Assembly overrides mayoral veto that sought to reject advisory board made up of people who have experienced homelessness

The Anchorage Assembly voted 9-1 to override a mayoral veto that would have rejected a new...
The Anchorage Assembly voted 9-1 to override a mayoral veto that would have rejected a new advisory board on homelessness on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021 in Anchorage, Alaska.(Jeremy Kashatok/Alaska's News Source)
Published: Aug. 31, 2021 at 4:36 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - In a special meeting on Tuesday, members of the Anchorage Assembly voted to override Mayor Dave Bronson’s first veto since taking office, which sought to reject an advisory board that would be made up of people who have experienced homelessness.

During its Aug. 24 meeting, the assembly passed an ordinance that forms an advisory board that will report to and give feedback to the city on issues of housing and homelessness. It will be made up of people who have firsthand experience with homelessness. According to that ordinance, the board has “the goal of centering the perspective of those with lived experience.”

On Friday, Bronson announced he would veto that ordinance. He cited the existence of a different advisory body, the Homeless, Housing, and Neighborhood Development Commission, and an independent group called the Houseless Resource Advisory Council.

Bronson said the new Houseless Lived Experience Advisory Board would be replicating the work of those other bodies.

On Tuesday, the assembly voted 9-1 to override the mayoral veto. Assembly member Jamie Allard was the sole “no” vote, and assembly member Crystal Kennedy was absent.

Assembly member Felix Rivera, who sponsored the ordinance creating the advisory board, made the motion to override the veto. He shared statements made by the Houseless Resource Advisory Council which were in support of the new board.

“It has also been suggested that the new board would replicate the work of HRAC,” Rivera read from the statement. “This reflects an understandable misunderstanding of HRAC’s relationship to our members. HRAC offers insightful peer-to-peer support and mentoring to individuals living houseless, and those recovering from the experience. We are a resource and we are advocates, an informal alliance of individuals with lived experience who extend our heart and hand us to those among us who need a friend.”

The council wrote that it sometimes encounters an issue that prompts it to petition the city in some fashion to get involved, but said that’s not the body’s primary focus and that the council is not ready to become part of the establishment of the municipality.

In his comments before the vote, Rivera asked that in future, the administration bring forward any issues with a proposal before it gets to the point of a veto or veto override. He said he’s “more than happy” to work with the administration on any proposals he puts forward.

“I did reach out to the administration on this proposal before it became public and got very little feedback,” Rivera said. “I certainly did not get any indication the mayor was considering using his veto power. The mayor can absolutely use this power, I don’t have any problem with that. But I simply ask that the administration have proactive conversations with members of the legislative branch, to hopefully avoid having us to get to this point again in the future.”

Assembly member Kameron Perez-Verdia supported the veto override, but said the process should be viewed as no more than the city’s regular process, rather than a disagreement between the assembly and the administration.

Perez-Verdia and Allard both asked about the source of funding to support the new advisory board. Rivera said no fiscal note was attached to the ordinance because it is not expected that the board will require any additional municipal funds. He cited a few other recent advisory boards and commissions that were also created without fiscal notes.

“I am seeking new or additional dollars from third-party sources — so non-municipal tax revenue — to help with facilitating some of the goals of this board,” Rivera said.

When Allard asked for more specificity on the question of funds to support the board, Rivera said the negotiations to secure third-party funds are still ongoing.

“Unfortunately this veto sort of put a pause on those, and I’m hoping after today I will be able to quickly wrap that up,” he said.

Speaking in support of the override, assembly member Meg Zaletel, who chairs the city Committee on Housing and Homelessness, said that in her time chairing that body there has been a “repeated refrain” that the city needs to hear from more people who have experienced homelessness first hand.

To have a board that can make recommendations to the city in an official capacity “is really a big missing piece of the puzzle,” she said

“It’s important for us to listen to this group,” said assembly member John Weddleton. “It’s one that has been fairly silent.”

Weddleton said he’s excited that the Bronson administration is focusing on finding solutions to the housing the city’s homeless population.

“We should hear from the people it’s going to impact,” Weddleton said.

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