The Anchorage Assembly has voted to override three vetoes issued last month by Mayor Dave Bronson that cut about $1.2 million for homeless services at Brother Francis Shelter from next year’s city budget.
Members overrode the vetoes with a supermajority vote of 8-3 on Tuesday night. Assembly members Jamie Allard, Kevin Cross and Randy Sulte voted against overriding Bronson’s vetoes of funding for the shelter. Assembly member Meg Zaletel, who is the executive director of the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness, recused herself from the vote.
The Assembly’s reinstatement of the $1.2 million means that the nonprofit-owned shelter in downtown Anchorage will make permanent its recent increase to the number of people it can shelter, up from 72 to 120.
The funding comes from the city’s alcohol tax and the Anchorage Health Department’s budget. City officials say they intend that the funding be annual.
Bronson’s chief of staff, Adam Trombley, said the mayor supports the work of Brother Francis and supports funding it. However, he vetoed the Assembly’s change to the budget because its language seemed to require the shelter to expand its capacity, Trombley said.
“The reason this was vetoed is because we have correspondence with the Brother Francis Shelter that they have no intention of permanently increasing their single adult shelter capacity. So that’s the challenge that we’re running into. We’d be happy to fund it as long as the language meets the purpose,” Trombley said.
Catholic Social Services Executive Director Robin Dempsey told Trombley that it does need the funding — in order to keep its current capacity of 120 clients for the next year.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the shelter dropped its previous capacity of about 250 people a night to just 72. Brother Francis added 48 beds earlier this year, in response to increasing numbers of unsheltered homeless residents and a request from the mayor.
On Tuesday, members did not move to override two other vetoes that Bronson had issued of spending items the Assembly had added.
One veto reduced the Assembly’s funding for a security contract from $65,000 to $20,928 and moved the remaining $44,072 back into the Maintenance and Operations Department budget.
Bronson also nixed $150,000 that members had set aside for the Assembly legislative budget to provide technical assistance to organizations for the alcohol tax grant application process.
Although they did not override the veto on Tuesday, the Assembly passed a separate resolution in a 9-3 vote that set aside $150,000 in alcohol tax revenue for that purpose. (Allard, Cross and Sulte voted against it.)
The mayor in his veto had asserted that the Assembly overstepped the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of city government by moving the funding for grant application assistance from the Health Department.
Assembly member Austin Quinn-Davidson said that wasn’t the intent of the amendment, and that the resolution is an attempt to clarify confusing language of the amendment.
“The intent is really more of an educational efforts to let the community know and groups know how to apply for grants, to make sure that we’re attracting a diverse group of folks from all different walks of life,” she said.