Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson has vetoed two ordinances passed by the Anchorage Assembly last week — one that changes code to formally designate control over Assembly meeting spaces to the Assembly chair and another that changes the executive appointments process, bringing the mayor’s appointees to the Assembly for confirmation much more quickly.
The Assembly passed the code changes last week as a struggle with Bronson over the separation of powers in the city escalated. Bronson called the ordinances a “power grab” and argued that the ordinance on control of Assembly meeting spaces was against Alaska law.
In a veto, Bronson called the ordinance on meeting spaces “an obvious attempt by the Assembly to interfere with and encroach upon clear and expressed powers of the executive branch of municipal government in Charter and Alaska law.”
Bronson in the other veto said the Assembly’s ordinance “attempts to consolidate power in the Assembly.”
The Assembly can override the mayor’s vetoes with a supermajority of eight votes, and since both ordinances passed with eight or more votes, it is likely to override both.
“I fully expect the Assembly to convene with the question of overriding the vetoes,” said Assembly Vice Chair Chris Constant. “I hesitate to predict what way the vote will go. If I were a betting man, I’d say, ‘Yes, we’ll be overriding his vetoes.’ ”
The code change on executive appointments requires that the mayor to submit appointees for Assembly confirmation within 60 days of their hire. Previously, mayors could wait up to six months before submitting an appointee for Assembly approval. The ordinance also changes code to allow the Assembly to schedule a confirmation vote at any time 60 days after an appointee is hired, regardless of whether the mayor submits the person for confirmation.
Bronson said that in placing those limits, the Assembly is creating unnecessary obstacles on his administration’s ability to run the city and make “its own determination of when a mayor intends to appoint someone to a position subject to confirmation.”
Assembly leadership has said it disagrees with the mayor’s belief that the ordinances are an overreach. Leadership has also said that clarifying that the Assembly chair manages its meeting spaces is necessary for safety reasons, citing one recent, chaotic meeting over a mask ordinance during which Bronson’s administration asserted control over the Assembly chambers, pulling security guards and removing a plexiglass shield standing between testifiers and Assembly members that was being used as a COVID-19 mitigation measure.
“The mayor and his team call everything that he doesn’t get to do when the Assembly provides a check on his authority as an overreach of power into the executive, but he’s quickly learning that, in fact, the legislative branch has power unto itself. This is clearly an exercise of legislative power,” Constant said.
Constant also disputed Bronson’s statement in a veto that “there has been no attempt to subvert the Assembly’s power of confirmation” by the mayor.
“I mean, come on. Let’s talk about that. Judy Eledge,” Constant said.
Eledge resigned as Bronson’s appointed library director earlier this month, with the mayor’s office saying she did not want to go through the Assembly confirmation process, which the administration called unfair. Like Bronson’s previously rejected library director appointee turned chief of staff, Sami Graham, Eledge does not hold a degree in library sciences and was unlikely to be confirmed. But Eledge is now serving as the the Anchorage Public Library’s deputy director, and is working as its acting library director.
The mayor’s office has said it actively searching for a new library director to appoint.