The Anchorage Assembly has set a special meeting for June 1 to hear more public testimony and possibly vote on legislation that would add to the city code a process to remove a mayor for “undermining the public trust.” .
Assembly members abruptly ended their regular meeting late Tuesday night amid public testimony about the proposal, following continued disruption from an attendee who refused to leave the chambers after the Speaker of the Assembly, Suzanne LaFrance, called on security to intervene.
A larger-than-usual crowd filled much of the Assembly halls on Tuesday as residents gathered to talk about the proposed ordinance, with many protesting it and expressing support for Mayor Dave Bronson.
the order would add specific steps to the city code for the removal of a mayor, as well as for those elected to service area councils. Similar processes already exist for removing members of the Assembly and school boards.
Assembly leaders have said they have no intention of using the ordinance, if passed, against Bronson. But Vice President Chris Constant, who proposed the ordinance, said the mayor’s actions prompted him to propose it.
During his opening remarks, Bronson called the order “a blatant attack on the mayor’s office.”
“No mayor should be subject to a coup by the Assembly that disagrees with him politically,” he said.
Outside of regular elections, Anchorage mayors can only be removed by recall under current code. The order would not affect the public’s ability to remove a mayor.
Constant said he drafted the legislation after the Bronson administration failed to implement the city budget approved by the Assembly earlier this year and when Bronson officials first used their own version a municipal budget as a reference during the annual budget review process. (They then agreed to use the budget adopted by the Assembly for the revisions.)
Constant said he believes Bronson has ignored city code, which is law, in a “substantial way” since the mayor took office, and that he is not trying to remove Bronson from its functions, but rather to place “clear bumpers on the limits of its Power.”
“Mr. Constant’s ordinance will only further divide our community and give enormous power to the Assembly, allowing them to impeach any mayor – not just me – but all future mayors for a reason that the Assembly deems to be a breach of public trust,” Bronson said.
Many Bronson supporters held up small signs at the meeting on Tuesday to protest Constant’s proposal – one said: ‘KEEP THE MAYOR DROP ASSEMBLY!!!’
Not everyone who gathered on Tuesday was there to support Bronson. A witness, Yarrow Silvers, brought with her 12 recall requests against Bronson and listed what she believes to be the mayor’s multiple “revocable offences.” Silvers is a co-founder of Anchorage Action, a local political group that organized against the Bronson administration.
The ordinance lists 13 actions that would constitute a violation, such as “failure to faithfully follow the directions of a duly enacted ordinance” and a “material breach of duty imposed by statute, code, or charter.”
Under the proposal, the process of impeachment of a mayor would begin with a majority vote of the Assembly on the grounds for impeachment. These grounds would then be reviewed by the City Prosecutor or a third party attorney hired by the Assembly for legal sufficiency. If sufficient, the mayor would choose a legal representative to defend against the charges, and an agreed upon officer would conduct a hearing, assess any evidence, and make a recommendation to the Assembly. The Assembly would then vote on recall, requiring a two-thirds majority to overthrow a mayor.
The eight moderate to progressive members of the Assembly currently constitute a two-thirds majority. They and the conservative mayor have clashed over several key city issues, including the budget, and have engaged in a power struggle since Bronson took office last July.
Before public testimony began on the proposal near the end of the more than six-hour meeting, LaFrance had announced that the Assembly would continue to hear testimony at the June special meeting next week.
By then, the meeting had already been punctuated by several disruptions, boos, cheers and applause from the crowd – reminiscent of a rowdy series of meetings over a proposed mask ordinance that spanned two weeks the last fall.
Bronson is a staunch opponent of mask mandates and other government-imposed COVID-19 restrictions, and his supporters at the time repeatedly came together to obstruct a vote on the proposed mask mandate with public testimony. continue against him.
During a working session on Constant’s proposal last week, Assemblyman Kevin Cross warned that the city could see a similar situation happen again.
“If you thought the mask mandate appealed to people, wait and see. That’s what’s going to keep everybody busy,” Cross said.
Although busy, Tuesday’s meeting drew fewer attendees than last fall’s meetings.