Perspectives around the Zaletel Recall Insights from Joelle Hall and Marvin Jones by pedro graterol
I firmly believe that it is very important to participate in local politics. Unlike large-scale politics at the national level, local politics allows citizens to articulate their voice and have a meaningful impact on their community and their day-to-day life. The upcoming recall election against Anchorage Assembly member, Meg Zaletel, is a great opportunity to turn our attention to the politics happening in the state and our cities. To learn about the recall, I reached out to Joelle Hall, President of the Alaska chapter of the AFL-CIO, and Marvin Jones, a spokesperson for UNITE HERE, a union which represents hospitality workers across the U.S and Canada.
In our phone conversation, Joelle Hall emphasized that the state of Alaska has a “strong recall right.” She is right, Alaska has a lot of leeway to allow for recalls on elected officials. At the state level, people who apply for a recall must show signatures of support that equals to 10% of the votes that the official had in the election. In the case of Anchorage politics, the jurisdiction in which Zaletel serves, the application must be accompanied by a number of signatures that change from each election. The current number was calculated after the 2021 mayoral elections and stands at 7,545. Hall also cited that similar recall efforts were made against Anchorage Assembly member Felix Rivera, but those failed.
The recall election will be on October 26th. The recall petition was started by Russel Biggs and was approved by the municipality after litigation with the Alaska Supreme Court. The main claim in the argument of those who support this process is that Zaletel attended a city council meeting that did not follow the city’s COVID-19 safety capacity regulations last year. However, Hall supports Zaletel and says that: “She is a wonderful civic leader, who they have endorsed in the past and she is going through a lot of abuse from people that do not like her politics.” Hall further argues that, in the current polarized political environment, it is difficult to enforce these policies without the fear of repercussions from people who don’t agree with them. She cites the recent Anchorage Assembly meetings where the tension around COVID-19 policy has increased drastically.
Marvin Jones, a spokesperson for UNITE HERE further showed support for Zaletel and claims that recalling her would be a setback in the fight against COVID-19. He argues that hospitality workers “were probably the most affected by the pandemic and elected officials such as Forrest Dunbar, Felix Rivera, Chris Constant, and Meg Zaletel just to name a few, have taken a significant amount of heat trying to protect citizens of Anchorage from COVID which is no easy task especially when implemented mandates to keep people safe have become so politicized. A recall of Meg is only for political reasons as Mayor Bronson expressed. The Covid health and safety mandates of Anchorage citizens must stay vigilant until this pandemic is over.” Zaletel’s political future will be decided by the voters of District 4, the Anchorage Midtown area, in a special election happening on October 26th. We invite you to pay attention and to participate if you live in that district.
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