It’s hard to express the emotions that I felt as I read the article about Wednesday’s Anchorage Assembly meeting in the Anchorage Daily News. I felt heartbreak, disappointment and just a general frustration with the inappropriate behavior of my fellow citizens at the meeting. I’ve lived in Anchorage since 1961, and it’s not the first time that we’ve seen this kind of unrest. However, I do believe that it’s the first time I’ve heard of a city official, i.e. the city manager, Amy Demboski, play so blatantly to an audience that was being totally abusive and disrespectful of the freedom that they have to participate in and be part of the public process.
We all need to remember that Anchorage has 12 duly elected officials who swear an oath to serve and protect the citizens of our community. That includes everyone, not just those who voted for them. They also swear to uphold the laws of the state and the municipality. The city manager takes no such oath and serves at the pleasure of the mayor, who appoints that individual, after which they are confirmed by the Assembly. I’ve been amazed as I’ve watched the mayor delegate more and more authority to Ms. Demboski. Believe me, she has more than a full-time job managing the operations of a city this size, let alone running the executive branch as well. I’m well aware that the mayor is isolating due to exposure to COVID, and he once again apparently delegated his authority to the city manager. However, from what I read in Thursday’s article, it would seem that Ms. Demboski was very much playing to her own crowd, which seemed to be most of the people in attendance, rather than doing the bidding of the mayor.
Having served six years on the Assembly, two years as chair, the practice has always been that when the Assembly is in session, those chambers are their domain. The previous mayors and their administrations have always shown the respect due the Assembly chairperson and the other members of the Assembly, as well as the chamber in which those meetings are held. The decorum in that chamber should be no different than a courtroom where a judge is in charge. In the Assembly chamber, the chair is the judge and is responsible for maintaining order. No one speaks without being recognized by the chair, including the mayor or members of his administration. In my years on the body, I never witnessed what seemed to have occurred at Wednesday night’s meeting, where a member of the administration has so deliberately played to the audience to enable the disruption of an Assembly meeting.
Sometimes I’ve wondered if Mayor Dave Bronson has abdicated his office, as it seems to me that I hear more about Ms. Demboski on the news and in the paper than I do the mayor. He has, once again, delegated to her issues that are his and his alone. I read where Mayor Bronson once said that a good pilot never flies the A model of an aircraft. If that were actually true, we would all still be on the ground wondering what it would be like to fly.
Mayor, you won the race; now you are going to have to learn to fly that A-model aircraft. You are now the chief pilot of our city government and it’s your responsibility to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the Municipality of Anchorage, whether they voted for you or not. Please stop delegating your responsibility and do the job that you were elected – and swore an oath – to do, and let Ms. Demboski do hers.
Ernie Hall is a longtime Anchorage resident who owned and operated Alaska Furniture Manufacturing for 30 years. He served on the Anchorage Assembly for six years, 2010-2016, including two years as chair.
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