In an often raucous and unruly meeting on Tuesday night, the leftist majority of the Anchorage Assembly passed a controversial ordinance that will allow it to remove the mayor for nearly any reason it believes is a breach of public trust. The measure passed 9-3, with the three conservatives voting against it.
Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance was unable to control the audience after she cut off public testimony and the public reacted negatively, jeering at the Assembly and chanting “Cowards!” Pounding her gavel and demanding order, LaFrance worked with Assemblyman Chris Constant to identify offenders and had the security guards remove the most vocal people.
“You are out of order and creating an actual disruption of this meeting! It is disrespectful to the democratic process to shout. You are out of order,” LaFrance scolded the public, banging her gavel hard on her desk.
LaFrance also cut the microphone of Assemblywoman Jamie Allard, who was defending the public’s right to give testimony. She ruled the mayor out of order at one point. It seemed that everyone but the nine leftist members of the Assembly were “out of order” on Tuesday.
LaFrance said that the Congress has the power to impeach a president, and so should the Assembly have the power to remove the mayor. She did not mention that there are two legislative bodies in Congress — the House, which can impeach, and the Senate, which must hold a trial and has the power to convict.
The Assembly has no due process in place for removing the mayor; it can act with impunity by hiring its own hearing officer and then accepting the hearing officer’s findings. Then it can pick who it wants to replace the mayor.
Under the new ordinance, an undefined “breach of the public trust” is enough to begin proceedings, and it appears the Assembly intends to follow through with its coup against Mayor Bronson, who voters elected after two chaotic terms of Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and an eight-month reign of a temporary mayor chosen by the Assembly, Austin Quinn-Davidson, after the abrupt resignation of Berkowitz, who had, in fact, breached the public trust by having an inappropriate relationship with a member of the news media.
At one point in the amendment process, Assemblywoman Meg Zaletel moved to adjourn the meeting, using the phrase “I don’t fucking care” and “I’m done. Call the fucking question.” She said she didn’t have to sit there and listen to the public: “I’m not going to sit here and be heckled as an elected official.”
Two security guards were posted between the Assembly and the audience on Tuesday night, emphasizing the fear the Assembly has, knowing their actions are unpopular.
During a break in the meeting, Assemblyman Chris Constant made his way back to the sound booth, which the Assembly has also made into a room for the news media, where he had a long conversation to shape the narrative with the Anchorage Daily News reporter.
Also after the meeting, two people walked to the front and tried to serve the Clerk of the Assembly with referendum language that would undo the ordinance. But Clerk Barbara Jones had left.
It appears the mayor will veto the ordinance but the Assembly now has the votes to override the veto, with the newest member Daniel Volland now seated as the 12th member of the Assembly.