Alaska body overrides mayor’s veto of grant to pride group

June 8, 2022 GMT

KETCHIKAN, Alaska (AP) — The governing body of an Alaska borough has overwhelmingly reversed the mayor’s veto of grant funding to a group that provides support to the LGBTQ+ community.

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly voted 6-1 Monday to override Mayor Rodney Dial’s veto of $1,638 in grant funding to the Ketchikan Pride Alliance, the Ketchikan Daily News reported.

Dial defended his veto during a presentation in attempts to persuade the assembly to let the veto stand. He said the group was an advocacy organization promoting activism.

Assembly Member Judith McQuerry interrupted to say his presentation was “full of inaccuracies.”

Dial then said an upcoming “Drag Queen Storytime” at the public library — which the pride organization is not involved with — was characteristic of the group’s harmful impact.

“This group and others like it nationwide are making a deliberate effort to reach small children in an attempt to change them,” Dial said. “The goal is to expose small children to sexualized conduct and to normalize it, and instill their values and beliefs in the next generation. It is not healthy to expose young children to this. This is depriving them of their innocence.”

Angela Salazar, a citizen member of the committee tasked with reviewing grant applications and making recommendations to the assembly, submitted a letter rejecting one of Dial’s reasons for vetoing the funding, that funding the group would cause division in the community and is unjust because it is for a specific population.

“Quite the contrary in my opinion. If you are going to approve a veto for funding a specific population or segment in our community then you would need to veto most all of the applications. We could separate out the felons, the homeless, arts community, the disabled, the abused ... the list goes on and on. All of these populations are marginalized groups in our community and the nonprofits that serve them need our support. One is not any less or more important than the other and it is not our job to judge who is acceptable and who is not based on lifestyle,” Salazar wrote.

Assembly Member David Landis, who serves on the grant committee, said the committee had done what it was created to do.

“This is actually a pretty simple exercise for what the grant committee dealt with, and it goes straight to what they’re charged with, which was to judge and rank the applications fairly dispassionately, using the criteria that was set before them, and made the recommendation,” Landis said. “The committee made a fair judgment that was not based on a polarized viewpoint, it was based on what was before us.”

Assembly member Jeremy Bynum, who cast the lone vote to uphold the veto, said he intended to have a discussion item on a future agenda to look more carefully at what rules and criteria the borough should use to decide which organizations should receive grant funds.