Into my email inbox about an hour ago came the following Anchorage Daily News breaking news item:
The prospect of a gay rights ordinance passing look dim as Anchorage Assembly Chairwoman Debbie Ossiander says she will continue to allow testimony from anyone who wants to speak on the issue, effectively preventing passage of the ordinance under the watch of a supportive city administration.
If you click through to the story now, you’ll find that it’s been retitled “Prospects dimming for gay-rights ordinance” — a renaming which occurred about 11:54 AM between me posting my first comment on the article (at 11:53:39 AM) & my second (at 11:55:03 AM).
The story is by ADN reported Megan Holland — the same person whose earlier story, entitled “Residents demand to air views on gay-rights amendment”, prompted me earlier today to cancel my electronic subscription to the ADN. Why? Because the story failed to make any mention whatsoever of the long-brewing issue of nonresidents from Mat-Su being permitted to testify — just more evidence that the ADN is falling down on the job when it comes to actually investigating news stories instead of acting as mere stenographers for whatever they’re being told by the people they talk with.
You might recall that I wrote a post about the Outside influence issue last week. Fascinatingly, finally now in this doomsaying article, Megan Holland finally mentions the problem — the first time I’ve seen it mentioned in the ADN (unless I missed something — & I am willing to be corrected). Holland writes:
Opponents of the measure have been organized, showing up by the hundreds, bringing in Christian youth groups, and busing in churchgoers from Mat-Su, some of whom work in Anchorage.
Wow, finally some acknowledgment from the city’s newspaper-of-record!
A few days ago a friend of mine wrote to the Assembly objecting to permitting the testimony of non-Anchorage residents. He received a reply back from Assembly Chair Debbie Ossiander, which he shared with me. The pertinent parts (emphasis added):
The decisions on how best to conduct the hearings are made by the chair. I have taken into consideration the requests to limit testimony to residents of the municipality and have decided against that for several reasons. Many, many of the people who work and play in our town live in the Valley. Anchorage is a true regional city in the sense that its impact extends beyond its physical boundaries in many ways.
And so therefore those people who work & play in Anchorage but do not pay Anchorage taxes or vote in Anchorage elections should have the right to influence our elected representatives to permit discrimination against Anchorage citizens?
Try it this way:
Many, many of the people who work and play in our country live in Canada or Mexico, or hold green cards from other nations. The United States is a true regional power — in fact a world power — in the sense that its impact extends beyond its physical boundaries in many ways.
So let’s let Canadian, Mexican, & other foreign citizens come testify before Congress to influence U.S. lawmakers’ decisions about how to govern U.S. citizens!
I think not.
Then there’s the other issue the article mentions:
Some backers of the proposed law have accused opponents of filibustering — packing the hearing with opposition voices to stall the proposal until it falls in Sullivan’s term. Ossiander said she has suspected that at times but she has also heard very impassioned testimony that convinces her the issue is deeply important to people.
Sure: the same impassioned testimony heard over & over from the same small subset of the Anchorage (& let’s not forget the Mat-Su) population, repeating the same talking points over & over again ad nauseum from the filibustering Christianists. As John Aronno of Alaska Commons wrote in his account of Wednesday night’s testimony before the Assembly — the same night, you might recall, that Anchorage Baptist Temple pastor Jerry Prevo canceled evening services so that his congregation could head over to the Loussac to overwhelm the Assembly —
I was there from the beginning of the meeting at 4pm, and left shortly after nine-thirty. The “voices of the people” are not sending any new messages that need to be put on record. The “voices of the people” are now a loop.
I don’t know where we go from here. If there is an upside, it is in the clarity that the Assembly has offered us. They have made up their minds. They’re not telling us how they’ve made up their minds, but it is clear that the time for changing their minds has solidly run out. The first attempts to filibuster the discussion and subsequent vote on this ordinance continue. But, even more prevalent is the new tactic to literally strong arm the law. The anger. The bully mentality.
One should add that most of the people who testified Wednesday night were the last of the people who originally signed up to testify on the night of Tuesday, June 9 — & thus probably included at least some of those persons originally bused in or carpooled over from the Mat-Su. Noncitizens that Debbie Ossiander persists in giving ear to. Because the repetitive testimony, principally from congregants brought to the Assembly en masse from Anchorage Baptist Temple & other fundamentalist or evangelical churches, and some of whom are noncitizens of Anchorage, is — y’know — impassioned. Well, filibusters usually do have something with group’s passion — including a passionate desire to run out the clock.
Debbie Ossiander is only cooperating in that, whether knowingly or unknowingly. One rather suspects the former. As a Facebook contact of mine wrote after the ADN doomsayer story came out,
I hate to say it, but I call it like I see it. It seems to me Ossiander is prolonging it so we can’t get it passed.
Yep, looks like it to me, too. Assembly Chair Ossiander has been uncertain in her own support or nonsupport of the ordinance, and by doing this “everybody should get heard even if they don’t live in Anchorage and even if they’re all repeating the same talking points over & over again,” she’s effectively also making it so that she perhaps won’t have to vote, and can escape unscathed from making a choice that will get her in trouble with either her conscience, or the conservative portions of her constituency. It’s questionable, to say the least, if this is a responsibly neutral way to handle the chair’s responsibilities.
As Celtic Diva (Linda Kellen Biegel) wrote, the first of the reader comments on the Megan Holland’s doomsayer story:
If this doesn’t pass, I hope Alaskans will remember that Debbie Ossiander is the reason why:
1) She allowed all of the bussed in Valley people to sign up and testify. Gee, I wonder what would happen if I wanted to testify on and Ordinance in Wasilla or Palmer?
2) She continued to allow people to sign up for testimony every day they’ve had it. Since I was one of the last people to sign up on the first day and I testified Thursday, they’d be done by now and voting on Tuesday.
Darn betcha I’ll remember — and I’ll be doing my best to ensure other people remember as well.
(P.S. You must’ve been in a hurry, Linda: I think you mean Wednesday. Though it was probably so late on Wednesday that it felt like Thursday!)