It’s time to put politics aside to work for Anchorage

By Suzanne LaFrance and Christopher Constant

Updated: 1 One hour before Published: 1 One hour before

As leaders of the Anchorage Assembly, we frequently hear from constituents who want elected officials to put politics aside and work together for the benefit of the community. We hear you and we agree. Our priority for the Assembly is to move this city in a positive direction and to ensure that municipal services are provided in a fair and fiscally responsible manner.

Unfortunately, the reality is that it’s not just up to us. The Assembly is in a fight that we did not choose. When Mayor Dave Bronson arrived, the Assembly worked hard to support him — we approved 90% of his leadership appointments, we funded his navigation center, we helped his new staff navigate the process of the Assembly and we partnered with him to defend Port from Alaska funding. As someone with no government experience, Mayor Bronson’s learning curve was expected, but time and again he chose secrecy over transparency and politics over process.

As we mark Mayor Bronson’s first year in office, we look back at an unprecedented level of mismanagement of municipal resources, a lack of respect for municipal law, a lack of understanding of how our city works, and a lack of respect for our government institutions and the public. The mayor ignored the budget which was legally adopted by the Assembly. It abandoned programs and plans established in collaboration with community partners. It submitted unqualified candidates for key management positions and boards of directors. He requested multimillion-dollar funding for projects without accurate cost estimates or even basic due diligence.

Recently, the mayor used taxpayers’ money to send a political letter filled with misinformation about this year’s property taxes. He politicized the youth by veto the Assembly’s proposal to broaden the pool of participants for the young Assembly member. He also let his human resources director exacerbate a supposedly hostile work situation at the library by wearing a biased message on his t-shirt supporting the alleged perpetrator at an official government meeting, exposing City taxpayers to risk of financial litigation losses.

Also very concerning: His poorly planned and arbitrarily timed closure of the Sullivan Arena mass shelter has created an unnecessary crisis where hundreds of vulnerable Alaskans have been driven out with few options, leaving nonprofits scrambling to provide a security net. While the community worked for years on a plan to house the homeless, the mayor abandoned most of that work when he took office, relying on campaign slogans instead of a meaningful dialogue. The facilitated negotiated process failed when the administration was unwilling to participate in good faith. As a result, the city is now far behind in dealing with a situation we all knew was coming and could have been avoided. Instead of housing people, he sent them to a camp.

Meanwhile, under his leadership, some of his supporters have hijacked the public process to the point that others feel unsafe to attend assembly meetings and voice their opinions. What was once healthy political debate has turned into a strong minority attack on the people and systems that make our city work. The mayor and his supporters seem determined to break our institutions and silence people they disagree with.

Despite this pressure, the Assembly was committed to getting things done and minding its own business. In addition to weekly committee meetings, we meet at least twice a month to approve contracts to clear snow from our roads, remove beetle-killing trees, and purchase fire trucks and other essential equipment. We update codes to support local businesses, adopt long-term community plans, and pass budgets to fund services that keep Anchorage healthy, safe, and productive.

We also carried out forward-looking projects, such as providing a safety net for local residents and businesses with the distribution of $214 million in federal assistance, expanding mental health responders , funding school resource officers despite mayoral veto, promoting the Anchored Welcoming Plan to reduce homelessness, strengthening our local supply chain by advancing Port of Alaska modernization, streamlining municipal processes and cut red tape for homebuilders. We keep the lights on.

Assembly leadership will continue to work to strengthen our workforce, help local businesses, support our families, invest in our infrastructure, make our streets safer, and make government work for you. We encourage Anchorage residents to get involved, attend Assembly meetings and communicate with elected officials with your ideas and concerns. Our community depends on all of us working together. Let’s not let a small group of troublemakers keep us from doing the important work that needs to be done. Anchorage is a city where caring people help each other and put aside political differences to achieve great things. We plan to continue and hope you will join us.

Suzanne France and Christopher Constant are president and vice president of the Anchorage Assembly, respectively.

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Maria D. Ervin