Anchorage Assembly overrides Mayor Bronson’s veto over code changes

Published: Jan. 28, 2022 at 4:13 PM AKST|Updated: Jan. 28, 2022 at 6:42 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - In a clash over how the Anchorage Assembly meetings should be run, a mayoral veto of an ordinance that put additional rules for meeting procedure into municipal code was up for discussion Friday during a special meeting at Anchorage City Hall.

The assembly voted 9-2 on Friday to override Mayor Dave Bronson’s veto, and uphold the ordinance.

Earlier this month, the assembly passed an ordinance that puts additional rules for meeting procedure into municipal code. On Wednesday, Bronson issued a veto of that amended ordinance. In his veto memo, Bronson took issue with three parts of the ordinance in particular, which stated:

  • The assembly chair is able to to prohibit members of the public from bringing dangerous or distracting items to assembly premises, or to require an item to be removed from assembly premises if it is being used to create an actual disturbance.
  • An individual may use a portion of their allocated time to engage in silent protest, but while doing so, must not prevent or delay other members of the public from providing testimony while the individual’s silent protest continues.
  • The assembly chair has the right to order a person to be removed from a meeting for creating an actual disturbance to the meeting.

Back in November, the assembly passed an ordinance that officially delegated control over meeting spaces and logistics to the chair, and after that they introduced code updates that they say are to promote the efficient, safe and orderly conduct of assembly business.

“I have reviewed the ordinance, heard the testimony, arguments and discussions presented for and against the ordinance, and understand the sentiments expressed during public testimony,” Bronson said in a statement Wednesday.

According to Bronson, the ordinance:

  1. Impermissibly infringes upon free speech.
  2. Is inconsistent with state laws related to the possession and carrying of firearms and knives.
  3. Impermissibly transfers executive powers of executive branch to the assembly. For these reasons, this veto should not be overridden.

But the assembly leadership maintains these rules for governing meetings are essential to conducting city business without disruptions.

“This ordinance is a simple and straightforward codification of longstanding procedures that ensure order and safety at Assembly meetings,” Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance said in a statement sent to Alaska’s News Source Friday. “It is critical to the functioning of the legislative branch of our municipal government that the Assembly Chair has the tools and resources needed to effectively run meetings. The Assembly rules, the Anchorage Charter and the Anchorage Municipal Code provide an abundance of opportunities for public input, notice and transparency. The changes in this ordinance do not infringe on those important rights of citizens to speak up and access their government. What is does do is prevent actions that can disrupt the business of our municipality and put participants at risk for their safety.”

Bronson finished off his veto statement by saying, “I encourage the Assembly to review these concerns and ask that they work with me to develop a legally defensible and effective ordinance to accomplish the intended goals.”

After discussion, the assembly members took a 9-2 vote on Friday to override Bronson’s veto. The two votes against overriding the veto were cast by assembly members Crystal Kennedy and Jamie Allard.

During Friday’s meeting, Vice Chair Chris Constant said this ordinance had been intended to make “necessary updates and clarifications” to the provisions that govern how assembly meetings are run.

A statement from assembly leadership said that Bronson’s assertion that prohibiting people from bringing dangerous items into meeting chambers if they are being used to “create an actual disturbance” would interfere with state law is “unwarranted.” The statement says that the ordinance does not require the city to violate state law in those cases, and that state law will trump local ordinance.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information.

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