Anchorage Assembly votes to extend mayor’s emergency powers

Anchorage Assembly Chair Forrest Dunbar speaking while wearing a cloth mask during a meeting on extending the civil emergency declaration in April. (Via public broadcast)

The Anchorage Assembly passed a resolution extending Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s emergency powers until the end of July Tuesday evening. 

The resolution passed by a 9-2 vote. 

During the discussion on the resolution, Anchorage City Manager Bill Falsey was pressed on what the administration has been doing with the emergency powers, which it was originally granted on March 12. 

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“Right now, the municipality still has ongoing costs related to, among other things, our sheltering program, our isolating and quarantine program, our feeding program, our non-critical transport program, security program, our emergency operations center operations itself, our contact tracing efforts where we’re paying the school district, and testing,” he said.  

Assemblymembers Jamie Allard and Crystal Kennedy, the two nay votes, pressed the administration on why the assembly couldn’t do that work itself. Falsey said that the mayor could act a lot quicker in the case of a spike in cases. Anchorage Health Director Natasha Pineda gave a recent example. 

“Last week we thought there were really low cases and we started moving back to kind of sort of normal scheduling, and then it quickly changed, and if we were not able to quickly assign our staff to go back to the emergency functions that they were doing within the department, we would have had to follow multi-day noticing requirements and we would not have had enough staff to fill in those positions without violating that contract,” she said.

The extension of the emergency powers allows the mayor to issue emergency orders, though the Assembly can repeal those. It’s the third time the assembly has voted to grant emergency powers to the mayor. 

Also at the meeting, the Assembly narrowly voted down a resolution that would recommend the mayor require employees at businesses wear face coverings at all times.