After Anchorage residents shared sharp words with the Anchorage Assembly late Tuesday night, the hiring of a de facto shadow mayor was scaled back.
Now, the new super-staffer to be hired to help the Assembly won’t be able to rifle through the desks of city employees or drop in unannounced to the mayor’s cabinet meetings. The person won’t be able to inspect evidence lockers. The original ordinance would have allowed all those powers and many more.
But the approval of the ordinance, which passed 8-2 with Eagle River Assemblywomen Jamie Allard and Crystal Kennedy objecting, comes with a hefty price tag.
Like the Assembly’s latest hire of an equity officer who cannot be fired without their permission, the new person will make $115,000 a year, have a four-year contract, and with benefits added in will cost Anchorage taxpayers as much as $800,000.
The new liaison for the 11 members of the Assembly will be added to 23 other staffers already serving as aides, bringing the total to 24, not counting the Clerk’s Office and department directors.
The super-staffer liaison will be hired by the chair of the Anchorage Assembly, but the four-year contract means that person will be able to acquire more power than the three-year terms that Assembly members have.
Assembly members Felix Rivera and Meg Zalatel complained on the record that their workload was too great and that their current staff was overworked.
The ordinance was criticized by most attending the Assembly meeting who spoke on the record on Tuesday.
“If Anchorage was a growing vibrant city as it once was, I would understand your need to grow your organization. If you are unable to accomplish your work with the staff that you have, perhaps you should look at the current staff and yourselves for shortcomings,” said Tom McGrath, who has observed the Assembly since 1978.
“Anchorage is now a declining city, it’s not a growing city. Adding personnel is just putting an added burden on the already overburdened property taxpayer,” he said.
Assemblywoman Allard agreed. She said the special assistant position is a “step in the wrong direction of fiscal responsibility.
“We have already overburdened the public with new and increased taxes, business shutdowns, frivolous spending, and spending against the desires of the taxpayers. To create yet another government position and salary at this time is irresponsible, and raises questions as to the true intent of this assembly,” she said. “Not only is this proposed staff position redundant, but it is also an egregious violation of the separation of powers. It creates the perception that this assembly does not trust the new administration, is not willing to work with them, and will even change the charter to bypass the will of the people, assert their agenda, and plant their own informant within the executive branch,” she said.
Word quickly spread through City Hall on Wednesday that the new liaison for the Assembly to the Executive Branch has already been chosen and is someone who worked on the 8th floor of City Hall in the last administration of former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz.