation at the start. That gives the audience the opportunity to speak about anything on the agenda for that night at a more reasonable hour.

The ordinances both passed at the Assembly’s April 28 meeting, and they take effect at their next meeting on May 19, but you won’t be able to speak in-person just yet. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Assembly public testimony is done by email or over the phone, but you can still request to be called during the meeting to give your comments. You’ll still have 3 minutes to speak, but some assembly members have said they miss that in-person element.

“I enjoy just really being able to see some of people’s expressions,” said Assembly Member Crystal Kennedy, representing Eagle River and Chugiak. “I love the opportunity to do a little bit more give-and-take if we have questions.”

The restrictions on in-person commentary are only temporary. Assembly leadership has said that as Anchorage continues to reopen, so will the meetings, but the time to speak at the beginning should stick around.

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