A raucous series of Anchorage Assembly meetings from late September to early October saw the Assembly and office of Mayor Dave Bronson battling both over a controversial proposed mask mandate and for control of the Assembly chambers. The meetings earned national press coverage and intense local attention largely due to the behavior of attendees and the acrimonious relationship on display between the Assembly and Mayor’s office. Now, the Landmine has obtained documentation stating that at the height of the particularly chaotic October 7, 2021 meeting, Municipal Manager Amy Demboski ordered the Anchorage Fire Department (AFD) employee who operates the audio/visual equipment to cut the widely-viewed public live stream of the event.
During the October 7, 2021 meeting, Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance ruled that members of the Assembly and the Bronson administration could no longer ask follow-up questions to members of the public giving testimony. In previous days, Assembly member Jamie Allard (and, to a lesser extent, members of the Bronson administration) had frequently asked those giving testimony strings of minimally relevant questions. One of Allard’s aides stated on Facebook that she and other mandate opponents were attempting to stretch out public testimony in order to filibuster the vote.
After LaFrance’s ruling, Municipal Manager Amy Demboski left the Mayor’s dias and entered the audio/visual room at the back of the Assembly chambers. Demboski’s visit to the audio/visual room was caught on camera by Jeff Landfield, who was providing live coverage of the meetings. After leaving the audio/visual room, Demboski saw the Landmine camera and said “What’s up, Landfield.” When asked what she had been doing in the audio/visual room, she did not respond.
An e-mail obtained by the Landmine shines light on Demboski’s unexplained trip to the audio/visual room. According to the e-mail, sent by AFD employee John Crabb, who has long managed audio/visual operations at Assembly meetings, to AFD Chief Doug Schrage and several others, Demboski demanded that Crabb cut the public audio/visual feed to the Municipal channel on GCI and the Assembly’s YouTube channel. According to the e-mail, Crabb refused Demboski’s order, stating that he reports to AFD Assistant Chief Alex Boyd.
Sources tell the Landmine that AFD Chief Doug Schrage instructed Boyd to tell Crabb to disregard Demboski’s demand and continue the audio/visual feed. Sources further claim that when Schrage contacted Boyd, Crabb was in the process of creating a graphic stating that the feed had been “cut at the direction of Municipal Manager Amy Demboski.”
When asked for comment about the incident, Demboski responded by text, “The video feed was never turned off.” She did not respond to a follow up question about the email sent from Crabb.
The October 7 meeting culminated with additional acts by members of the Bronson administration intended to assert its authority over the Assembly chambers. Adam Trombley, the director of the Office of Economic & Community Development, abruptly removed a plexiglass shield in front of the speaker’s podium meant to serve as a COVID-19 mitigation measure. Then, Demboski ordered security to leave the room. Anchorage Police Department (APD) officers also departed, but remained in the library entrance area. Without any mechanism for maintaining order in the chambers, members of the audience openly shouted at, heckled and screamed profanity at members of the Assembly. One individual yelled at Assembly members that they would be hung. A variety of disruptions continued for the duration of the meeting.
Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance provided the following statement to the Landmine regarding the incident:
Given that the administration also dismissed security from the chambers and removed the plexiglass shield at the same meeting, I can’t think of one charitable reason why the municipal manager attempted to stop the public broadcast of an Assembly meeting. The video feed helps inform people about the Municipality’s business being conducted. It promotes openness and transparency. I would like to hear the municipal manager explain why she interfered with the people’s business by trying to shut down the video feed. There needs to be accountability for these actions. We must protect transparency and openness and ensure that this doesn’t happen again.