Police, fire unions comment on Mayor Bronson’s budget revision vetoes

Police and fire unions comment on Mayor Bronson’s vetoes
Published: May. 5, 2022 at 7:07 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage Police Department and Anchorage Fire Department unions are speaking out about some of the amendments Mayor Dave Bronson vetoed in the assembly’s approved first quarter budget revision.

In a press release, the mayor’s office said the vetoes not only save taxpayer money and deliver a budget well below the tax cap, but also creates a “more efficient” and “effective government.” However, some local union leaders now have questions about the mayor’s actions.

Sgt. Jeremy Conkling, president of the Anchorage Police Department Employees Association, said earlier this week he was “disheartened” by the mayor’s vetoes. Bronson vetoed an amendment that would have allocated $500,000 from the alcohol tax program to fund training that focuses on the roll-out of new equipment, case law updates, de-escalation, cultural awareness, wellness, and significant policy changes. It would allow up to 20 hours of in-service training per officer in 2022.

In another frustrating move, Conkling added, the mayor vetoed funding that would have gone toward police recruiting efforts. Bronson vetoed $50,000 that would have been allocated to funding efforts to recruit individuals that are reflective of the overall demographics of the community. Conkling felt that the funding was necessary.

“Thirty-nine percent of officers hired since 2018 have left the Anchorage Police Department,” Conkling wrote in an email.

The Bronson administration said the items were vetoed because they were an improper use of alcohol tax money, according to the Anchorage Municipal Charter.

“I disagree with the interpretation of the alcohol tax,” Conkling said. “I think that specific to the alcohol tax funding, increased in-service training and increased focused recruiting efforts are absolutely within the parameters of why the alcohol tax was passed.”

Conkling noted that the alcohol tax funding would have no adverse impact on the tax cap. In a letter to the assembly, he urged support for public safety with a veto override “on behalf of over 500 members of the Anchorage Police Department Employees Association.”

Vice President Justin Mack of the Anchorage Firefighters Union Local 1264 said his union is displeased that the mayor vetoed funding for staffing and personnel improvements.

He specifically pointed to an amendment that would have allocated $50,000 from the Alcohol Tax Program that would have funded a study to review and make recommendations regarding the personnel levels, staffing structure, national standards and other contributors to labor costs within the fire department.

Additionally, Mack said he is confused as to why the mayor vetoed funding for maintaining the Mobile Crisis Team to make it a 24/7 team starting July 1.

In regard to the Mobile Crisis Team, the Bronson administration said one of the reasons for striking the funding was because the current collective bargaining agreement does not allow for the program to be fully implemented at the Anchorage Fire Department.

“There is nothing in our collective bargaining agreement that would prevent us from continuing that work or expanding that work,” Mack said. “We have definitely seen over the last, just over a year and half now there is a need in the community for this type of work.”

In previous comments, the mayor has said he supports public safety and added $5.5 million for the Anchorage Police Department and Anchorage Fire Department to fully fund their operations in his revised budget.

In order to override Bronson’s vetoes, a supermajority of eight votes are required from the 11-member assembly body.

Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance said earlier this week that the matter will be taken up at the next regular assembly meeting or during a special meeting next week. Assembly member Austin Quinn-Davidson said she believes the assembly has the votes to override the vetoes.

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