Anchorage Assembly overrides Bronson’s veto of the creation of a homelessness task force

A mirrored building.
Anchorage City Hall on a sunny day in late April. (Hannah Lies/Alaska Public Media)

A task force that the Anchorage Assembly wants created to address winter sheltering for homeless people will continue its work.

That’s after the Assembly overrode Mayor Dave Bronson’s veto of the group on Thursday, in a 10-1 vote with Eagle River Assembly member Jamie Allard opposed. 

The Assembly’s vote is the latest in a string of vetoes and veto overrides since Bronson took office. Midtown Assembly member Felix Rivera described it at Thursday’s meeting as “probably the strangest veto that we’ve got so far.”

“This veto is saying that the mayor is the only one that can give the Assembly permission for us to have conversations in the community,” Rivera said. “I think that’s an outrageous statement to make.”

The resolution, passed by the Assembly last week, directs the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness to put together a task force of community stakeholders and providers to come up with a plan to shelter people in the winter months. The coalition is currently headed by Midtown Anchorage Assembly member Meg Zaletel, who excused herself from the vote on both the resolution and the override.

In his veto, Bronson asserted that the Assembly was creating an official municipal advisory body — like a board or commission — without going through proper protocol. 

Municipal attorney Mario Bird said the Assembly needs to be clear about how much weight the recommendations from the task force have. 

“If this is something that is a municipal body, you’ve got to notice under open meetings procedures,” Bird said. “And if this is something that is aspirational, to advise, it should be made very clear that it falls outside the advisory bodies that are included in the code provisions for boards and commissions.”

Assembly members say the task force is needed because the Bronson administration doesn’t have a winter sheltering plan, while the administration maintains that it does.  

At an Assembly meeting this week, Bronson said his administration was looking at several municipal buildings to shelter people. East Anchorage Assembly member Forrest Dunbar asked about specifics, prompting a response from Bronson’s chief of staff, Alexis Johnson.

“Through the chair to Mr. Dunbar, we have four identified at this point,” Johnson said. “We are working with the fire inspectors and with the building department to ensure that we can put people in those buildings.”

“Which four buildings have you identified?” Dunbar asked.

“Through the chair to Mr. Dunbar, I will have that list published by the end of the month,” Johnson said.

As of Thursday afternoon, the mayor’s emergency shelter plan on the city’s website only included application information for organizations to apply to operate a shelter. 

The Assembly on Thursday also overrode a veto from the mayor over the use of American Rescue Plan Act funds the city received. Funding restored by the Assembly includes $1.2 million to the Alaska Black Caucus, just under $12 million to the Rasmuson Foundation to purchase a hotel for low-income housing and $770,000 to improve the South Potter Marsh Visitors site.

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Wesley Early covers municipal politics and Anchorage life for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org.