Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration and the Assembly had another skirmish in the culture war around public libraries this week.
Assembly member Anna Brawley led the push. She said that city codes bar the use of city resources for partisan activity, defined as supporting a party, cause or action. She said the candidates’ past activities indicated they are engaged in furthering a national, partisan effort.
“They’re essentially pushing the same agenda: to attack our public libraries and schools, and to further a hateful and discriminatory agenda, specifically against LGBTQ youth and adults,” she said. “But also more broadly against freedom of speech … such as book banning, banning programming such as the drag queen story hour from the public library.”
Approving their appointments, Brawley argued, would illegally commit municipal resources to that agenda.
The mayor’s Chief of Staff Mario Bird told the Assembly that partisanship just wasn’t a factor in the administration’s appointments.
“We are looking for people who are qualified by their education, but also qualified by being citizens who are engaged with the library,” Bird said. “And if there are additional things we need to look at in this rubric, I’m open to suggestions.”
The board currently has five members, with three members’ terms ending in October. Bronson’s appointees would have brought it to a full nine.
They’re unpaid volunteers responsible for reviewing the library’s budget and operations, planning projects and recommending policy changes.
The board made headlines in March when three members voted to sidestep the professional library staff review process in an attempt to ban an illustrated sex education book for teens. It was an unusual maneuver, both because it seemed to overstep the board’s advisory role, and because it acted with only three votes.
The Assembly adopted a code change in May that clarified the board’s advisory role and that board actions require a majority vote of the board’s full membership, rather than just a majority of the quorum.