Over the objections of three conservatives on the Anchorage Assembly, a mayoral veto was overridden on Monday, giving the Assembly the power to remove the mayor whenever it chooses, with the flimsiest of reasons.
Anchorage Ordinance 2022-60 gives the Assembly vast power, both overtly and implied, over the mayor, the ability to hold a knife over the mayor’s head by creating a pathway for the legislative body to remove him for what is a vaguely described “breach of public trust.” Their process for removing him makes the Assembly judge, jury, and prosecutor.
Assemblyman Randy Sulte argued against overriding the veto, saying that if recalls of mayors fail, and the Assembly acts to remove a mayor, then it would be the Assembly getting the “breach of the public trust” wrong.
“I have concerns about us being judge and jury about what is ‘breach of public trust.’ We may not be correct and the public may still trust that person and wish for that person to remain, even though we may feel otherwise,” he said.
Assembly Vice Chair Chris Constant admitted in the meeting that the impetus for the ordinance was an incident that happened during a “wild” regular meeting of the Assembly in October, when the public was up in arms over the Assembly’s latest mask mandate.
“Many people ask ‘Why did you start this project?'” said Constant, the maker of the ordinance. “The day that I decided this project was essential was the day in October when a member of the Administration attempted to turn off the public feed. The second thing they did at that meeting was to dismiss security. And the third thing they did at that meeting was told APD [police] to stand down. And I witnessed the staff of this Administration rallying people in an angry crowd.”
Constant said the ordinance wasn’t meant to be used to prosecute a mayor for dropping a city-issued cell phone and breaking the screen. But rather it is for “a pattern of behavior that rises to the level of abuse, that regular people would look and ask, ‘How could this person do such a thing?’ That it’s unconscionable that that action should have taken place.”
The Monday meeting was a special meeting in a small room at City Hall, called only for the purpose of overriding the veto, and the meeting was just over a half an hour long. It was supposed to be broadcast live on YouTube, but the Assembly somehow cut the video feed, claimed technical difficulties and only posted a nearly unintelligible audio recording of the meeting instead, a breach of the public trust.