Hall Proposes New Testimony Protocol, Unions Apply to Hold Referendum

The Anchorage Assembly Chair says he’s going to introduce a new ordinance that will better outline how public hearings work. Meanwhile, Anchorage union leaders have applied to hold a referendum that could repeal a controversial ordinance recently passed by the Assembly. KSKA’s Daysha Eaton has more.

The Anchorage Assembly ended public hearings on the controversial ordinance after listening to four, 5-hour evenings of public testimony from 285 people. The rewrite of municipal labor code passed by a vote of 6 to 5 on March 26th. The next week voters let Anchorage Assembly Chair Ernie Hall know they were dissatisfied. Thousands of voters in his West Anchorage Assembly District wrote-in a last minute candidate, Nick Moe. At the end of election night Hall led Moe by just 93 votes. Who wins won’t be determined for at least a week, after questioned and absentee ballots are reviewed and counted. Hall says, meanwhile, he’s introducing a new ordinance that will require people sign-up ahead of time in order to give public testimony.

“It’s basically going to set up the procedure, protocol for taking public testimony. It will be very clear and this will never be a problem in the future, because as chair, you know I asked, okay how’s this been handled in the past? And they said said sometimes we do sign-up sheets, sometimes we do this – nobody had a written protocol. There will be one.”

Union leaders says that’s a bad idea.

“The intent of the way that’s written is for the community to be able to provide their input for these very important things. And I think it was left gray so that they could make the decision to allow all of these people to talk and to be heard and have their voice be heard. And they made a conscious decision to say, we know that there are more of you that are waiting and ready to be heard, but we just don’t want to hear it right now.”

Sergeant Gerard Asselin, who represents the Anchorage Police Department Employee Association, says changing the protocol to require the public to sign-up to ahead of time to testify, could potentially limit busy working people from turning out to get involved in the public process. Besides, the public testimony issue is a red herring, Asselin says. Wednesday union leaders filed paperwork applying to hold a referendum on AO37. Gerard Asselin says they want to repeal the ordinance.

“And so we have submitted the initial petition to the city, which kinda gets that ball rolling. The administration has 10 working days to respond to our initial application. The next step would be that the city clerk’s office would then respond to us with the official signature gathering pages, as well as official language that would then be presented to the voters.”

The clerk’s office and municipality’s legal department are reviewing the application. If the application to hold the referendum is approved, union leaders will have to collect more than 7-thousand signatures, or signatures equaling 10 percent of the voters that voted in the last mayoral race. Once the signatures are submitted and certified, the Assembly is required to hold a special election within 75 days — theoretically in late August or in early September. The Assembly could vote to hold the referendum later, but the ordinance would have be suspended until then.

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Daysha Eaton is the News Director at KBBI in Homer. Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage. Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email. Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.