Voters to decide how long acting mayor, assembly members serve

Voters to decide how long acting mayor, assembly members serve
Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 6:12 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anchorage residents will vote on Proposition 13 in April, an amendment to the municipal charter concerning filling vacancies in the assembly and the mayor’s office.

Voters will decide if they want to update the municipal charter to clarify the timelines and processes for when special elections are held for filling a vacancy in the office of the mayor. It would also restructure what will happen in the event that a mayor can no longer serve.

The changes to the current charter would include:

  • Establishing a limit for how long an acting mayor can serve, set at 270 days, which is equivalent to one quarter of a mayoral term. This would effectively place a boundary on the time in which a special election would have to be held.
  • When the Assembly chair vacates that position to become the acting mayor, the vacancy left in the Assembly will be temporarily appointed by the Assembly itself. This would allow for full representation of all districts if an acting mayor needs to step in.
  • Adjusts the language for replacing an Assembly member increases the amount of time to conduct an election from 60 up to 90 days.
  • Moves the expenses for special elections outside of the tax cap, which would provide a way to cover election costs.

Some Assembly members are concerned that although the legal language in the charter is written correctly, it can still be confusing to the public — but they hope the amendments make things more clear and concise.

“I think its good to have clarity on what’s the outer boundary in time for an election, so that the voters can expect to have someone in the office who is elected as soon as reasonably practical,” Assembly Vice Chair Chris Constant said.

“We need to make sure this takes into consideration the will of all of Anchorage — who they want to run their city — but also we have to be responsible with your money, because elections do not come cheap,” Assembly member Kevin Cross said.

Assembly member and former acting mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson — who spent over eight months as acting mayor of Anchorage in 2020 and 2021 following the resignation of Mayor Ethan Berkowitz — is not supportive of Proposition 13 and believes it will just meddle with the rules of the charter.

“My concern with this proposition is it’s trying to solve — its a solution in search of a problem,” Quinn-Davidson said. “There really wasn’t a problem last time, what the Assembly did made sense, in my view, which is have a consistent person serve as acting mayor until we had a regular election and had an elected mayor come in.”

Quinn-Davidson is concerned about what she calls “potentially silly results” that could stem from the proposition.

The mayor’s office has yet to return a request for comment on the proposition.