A Saturday morning meeting at Loussac Library of the Anchorage caucus of state lawmakers may have been more notable for who was absent than for the 300 or more people who showed up during the first weekend of the citywide Fur Rendezvous celebration.
Among the missing: Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, who was ill, and newly minted Republican Rep. Lindsey Holmes, the focus of a recall effort after switching parties last month.
That left a big turnout of city union workers, who are unhappy with the mayor's recent efforts to restrict union bargaining rights, disappointed. Many of them left soon after learning Sullivan would not appear.
Anchorage School Board President Jeannie Mackie did show, offering a brief introduction before opening the floor to public comment. Dozens of people waited to testify on topics ranging from post-secondary education to oil taxes to road construction. Some struggled to stay within their three-minute time limit.
Several impassioned speeches came from members of Anchorage's LBGT community, critical of Alaska House Majority members who laughed in reaction to a question regarding civil unions for same-sex couples that was posed during a press conference earlier this week. Video of the lawmakers' reaction reached several national media outlets -- including ThinkProgress and Jezebel -- that were highly critical. House Majority Leader Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, has since apologized.
On Saturday, Rep. Charisse Millett, R-Anchorage, reaffirmed that. "The House Majority does apologize," she said. "It was very disrespectful, and it will never happen again."
Supporters of education in Anchorage wanted to be heard, too. Andy Holleman, president of the Anchorage Education Association, asked caucus members to refocus efforts to bring "stability" to Anchorage's education system. "Stop that stuff that just grinds (teachers) into the dirt," he said.
While Holmes did not show, several members of the Recall Lindsey Holmes campaign, a grassroots movement dedicated to ousting the party-flopping representative, were present.
"An empty chair in that meeting, all those no-shows, speak much louder than any of us could. I'm not particularly surprised," said Wigi Tozzi, who is part of the effort to recall Holmes. "It would have been a great opportunity (for Holmes.)" He said the campaign to recall her gathered at least 30 signatures from District 19 residents Saturday.
Contact Katie Medred at katie(at)alaskadispatch.com