A special meeting of the Anchorage Assembly on Thursday revealed a legislative body having a lot of trouble with the fact that it does not control the Mayor’s Office any longer, and that the new mayor is making appointments to volunteer portions of the government — boards and commissions. The closed online meeting was spent dissecting Mayor Dave Bronson’s many appointments to boards and commissions.
Dozens of boards and commissions slots were left vacant during the “nothing to report” Mayor Berkowitz era, when former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz left the vacancies unfilled. As it turns out, dozens of people had been serving in official capacity on boards without the authority to do so. Some boards, such as the Military and Veterans Affairs Commission, were completely vacant.
For example, Pat Abney has been on the election board since 2018, and the leftist Assembly majority is visibly upset that Abney’s name is not being renominated by Bronson, after her term expired in October. Instead, the mayor is appointing a male to the all-woman commission.
Abney is a partisan Democrat, and a former candidate for the Alaska State House of Representatives in 2002 and 2006. She was a member of the Assembly from 1991-2001. Instead of Abney.
That change upset the Assembly majority, which had prepared several detailed questions for the Bronson Administration about the process used to determine who would be a good fit for a board or commission. The Assembly has gone so far as to request to see the resumes of all the nominees and the majority members are indicating they don’t think the mayor has appointed qualified people.
View current appointments to fill vacancies here:
Municipal Manager Amy Demboski provided answers to the Assembly, as they grilled her over the qualifications of the nominees.
What outreach and advertising was done to recruit the new appointees? Was the outreach done in a way that ensures broad community representation on the Boards and Commissions (several have specific requirements to meet geographic and demographic diversity)?
Demboski replied that all residents had the opportunity to apply via OnBoard, a software that the municipality uses. Outreach was conducted through the muni website, social media, transition team, and community councils. Staff reviewed appointments with board diversity in mind.
There are 29 people whose terms expired in October 2021 who were not reappointed. How many of those submitted applications or indicated to their board/commission that they intended to serve out a new term? Can the Assembly have access to these applications? Were all existing members adequately informed that they would need to reapply for their positions (the past practice was to reappoint without a new application)?
Demboski replied that it has not been the practice of the executive branch to advance resumes of people not nominated. Instead, Bronson notified members who were not reappointed. “We are continuing the process to send out letters to thank those members not reappointed for their service,” she said.
Several Boards and Commission have very specific requirements outlined in municipal code for who fills each seat, and sometimes technical requirements for appointees. Do the new appointments maintain these requirements? Can the Administration note on the AMs which seat each appointee is filling similar to how it is shown in the Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery Advisory Commission section on OnBoard: https://onboard.muni.org/board/2868.
Demboski replied that this was done in some cases, but not all. While this has not always been done in the past, now that the OnBoard system is set up, she said it would be a good practice for the Municipality to maintain. Applications were first received via OnBoard, then filtered by the board/commission in which the applicant expressed an interest.
Next, applicants were evaluated against code requirements to serve on a particular board/commission; then, boards/commissions were evaluated for vacancies and expiring (or expired) seats.
Finally, the Mayor selected the appointees from the eligible applicants who had made it through the review process. Thank you for the recommendation to mimic the Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery Advisory Commission section on OnBoard; we are happy to consider this recommendation as we move forward.
There were 23 people who expired prior to 2021, but according to OnBoard, that person was still serving (perhaps unaware that they had expired).
Some of these were reappointed, but some were listed on the Administration’s appointment documents as Vacant and new appointees were put forward. Of those, how many were still actively participating in 2021? How many reapplied for their seats? How did the Administration determine which Members to reappoint and which ones to replace?
Demboski replied that when the Bronson Administration took over, they found the information about who was actively participating in their board or commission was not recorded in a manner to easily track. Some people serving a previous administration were not in compliance with code (because terms had long been expired, or in one instance the reappointment was not put forward to the Assembly, but the person continued to serve in an official capacity).
“The appointments for boards and commissions are solely at the discretion of the Mayor; this process is exclusively a function of the executive branch,” Demboski said.
The staggering is off for the Election Commission. Would the Administration be willing to readjust the new appointment for Seat 4 for one year to expire in 2022, to bring the Commission back into alignment with the code to have staggered terms?
Demboski replied that the the administration is reviewing all board and commission terms for legal alignment with the member’s terms.