Task Force Hears Testimony on Public Hearing Process

A citizen’s task force on public hearings held it’s first public meeting seeking input from the Anchorage community Tuesday night.
A citizens task force to advise the Assembly in its development of procedures for public testimony met at the Loussac Library. Jane Angvik is the chair of the task force. She says the group has been reviewing many issues.

“Issues that are of concern are the public notice that people receive about an ordinance that is being considered by the assembly. Also it includes what happens when people come to participate. How much time do they have to articulate their point of view, how do they know how to find an issue on the agenda and how do people find out about things that are going on within the municipal assembly.”

The Assembly created the task force in June after considerable community outrage over how the Assembly handled taking public testimony about Anchorage land-use law, also known as Title 21. Weeks later, an ordinance called AO-37, proposed changes to the labor union bargaining processes and drew hundreds who protested and testified … the Assembly voted to limit public testimony. The American Civil Rights Union threatened to sue the Assembly for violating Anchorage’s Charter and its Bill of Rights. Assembly chair, Ernie Hall, said that he was just trying to be practical. He crafted an ordinance that proposed codifying restrictions on public testimony, but it was eventually tabled. Joelle Hall is Director of the Alaska AFL-CIO and a member of the task force. She asked if there might be a better forum for sharing public testimony which is sent to Assembly members personal email accounts and citizen Heather Ireland responded.

“If we had a way to do online public testimony — it was like a bulletin board where you could do public testimony that was visible to the assembly members as well as to the public at large, do you think that would be a valuable addition that would not supplant in-person public testimony? Yeah, I think that there would be a lot of value to that. It shouldn’t just come down to who knows who and who can influence who.”

The ten member group has met three times. The Task force will hold a second public meeting to collect more testimony October 1st. Their recommendations to the Assembly are due October 8th.