Saturday, June 20, 2009

Saturday Alaska Progressive Blog Roundup - June 20, 2009 -- Prevo's Anti-Beatitudes

Anchorage Assembly Chair, Debbie Ossiander, by disregarding the section of Alaska Title 29 that would have allowed her to limit testimony on Anchorage's civil rights ordinance to that by people who had submitted their names on June 9th, has probably destroyed the chance of passage of meaningful legislation in this arena this year. Essentially, what Ossiander did, by disregarding the statute governing public testimony in what are called "home rule cities" (Anchorage is one), was to give the masses of people drummed up by one particular set of religious beliefs from within the many sects of Christianity, a "special right," as Prevo has described such things in the past.

By giving Prevo's minions this "special right," she has made a name for herself in the annals of shameful Alaska politicians, that will outlast her public service itself. She also may have violated her oath of office.

Even worse, she has allowed Rev. Jerry Prevo to claim some sort of moral victory, in his fight against what he calls "the homosexual agenda."

We may soon see signs in Anchorage that read "No Faggots or Dogs Allowed." There may be no way to stop people from putting up such signs. I'm sure a lot of tourists will love taking photographs of the signs.

As was the case throughout late May and early June, the best coverage of the fight for civil rights and against granting the Anchorage Baptist Temple ANOTHER special right, has been led by our progressive blogs. Mention should be made, though, of Julia O'Malley's continuing efforts on this subject at the Anchorage Daily News. Also, Krestia DeGeorge provided a thoughtful, hard-hitting article on this at the Anchorage Press. He discusses an email he got that he was able to trace back to the Anchorage Baptist Temple:

The “invasion” that this references, of course, is the ordinance. The ordinance prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity when it comes to employment, housing and a few other things (or it did when it was originally written; assembly members keep altering the language, and will likely continue to do so).

According to the email, here’s what that means: “The liberals on the Anchorage Assembly are trying to pass an ordinance to give ‘special rights’ to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and of all things transgender perverts.”

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard the “special rights” complaint, but that doesn’t make it any more intelligible. When did freedom from discrimination become a special right? Is the Anchorage Baptist Temple aware of other groups who continue to silently suffer legal discrimination without that special right?

But arguments aside (and the email doesn’t really contain many of them anyway) what struck me about it was the tone.

It wasn’t so much hate-filled as fear-inducing (one of the all-caps sections states that “FOR THE SAKE OF OUR CHILDREN, GRANDCHILDREN, RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, CHURCHES, CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS, WE MUST STOP THIS NEW ORDINANCE IN ANCHORAGE.” And more than fear-mongering even, it was bent on dividing the world as cleanly as possible between “us” and “them.”

Us = “righteous citizens.” Them = “deviants”, “perverts”, a “scourge.”


The whole point of this exercise was reinforcing lines that keep some people in and others out, the lines that divide those who belong from those who don’t.

DeGeorge goes on to quote from Julia O'Malley's article from two weeks ago, dealing with her interview with Dr. Prevo. He then observes:

[M]uch of his activity in response to this ordinance strikes me as being less about affecting public policy and more about benefiting of his congregation. And part of that is keeping those personal relationships with gays or lesbians—the ones with the power to change people’s minds—from happening to his flock.

Shannyn Moore has been quite stark in her challenge to authorities to question what it is Prevo is doing in the political arena. For decades, Ray Metcalfe and others have been drawing public attention to the ways Prevo uses money raised by a tax-exempt religious organization, to shove a very partisan political agenda down everyone's throats. Moore wrote on this last week:

Time to register as a PAC. Time to pay taxes. Here’s the message from Hate Activist and “Pastor” Jerry Prevo to his “righteous” followers:

Moore goes on to print the same letter that bothered DeGeorge so fully.

Rather than list all of the intense blog coverage of this issue here, Mel Green at Henkimaa has done this for us already. Her site is by far the best on coverage of this battle against hate and fear. Mel's post, Three Assembly Hearings: A Compilation, is a sterling example of what members of our Alaska Progressive bloggers community can do, that the mainstream media simply cannot. In her article, Mel has catalogued most of, if not all, the articles written on this controversy since it began.

Green's post describes 81 articles written locally between June 4th and June 19th. Of these, 68 were written by blogs on Progressive Alaska's progressive blog list; Eleven emanated from Alaska's mainstream media outlets. Here's the breakdown:

Bent Alaska - 15
Henkimaa - 13
Alaska Commons - 8
Anchorage Daily News - 6
The Mudflats - 5
Progressive Alaska - 5
SOS Alaska - 5
The Immoral Minority - 4
Just a Girl from Homer - 3
Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis - 2
Think Alaska - 2
Alaska Dispatch - 2
Anchorage Press - 2
KTUU - 1 so on .........

Green also wrote an important article
on how the Anchorage Daily News editors seem to be, once again, spinning the heck out of their narrative of Ossiander's moves, and the morphing of this ordinance over the past ten days:

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.

The most honest attempt by the local mainstream media to report on this evolving situation may have been yesterday's report, centering on Ossiander and the changes the ordinance is undergoing, by KSKA's Len Anderson. He brings up Ossiander's possible violation of her oath of office, without detailing or citing the violation.

image - from a photo by Tlingit artist,
Nicholas Galanin


Aussie Blue Sky said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one furious with Debbie Ossiander for this pathetic amateur farce.

Phil said...

Can you imagine the outrage that the people of Wasilla would show if an ordinance to ban ATMs from the streets of Wasilla was introduced and people from Anchorage, because they drive through Wasilla on their way to their cabins, were allowed to give testimony.

Phil said...

Sorry, I meant ATVs not ATMs

Mary said...

Since Ossiander clearly violated ordinances by allowing this filibuster, thus guaranteeing the ordinance is defeates...exactly what do the good citizens of Anchorage intend to do about it?

You need to discipline her and send a message to any other elected official that thinks they can do the same.

You need to remove her from office asap. If she's up for re-election before that can be done, you need a united effort to ensure she is not re-elected. I suggest you find your own candidate to challenge her and make sure your candidate wins. You need to unite around ONE candidate, not that dog and pony show that happened for mayor.

sauerkraut said...

How about girls from Homer being allowed to ban Palins from the streets of Wasilla... hehehehehhee.

Aussie Blue Sky said...

Phil, the banning of ATMs in Wasilla by folks from Anchorage works equally well.

clark said...

don't you think what's going to ultimately happen here is someone is going to succeed in getting the question on the ballot in the next municipal election, somehow? and it will fail, 60-40 or so... and the conservatives will say, 'see? we were only upholding the wishes of the majority.'
i guess if we'd given alabama the choice of desegregating or not in 1964, instead of sending in the national guard non-whites would still be eating at separate restaurants there.
letting prevo win this in 1975, or 1982 or even 1994 was somewhat more understandable.