Sullivan administration seeks to trim boards, commissions

Rosemary Shinohara

Mayor Dan Sullivan's administration wants to streamline the city government's 50-odd boards and commissions, killing a few outright while creating sunset provisions for many more.

Those on the sunset list would die within three years unless the Anchorage Assembly votes to keep them.

The proposal is up for public hearing and a possible vote before the Assembly Tuesday night at Loussac Library.

The administration examined all the boards and commissions because they haven't been reviewed for a long time, said Larry Baker, Sullivan's chief of staff. Some aren't meeting anymore. One, an Anchorage Telephone Utility board, is for a utility the city sold long ago.

With unneeded boards off the books, the city will be able to offer better staff support to the ones remaining, says a city memo supporting the plan.

The boards are made up of volunteers. They don't have separate budgets, though they use city meeting rooms and take up staff time. The object of the streamlining is not to save money, Baker said.

The boards have a say in many aspects of city government, from construction plans to acceptable pet behavior. Some are advisory, and some have a regulatory role, such as approving building plans.

Boards required by law, or those that do regulatory work, or are tied to agreements of some sort, like the Planning and Zoning Commission, Platting Commission and Equal Rights Commission, would continue as they are, without having to re-justify their existences.

Many other boards such as the Parks and Recreation Commission, the Port Commission and the Library Advisory Board would face possible extinction.

The mayor's proposal would combine two high-profile boards into one -- the city Budget Advisory Commission, which reviews the city spending plan, and the School Budget Advisory Commission, which makes recommendations on the school district budget.

There seems to have been little reaction to the overall proposal, but one commission that could be repealed, the Municipal Women's Commission, has fans campaigning to keep it.

"Don't tell me we don't need an Anchorage women's commission," said former state senator Arliss Sturgulewski. There are still plenty of issues related to the status of women, such as Alaska having one of the highest rates of chlamydia in the country, she said. "It upsets me."

Geran Tarr, who is on the women's commission, said the panel deals with issues like pay equity, domestic violence, the lack of women holding public office, and a lack of mentoring opportunities for young women.

The most recent version of the city's proposal would outright repeal the women's commission. But that's a mistake, said Baker, the mayor's chief of staff. It's not meant to be killed, and that will be fixed, he said.

Several other boards would be repealed immediately under the mayor's proposal.

The Youth Advisory Commission, for example, has been unable to attract new members, Baker said. "They've not been able to get a quorum."

The Hazardous Materials Commission had been charged with advising the mayor and Assembly on dealing with hazardous waste, but is now inactive, Baker said.

For those boards and commissions subject to the sunset review, the administration proposes to deal with a third of them this October, a third in 2012 and the balance in 2013, Baker said.

The administration has received little comment on its proposal, Baker said. Two Assembly members contacted said they hadn't heard from constituents either, except about the women's commission.

Assembly member Elvi Gray-Jackson said she sees the boards and commissions as a way for citizens to participate in government.

Tim Benintendi, a long-time member of the Parks Commission, said the most important thing the group does is simply listen to the Anchorage residents.

"We provide a great link between city managers and the public," he said.

For example, two years ago parks commissioners heard from horse riders, skiers, mountain bikers and others on planned upgrades to trails in Bicentennial Park, then recommended ways to improve the trails to city leaders, he said.

Gray-Jackson opposes eliminating the Youth Commission. "If they're having trouble filling it, we just need to work harder," she said.

Reach Rosemary Shinohara at or 257-4340.


Some commissions safe from elimination in mayor's most recent proposal:

• Animal Control Advisory Board

• Board of Equalization

• Board of Ethics

• Employee Relations Board

• Equal Rights Commission

• Planning and Zoning Commission

• Platting Board

• Prefunding Investment Board

• Transportation Commission

• Zoning Board of Examiners and Appeals

• Board of Adjustment

• Budget Advisory Commission

• Historic Preservation Commission

• Human Resources Advisory Board

• Sister Cities Commission

Some commissions with termination dates that would disappear unless the Assembly decides to keep them:

• Port Commission, October, 2012

• Board of Building Regulation Examiners and Appeals, October, 2012

• Southcentral Clean Air Authority Commission, October, 2011

• Urban Design Commission, October, 2013

• Library Advisory Board, October, 2012

• Municipal Health and Human Services Commission, October, 2012

• Mountain View Recreation Center Advisory Commission, October, 2011

• Anchorage Parks and Recreation Service Area Commission, October, 2012

• Public Transit Advisory Board, October, 2012

• Americans with Disabilities Act Advisory Commission, October, 2012

• Urban Design Commission, October, 2013

Some commissions to be immediately repealed:

• Food Facility Waiver Review Advisory Commission

• Anchorage Telephone Utility Labor Board

• Hazardous Materials Commission

• Youth Advisory Commission

• Public Facilities Advisory Commission

What the city boards and commissions do.