Anchorage Assembly approves ‘online checkbook’ to make public finances more transparent

The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday approved an ordinance that directs the city to establish an “online checkbook” to make it easier for residents to see how the municipality is spending public money.

The measure was proposed by the Assembly’s leaders, Chair Suzanne LaFrance and Vice Chair Chris Constant. It requires the Department of Information Technology to establish the online tool by Jan. 1, 2024.

Anchorage’s online checkbook will be searchable, giving people access to records of transactions, contracts, travel expenses, departmental spending, payroll data and other fiscal items. They will be stored digitally in perpetuity and be searchable by keyword and fund recipient, according to the ordinance.

“The idea is that, 30 days after the close of the month, transactions, contracts, amendments and notices of awards would be published and available to the public to see. Because when you do business with the public, that information is public,” Constant said.

The state of Alaska launched a similar tool last year, as did the Matanuska-Susitna Borough in 2020.

Constant said Anchorage’s online checkbook will take transparency in public finances a step further than those tools by also providing contracts and procurement information, in addition to transactions and spending.

The measure passed unanimously. Mayor Dave Bronson also expressed his support.


“I support this notion. ... The execution of it may be a little complex in the very near term. I think it’s an IT issue right now,” Bronson said. “But again, we obviously support this.”

Assembly member Kevin Cross called the measure “long overdue.”

“I love anything that gives our voters and gives the public a chance to look at what we write checks for,” Cross said.

The site will be developed and maintained by the IT department “in conjunction with the chief fiscal officer, finance department, purchasing department, and office of management and budget,” and will be free to use, according to the measure.

Generally, residents must submit a records request to municipal officials to get access to contracts and spending information. It’s frequently a lengthy process that adds to the workload of already busy city employees, which can lead to hefty prices for records that requestors must pay.

“I am a strong supporter of the idea that records that are public like this should be made public by default, and not by request,” Constant said. “Because we’ve seen, of late, that certain documents that should take 15 to 20 minutes to find in the municipal records are taking weeks and months.”

The legislation comes as Bronson’s administration faces intense scrutiny from the Assembly over its spending and handling of contracts. In a scathing January letter, fired municipal manager Amy Demboski accused the mayor and some members of his administration of unethical conduct and unlawful contracting, among other issues.

However, Constant has said he began drafting the ordinance months beforehand, calling the timing “fortuitous.”

Independently of Tuesday’s legislation, the Assembly last month took extraordinary steps in an attempt to rein in the administration, passing a series of emergency measures. One of those lowers the monetary threshold for public contracts that triggers the Assembly approval requirement.

Emily Goodykoontz

Emily Goodykoontz is a reporter covering Anchorage local government and general assignments. She previously covered breaking news at The Oregonian in Portland before joining ADN in 2020. Contact her at