It’s hunting season for the progressive Anchorage Assembly, which is on the brink of shooting down another one of Mayor Dave Bronson’s nominees.
In the history of Anchorage, no nominee of a mayor has been known to be denied by the Assembly, but earlier this month, the long knives came out for the appointed director for the Municipal Health Department, who withdrew in the 11th hour under their certain rejection, even though he had 40 years of experience in health management — and the previous director for that department had zero years, but still was confirmed.
Now the liberal majority is going after Sami Graham, the nominee to run the Anchorage Libraries. It’s a war the Assembly has silently declared on a mayor of whom they disapprove, the mayor who had never served in elected office before but who beat one of their own — Assemblyman Forrest Dunbar — during the last election.
Graham, formerly the principal at Grace Christian School, has a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from University of Alaska, Anchorage, a M.S. in Counseling from Long Island University, a BA in Music Education from University of Utah, and Alaska certification in teaching, counseling and administration.
The liberal majority running the Assembly doesn’t like that Graham has all that experience, including management of a school library, but does not have a degree sanctioned by the American Library Association, which is the trade group that controls who runs America’s libraries.
Graham has lots of supporters, and even former Gov. Bill Walker sent in a letter on her behalf.
Walker wrote that Graham “has an incredible work ethic, integrity, compassion, embraces and befriends many people who do not share the same faith or political affiliation, and has dedicated her professional career as a teacher, counselor and principal to improving the educational opportunities for Anchorage’s diverse student population. Sami wants every child to succeed. Sami’s strong communication and interpersonal skills, her decades of work with Anchorage’s diverse population of students and families, her excellent organizational skills, staff management and administrative skills and her strong character all contribute to making her a solid candidate for this position and I hope you will . . . confirm her appointment.”
The Assembly liberal majority appears to be focused on Graham’s lack of a master’s degree of library science.
According to Niki Tshibaka, Human Resources director for the municipality, the mayor is not bound by the “minimum qualifications: for the position.
“Specifically, Section 3.30.024D of our Municipal Code provides as follows: The qualifications statements in each class specification establish requirements that must be met by an individual before consideration for appointment or promotion to a position in the class. Common alternative combinations of education, training or experience are specified in the class specifications. However, other combinations may be qualifying, if deemed equivalent by the director,” Tshibaka said to the Assembly during the work session last week.
In other words, if Michelle Obama was appointed to become library director for Anchorage, the Assembly might find her completely acceptable because of other qualifications.
Tshibaka noted that the library director’s position description does not even require a MLS degree.
“If we were going to be technical about Sami’s qualifications, we would be compelled to recognize that there is a clear conflict between the minimum qualifications set forth in the general job class specification and the Minimum Qualifications set forth in the specific position description. So, even if the Mayor were bound to follow a wooden reading of the minimum qualifications for this position – which I’ve already demonstrated is not the case – he still would need to decide which document to follow: the job class specification or the position description?” Tshibaka explained to the Assembly.
What the Assembly is really concerned about is preserving Drag Queen Story Hour at the library, as well as maintaining the libraries as a shelter for drug addicts and vagrants. In fact, the library has public space that it rents out and, according to its current policy, it cannot discriminate against the drag queens, and it has no say over what books they can read to children whose parents bring them to such events. As for drug addicts and vagrants taking over libraries, it’s a problem that libraries face across the country. Many argue that librarians should have degrees in social work, considering what libraries have become.
“The mayor simply requests that this Assembly continue a long-held tradition that it and its predecessors have adhered to and honored – namely, that Anchorage’s Mayors are authorized and empowered by our municipal code to appoint their teams, even if some of them do not satisfy certain minimum qualifications, so long as they otherwise possess ‘equivalent’ qualifications relevant to the position at issue. For the sake of this and future mayoral administrations, Mayor Bronson respectfully submits that ending this unbroken tradition in his administration could have far-reaching and unintended consequences for future mayoral administrations and assemblies,” Tshibaka said.
If the Assembly doesn’t confirm Graham, the mayor still has options. He can appoint her to a deputy director position, then make her the acting director. Acting director would require no confirmation.
The Assembly meeting starts at 5 pm on Tuesday, Aug. 24.
The Graham confirmation comes during the consent agenda, but will certainly be pulled out as a special item. Those who want to comment on it during that consent agenda portion of the meeting must sign up for public testimony before Friday, or they would alternately have to line up to testify in the 5:15-6pm general public testimony period. Written testimony can be sent to: [email protected].
Assembly meetings are streamed and televised. The link is http://www.muni.org/watchnow.