In effort to rein in Bronson spending, Anchorage Assembly makes changes to contracting code

A man in a suit and glasses speaks behind a podium.
Mayor Dave Bronson speaks at the opening of Catholic Social Services’ 3rd Avenue Resource and Navigation Center on Feb. 15, 2023. (Elyssa Loughlin/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage Assembly has permanently enacted city code changes in an effort to rein in spending by Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration. A new ordinance lowers the dollar amount in contracts that would require Assembly approval, continuing a process approved in an emergency ordinance earlier this year. 

The move from the Assembly comes months after former municipal manager Amy Demboski, who was abruptly fired by Bronson in December, accused the mayor’s administration of issuing contracts and approving work on expensive projects without Assembly approval.

Assembly vice-chair Chris Constant alluded to Bronson approving millions of dollars of work on a failed homeless navigation center in his support for the code changes. 

“This is an important part in the efforts to bring compliance by this administration by shortening the leash in which they are able to act freely,” Constant said.

The ordinance lowers the threshold for competitive contracts requiring Assembly approval from $500,000 to $150,000, and requires Assembly approval for changes to contracts initially larger than $50,000. 

Bronson spoke in opposition to the ordinance, which he described as “microscopic management.” He says since the Assembly first passed the emergency ordinance in January, the city’s purchasing department has been overworked.  

“That includes 32 purchasing officers in the various departments and the entire purchasing department, to the point where I’ve had employees approach me from the purchasing department with over 20 years of experience saying they’re looking at quitting because of these emergency orders,” Bronson said.

The ordinance passed 9-1 with member Randy Sulte opposed. Assembly members Kameron Perez-Verdia and Kevin Cross were excused absences for the vote.

The change doesn’t go as far as the emergency measures passed by the Assembly, which lowered the threshold for Assembly approval on sole-source contracts and government and non-profit contracts to $10,000.

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

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