The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday approved Mayor Dave Bronson’s proposed organization of the city’s executive branch. But it was not without several changes, concerns raised and a flurry of vetoes and veto overrides.
Some Assembly members, including Meg Zaletel, said they felt the mayor’s proposed organization chart gave too much responsibility to the municipal manager, in this case Amy Demboski.
“I think the organizational chart, as proposed, consolidates too much responsibility and authority in the municipal manager’s office,” Zaletel said at Tuesday’s Assembly meeting. “It in fact narrows the viewpoints, I think, that the mayor can rely on. Before there were multiple people who reported directly to the mayor. Now it funnels to more of a singular point.”
Reached by phone after the meeting, Zaletel provided some examples. She said, for instance, the chief financial officer and the community and economic development director both used to report directly to the mayor, but the new chart has them reporting to Demboski instead.
“And so really, the only external reports to the mayor are the office of management and budget, the municipal attorney and the municipal manager,” Zaletel said. “So it went from five to three.”
The Assembly ultimately accepted the mayor’s proposal when it came to the city manager, but they did reject several other things:
• The mayor initially wanted to put the Anchorage library in Parks and Recreation instead of being its own department. That proposal had drawn concerns from the Library Advisory Board, including that it would lead to a non-librarian in charge of the library.
• Bronson also wanted the chief equity officer to report directly to him instead of him and the Assembly. Bronson is already embroiled in lawsuits linked to the job. In October, he fired Chief Equity Officer Clifford Armstrong III, which Assembly leaders called illegal. According to the ordinance that established the position, the chief equity officer can only be fired with documented cause and if the Assembly agrees. Bronson is currently suing the Assembly over his right to fire Armstrong, and Armstrong is suing the Bronson administration for wrongful termination.
• And the mayor wanted to change many city departments to divisions. That included the planning, development services, maintenance and operations, project management and engineering and traffic engineering departments. The change would’ve prevented the Assembly from confirming the heads of those divisions.
Three of the Assembly’s amendments undid those proposed changes.
The mayor immediately vetoed the amendments, but the Assembly overrode him.
Demboski told the Assembly that not switching the city departments into divisions would require major changes to the recently passed budget, which goes into effect on January 1.
“Now you’re creating new departments that have no appropriation,” Demboski said. “That is not a conforming amendment. That is a substantive change. So what I am telling you is you’re creating right now, by this action, departments that are not effectively funded.”
Assembly members countered by saying that the amendments had been discussed at work sessions before Tuesday’s meeting, and that the mayor’s office had ample time to review them.
Zaletel also then introduced an amendment to give the mayor’s office until the end of next January to revise his budget to reflect the changes in the executive branch organization.
“It gives the administration some space to load in the new structure into its budget and move forward from there,” Zaletel said. “So I think we avoid now the issues they were raising as concerns.”
The amendment passed unanimously, and was the only amendment not vetoed by the mayor.
Overall, the Assembly approved the amended executive branch chart ordinance with a 10 to 1 vote. Member Jamie Allard from Chugiak/Eagle River was the sole no vote.