Matherly makes a mistake by vetoing anti-discrimination ordinance

Fairbanks Mayor Jim Matherly said he did lots of “soul-searching” and research before vetoing the anti-discrimination ordinance that he had supported before he didn’t.

Maybe he should have done more searching. I think it was a bad move by Matherly, made with one eye on his re-election campaign. If, as he says, he agrees that the “concept behind this ordinance is sound,” he should have accepted the 4-2 vote of the council as the right course of action and moved on.

It takes five votes to override a veto. That he now says he wants to hand all this off to the voters and put it on the ballot in the fall is an attempt to avoid taking responsibility. He wants city voters to decide whether they support discrimination.

It instantly became a national news story.

Had he allowed the ordinance to stand, the controversy over this measure would have died down and faded into the background. A year from now we wouldn’t be hearing anything about it. Had any of the predicted horror stories come to pass, the city could have responded.

I think the complaints about this were exaggerated and this measure is not an attack on religion, but an attack on discrimination. The right-wing clamor was overblown.

Anchorage, Juneau and Sitka appear to be surviving with similar rules on the books.

Matherly said that the people who testified during the many meetings on this ordinance were mainly from outside the city, meaning they were not city voters.

"While I value the opinion of our neighbors in the surrounding communities and visitors from farther out, I want the citizens of Fairbanks to chart their own course and decide how we move forward as a city," he said.

By doing this, Matherly prolongs the controversy and guarantees that those who supported the measure will be energized in the campaign to come. He made the wrong decision.

Dermot Cole14 Comments