Anchorage Assembly reopens for in-person public testimony

Kendra Kloster, left, and Keneggnarkayaagaq Emily Edenshaw listen as Charlene Aqpik Apok speaks to the Anchorage Municipal Assembly on Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (Photo courtesy Yaari Toolie-Walker)

The Anchorage Assembly is reopening chambers for in-person testimony after the Berkowitz administration loosened limitations on gatherings last week.

On Monday, Assembly Chair Felix Rivera outlined new guidelines for all municipal employees, assembly members and members of the public who enter the chambers at the Loussac Library. The guidelines require social distancing between non-household members and wearing a mask, with some exceptions. Attendees must also fill out a confidential contact tracing log and get a temperature check upon entry.

Assembly chambers were closed to the public and in-person testimony for four weeks in August while a temporary emergency order limited indoor gatherings to 15 people. Rivera says the Assembly received thousands of emailed comments and hundreds of call-in testimonies in the last few months. 

The closure was met with pushback from the public as well as Assemblywomen Jamie Allard and Crystal Kennedy, who called it a violation of the Open Meetings Act. 

According to current emergency orders, Assembly chambers are required to remain at 50 percent capacity, or 60 members of the public at a time. Rivera’s statement says if the public is unable to comply with the guidelines, public testimony will once again be closed and people will have to call in to testify instead.