The Anchorage Assembly is set to consider whether to ask voters if city law should be changed to turn the municipal clerk’s position into an elected office, a ballot proposition championed by Mayor Dave Bronson.
The municipal clerk manages the city’s elections, is in charge of administering Assembly meetings and records and oversees business licensing. Under current city law, the Assembly selects the municipal clerk, a nonpartisan position serving at the pleasure of the Assembly.
Bronson introduced the proposal late last year, following an acrimonious debate and public testimony over changes to the city’s election laws that the Assembly passed. The mayor said that if the municipal clerk became an elected official, public trust and accountability would increase. Bronson’s ordinance, if approved by the Assembly on Tuesday, would send his suggestion to change the city’s charter to Anchorage voters for approval or rejection.
But Assembly leadership on Monday released a statement opposing the ordinance, saying the switch could impact the clerk’s office negatively, potentially diminishing the ethics, expertise and efficiency of the clerk’s office and add a layer of political pressure to the municipal clerk’s position.
“A competent, qualified Clerk is indisputably essential to conducting the business of the city,” Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance said in the statement. “It should be noted that the Executive Board of the Alaska Association of Municipal Clerks passed a resolution this spring opposing the election of clerk positions for legal and ethical reasons. Without professional credentials and requirements for this position, our clerk’s office will be vulnerable to being run by a partisan politician with no skills or background in running municipal business, and who is beholden to political leaders and campaign donors to retain their position.”
Shortly after the Assembly’s leaders sent out their statement, Bronson shot back in a social media post, saying he thinks it “makes sense to have the person running our election system accountable to the voters and serve as an elected official.”
“Assembly leadership made it clear that they believe YOU -- the voter -- aren’t smart or qualified enough to elect this person that they themselves have selected and hired. Why does the Assembly leadership believe they are more superior to choose the Clerk than the 300,000 people of Anchorage?” Bronson said.
Current Municipal Clerk Barbara Jones has held the position since 2012.
To pass the ordinance and send the proposal to voters, eight of the 12 Assembly members would need to vote in favor of it. If that happens, then voters would cast their ballots to decided whether the clerk should become an elected official in an upcoming election. Assembly Vice Chair Chris Constant has said previously that he believes the Assembly would never approve it.
“The proposed ordinance is a solution in search of a problem,” Constant said in Monday’s statement. “The Clerk’s Office runs efficiently with high ethical standards in service to the public and this proposal could damage that high level of service and proficiency.”