Ossiander Bristles at Imperial Court Award

The scene was too familiar: people entered the Assembly Chambers a few at a time on Tuesday evening, looked around and chose seats. One man wore a bright red shirt. But the ordinance hearings were over, the equal rights ordinance passed 7-4 then was vetoed by the new mayor who sat at the end of the curved Assembly table. There was one more loose end to tie, one more thank you to the Assembly members who stood for equality and fairness. One more award to present. The Imperial Court honored them with the Raymond Jorgenson Memorial Award at Coronation and were here to present it in person.

But first, the mayor wanted to speak. He thanked everyone at the Assembly meeting for attending his "Unity" Dinner. He mentioned the keynote speaker (GOP-fundraiser Lynn Swann), the number of people attending (400), and that the money raised from the dinner will support "diversity events" all year. He did not mention the amount of money raised or what diversity events would be sponsored by the city.

The moment was awkward only partly because a quarter of the people in the room represented a gay organization and recently endured a summer of hearings on an equal rights ordinance that the mayor vetoed right before the start of his Diversity Month. He may not have known they were there, but he certainly knew that several of the Assembly members attended the sold-out True Diversity Dinner instead of his union-picket-line-crossing "unity" night.

There was more business, then Assembly member Elvi Gray-Jackson donated her personal comment time so The Imperial Court could present the award to the seven Assembly members who voted "yes" on the ordinance. The Court announced the award winners at Coronation during Labor Day weekend, along with their other annual awards and scholarships. Gray-Jackson said that the last Assembly meeting of Diversity Month was an appropriate time for them to present this award...

...but Assembly Chair Debbie Ossiander interrupted, saying that it should have been presented at the Diversity Dinner (although the Court did not organize the dinner) and she had already rejected their request for time. Gray-Jackson persisted that it was her time, and Grady Frank Jenkins presented the award on behalf of the Imperial Court of All Alaska.

Now, aside from Ossiander's negative tone toward a community group that was trying to give Assembly members an award, she didn't even bother to know which group was presenting the award before she objected. It's as if she thinks there could only be one gay group in Anchorage and they must be responsible for all gay-related awards and events - including the Diversity Dinner, which was organized by a heterosexual couple who have never been involved with the Imperial Court. It's not like the names "True Diversity Dinner" and "Imperial Court of All Alaska" could be easily confused. It was a "they all look the same to me" moment.

Or maybe she's upset because Anchorage Baptist Temple hasn't given her an award for being the deciding vote against the override.

Grady kept cool under pressure and made his statement to the Assembly:

"This award is from The Imperial Court of All Alaska, the largest and oldest gay and lesbian organization in Alaska and one of the oldest in the nation. We wanted to thank you all for your courage in dealing with Ordinance 64 this past summer. It was very difficult and we appreciate the time that you all took. By unanimous vote, our organization, at our Coronation Ball which occurred three weeks ago, voted to present a plaque to the seven members of the Assembly that chose to vote "yes" on Ordinance 64. This is named our Raymond Jorgenson Memorial Award and we present it to Patrick Flynn, Elvi Gray-Jackson, Matt Claman, Jennifer Johnston, Sheila Selkregg, Mike Gutierrez, and Harriet Drummond. We appreciate the time that all of you took on this ordinance this year. Thank you."

And immediately, Ossiander jumped in, "Thank you. Moving on," and had to pause for the clapping before saying, "the next order of business..."

Grady gave the awards to Claman and Gray-Jackson, who read them, smiled, and passed them down the table to their colleagues. The Assembly members moved on to other business and the Imperial Court members left the room.

But that wasn't the end of Diversity Month for the Assembly. Anthony Wilkerson planned to address the Assembly on Workplace Discrimination issues during the public comment period. Tony is the Alaska State Coordinator for the national Workplace Bullying Institute, and he was also disappointed in the mayor's veto of the ordinance:

"It's unfortunate that the Anchorage Mayor vetoed this measure to guarantee equal rights for all, but this should not stop those that have fought thus far... I will be addressing the Anchorage Assembly in regards to discrimination and harassment that is currently not protected by Federal Laws. I would ask that you come in support, and help make Anchorage safe for all to work; free from discrimination and harassment, thus making Anchorage safe for all to pursue the American dream of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

I left before Wilkerson's address, but I wonder if Ossiander objected to him as well. Just another one of those darn diversity people.


Heather said...

I'm so disappointed in Debbie Ossiander. I've always thought of her as a strong woman who works hard to do the right thing for her community. Her play on this issue has forced me to reconsider. Shame on you Ms. Ossiander.

jay in uk said...

Heather, she was never on our side. Sad to say, she proved those of us who knew her from her school board years, correct.

Mel said...

There's a reason she got my vote for the "Epic Fail" award.

Thanks for the detailed report. And good on Elvi -- the Assembly member from my district who actually represents me. (As opposed to Coffey [hack hack].)

preview.salon said...

Great job on reporting it is appreciated.

Special thanks to the Imperial Court of All Alaska and Empress Me Me on keeping cool and representing susinctly and eloquently. Great job!

Tim said...

The ever so pleasant Assembly member Bill Starr jumped all over me after the ICOAA's presentation to the 7 assembly members who voted for Ordinance 64. I guess he assumed because I was sitting in the row behind the wonderful ICOAA folks who did the presentation that I was involved. It is the seat I sat in almost all summer - that's just where I plop down when I'm at the assembly meetings now. He said he thought the presentation was improper and in poor taste. I informed him that I had never met any of the folks who did the presentation nor am I a member of ICOAA and that his rant might be better directed at the folks who made the presentation. He asked that I pass his comments along to them. I think I will have to write a formal response to Assemblyman Starr telling him MY thoughts on HIS actions, and by the way... I thought the presentation to the "fabulous 7" was outstanding. That was the main reason I attended the Assembly meeting Tuesday evening.

Mel said...

Talk about your sore losers... err... I mean... winners. They really are winners, aren't they.


jay in uk said...

Tim and Mel. Now you have someone who is irrational, as well as opposed. Politics is personal. Advice? Write that letter with an effort to see his side (I know, it's difficult)--and then, help him see yours.

Politicians do all sorts of stupid things when they get mad. Public servant? Nope, that goes out the window. It's a human thing. Some of us don't rise above it when we should. Problem is, they've still got the vote.

E. Ross said...

Debbie's response to the presentation, and Tim's comment above, are included in a follow-up post: Ossiander's Politics of Division, round 2.

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