Whether Eagle River, Chugiak, Peters Creek and Eklutna should separate from Anchorage is out of the question for the foreseeable future.
On Wednesday evening, Anchorage Assembly members debated an ordinance that would have asked voters during the April ballot whether these North Anchorage communities should consider breaking away from the Municipality of Anchorage. and form their own government.
The order came from Assemblymen Jamie Allard and Crystal Kennedy, both representing Eagle River and Chugiak, and would have put the vote to community members in their district.
The vote would have been advisory, not a formal decision. Kennedy said it would have allowed the city to take the pulse of the seceding region.
The idea of Anchorage secession dates back to at least the 1970s. More recently, a group called EaglExit has led the charge. The area is generally more conservative than the whole municipality. But Kennedy said she’s not sure a majority of people support secession.
“I don’t think many people in my community are prepared to give such a black and white answer, yes or no, to the question of detachment,” Kennedy said.
Speaking on behalf of Birchwood Community Council, Gretchen Wemhoff opposed both ordinances, arguing that the secession motion was premature and should have come from the community level.
“We think community councils are kind of part of the legislative process, so our community councils feel we should have notice,” Wemhoff said. “And of course, having eight days’ notice doesn’t do it justice.”
Wemhoff also worried about who would conduct and fund secession research.
Allard responded to Wemhoff’s concern at Wednesday’s meeting, saying she and Kennedy had discussed the ordinance with other community councils in the area, although Wemhoff claimed they had not spoken. to his advice.
Midtown Anchorage Assemblyman Chris Constant had introduced an ordinance that would have posed the question of Eagle River’s secession to all Anchorage voters. While his ordinance was postponed indefinitely, he argued that the secession of North Anchorage communities would impact the entire municipality, and that any research questions would also have to be voted on by the whole of Anchorage. He posed this question to Assembly Counsel Dean Gates.
“With the reality that the municipality, voters and taxpayers have invested massive cash in this area, it’s fair to say then that all taxpayers in the municipality have a stake in the matter, right?” Constant asked.
Gates said that while he couldn’t question whether that was a fair statement, it could also be argued that Eagle River was putting a lot of resources into the municipality.
Allard, who proposed a failed amendment to include the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson area in the advisory question, argued that Constant’s questions to the attorney further justified the need to research how secession might work.
“Mr. Constant absolutely proved my point by asking Mr. Gates these questions, and that’s what we want to ask our community,” Allard said. “So we want to make sure the community is on board. so that we can investigate this further.”
In the end, the ordinance presented by Allard and Kennedy failed 4–7, with only members John Weddleton and Suzanne LaFrance joining the sponsors in support.