Leaders say relations improving between Anchorage Assembly and mayor

Leaders say relations improving between Anchorage Assembly and mayor
Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 9:42 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The relationship between the Anchorage Assembly and Mayor Dave Bronson has been tumultuous over a couple of years — but seems to be improving.

Despite tension and several setbacks, Mayor Dave Bronson and current Assembly Chair Chris Constant say things are getting better.

For the mayoral administration, the termination and resignation of multiple staff members have added to the disarray. Bronson has also disagreed with the Assembly on major policies and proposals, such as the homeless navigation center that was voted down last year. By the time of the final vote on the Navigation Center, the Assembly expressed a lack of confidence that the administration had a handle on costs for the multimillion-dollar project.

“In the last three years, the municipality has spent $161 million in 36 months on homelessness and we don’t have a shelter to show for it,” Bronson said. “That’s a problem. I’m not saying we don’t have anything to show for it, because we do. We’ve done some hotel conversions, we’ve done some good things, but that money, we should have had a shelter because the large shelters, what that allows us (is) to actively, proactively prevent these ad hoc camps that are standing up.”

Recently, both branches of government have been agreeing on several issues including the need for increased Housing and Urban Development funding to tackle homelessness in Anchorage. Bronson and Constant also point to the new city manager, Kent Kohlhase, for his role in helping foster a better relationship between the branches of local government.

“He’s doing a great job,” Bronson said. “He brings a lot of experience to the job. He’s been with the municipality a long time, he’s a real professional. We really like working with him.”

Constant agrees.

“Has the relationship improved between the Assembly and the mayor’s office? I can say that the new municipal manager has done a really hard and focused job on ensuring that they’re doing their work in a way that communicates well with the Assembly, so people are feeling heard and people are seeing results,” Constant said.

Anchorage still faces serious challenges. There remains a looming deadline for Anchorage to have a permanent, low-barrier shelter established by Nov. 1.

Despite the obstacles to be overcome, Bronson said there are several issues he’s proud to have worked on with the Assembly.

“On the hotel conversions, on supporting Providence on their treatment centers, the Rasmuson Foundation work, all of that stuff, we’ve been working hand-in-glove on that,” Bronson said. “The contention is the shelter, nav center, we’re still working on that. We’ve got to have a place for people to go when it’s cold and when it’s not cold like right now.”