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Look, guys, if you live outside of Anchorage, this isn’t interesting. But if you live in Anchorage, I would be really grateful if you would modify the following letter (perhaps to correct anything I might have gotten wrong, for instance) and send it along to the Anchorage Assembly, at email@example.com. I will also be modifying this letter so that I can send it to the Department of Justice, who has 60 days to review the redistricting map: 222 West 7th Avenue, Room 253, #9, Anchorage, Alaska 99513. If you want to read more about it, there’s information at The Mudflats and a little bit on the Friends of Fairview Community Council Facebook group. I also borrowed heavily from an email sent out by the President of our Community Council, which I would be happy to forward to you; just let me know.
Members of the Anchorage Assembly:
I am a voter, a taxpayer, and a homeowner in Anchorage, specifically in District 1. I am writing to urge the Assembly to right a grievous wrong.
Quick history: twenty years ago the current two-member district plan was created, with one district having only one member; the plan’s clear intention was for a different district to get only one representative every 10 years, in a rotating fashion. However, for the last 20 years, District 1, which encompasses Downtown, Fairview, South Addition, and Mountain View, has been left with only one representative and therefore with less of a voice than the rest of the city. The current Assembly has apparently decided, through an improper (and most likely illegal) process, to burden District 1 with underrepresentation for another 10 years.
Here is my understanding of the process the Assembly followed to decide how redistricting was to be done: Three members of the Assembly appointed themselves to serve as a sub-committee; these were, incidentally, all representatives of what are–and have been for 20 years–fully-represented areas of Anchorage. The sub-committee proceeded to meet, with no public announcements or input, starting in July. This sub-committee, which did not include a representative from District 1, decided that District 1 should continue in its currently under-represented status. The committee then provided less than two weeks’ notice before holding a public hearing about the process and the decision.
I disagree firmly with the sub-committee–not only with its process, but with the clear implication of its decision: frankly, District 1 voters ARE just as important as the city’s other voters, and to deny us full representation for 10 more years would be a travesty. It would be unjust and, I believe, unlawful.
I urge the entire Assembly to meet again, in the open and under the public eye, with sufficient prior announcement of the meeting, and to remedy this situation immediately. Every district in the city should take its turn with the burden of under-representation. If the other districts are unwilling to do so, then the Assembly should be restructured in some other way, either by dividing the city into an odd number of areas with only one representative apiece, or by allowing District 1 to have a second representative and finding some other way to prevent tied votes.
(I’ll follow this up with a happier post, probably also tonight.)
Sometimes, Anchorage is a tough place to live. (It’s probably time for my yearly complaining-about-April-snow post, but this isn’t it.) We had a ballot proposition, to afford the same protections given for race, gender, physical disability, etc., to GLBT people. It seems to have failed. Pretty badly. (60/40, though there were several “electoral anomalies,” such as certain polling places running out of ballots, some anti-equality folks showing up and casting ballots that haven’t yet been counted and will eventually be thrown out [but they were ballots that people who were actually registered could have used], and so on.) They haven’t counted the absentee ballots yet, so there’s a chance it’ll still make it through, but it’s not looking good.
The upshot: in Anchorage, it is legal, still, for businesses of any size to fire someone for being gay, lesbian, or transgender. It’s legal to kick someone out of their apartment for the same. (An important note: churches, small businesses, and individual landlords [as opposed to property management companies] were still going to be allowed to discriminate, just as they are allowed to discriminate based on gender or disability, now.)
I’m not moving to Canada, or anything like that, but I’m still angry and dispirited and … antsy. I want things to change for the better. I’m not feeling particularly at risk or victimized, myself: first off, my workplace has voluntarily adopted a non-discrimination policy. Second, I’m married, to a guy, so nobody will actually believe I am anything other than straight. (People are funny.) My orientation has never been a big part of how I define myself, for whatever reason, and so I don’t find myself personally affected by this, though I feel like I should, somehow. But I’m still really upset: we have a pretty great GLBT community, here, many of whom are my friends, neighbors, and colleagues. I cannot fathom that these people aren’t seen as equal citizens by such a large percentage of the Anchorage voting population.
It upsets me that people showed up at the polling place and said, “No, I don’t want my right to discriminate against people trampled.”
Weird: all the bonds passed. So fiscal liberalism won the day, at the same time as social conservatism did.
Weird: the Municipal Clerk was supposed to supply each polling station with enough ballots for 70% of the voters registered there. We had 20-some percent voter turnout, a pretty normal number, but a bunch of stations ran out. It’s not clear that there were enough of these unregistered voters to account for that discrepancy.
Weird: poll numbers ahead of time were very, very different from the outcome, on this proposition—more different than is usual for such things.
I might be worrying prematurely. Maybe the election will be redone altogether, because so many people were turned away from the polls. Maybe a ton of proposition supporters voted absentee. It’s hard to know. But it’s one of the things you should know about Alaska, that this kind of nonsense happens here, I guess, so that’s why I’m writing about it.