Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Anchorage Mayor Tries To Veto Amendment To Proposal During Assembly Meeting

[Follow up post Thursday June 30 with attorney's memo.]

I haven't been to an Assembly meeting for a long time.  But I went because I know something about boards and commissions and I wanted to see what they were going to do with the ordinance on boards and commissions.  I'll write more on the ordinance they passed adding back sunset provisions for many boards and commissions in another post soon.

What really caught my attention was the mayor's attempt to veto an amendment to a proposal right after the amendment, but not the ordinance, was passed.  As I've said, I haven't been to an Assembly meeting for a while and I've never attended them regularly.

But it seems to me pretty clear that there is supposed to be a separation of powers.  The Assembly does the legislation, then the mayor needs to implement them or veto them, but only AFTER they pass. To veto an amendment in the middle of the Assembly debate seems  totally bizarre.

Assembly members quickly responded.  I wasn't planning on posting about the meeting and hadn't brought my computer or even a note pad.  But someone said something about line item veto being reserved for budget items.  Municipal Clerk Barbara Gruenstein said that a veto had to be accompanied by a written explanation.  Assembly chair Ossiander asked an administration attorney and a person I assume is the assembly attorney.  The administration's attorney said she thought it was ok.  The other attorney said she thought it wasn't, and agreed that a written statement explaining the veto had to accompany it.

Someone added, perhaps it was the mayor, that the Municipal attorney had written an opinion that the mayor could line item anything.  But that memo didn't show up and the Municipal Attorney didn't explain it while I was there.

Then Assembly member Trombley argued that since the item to be vetoed would affect the budget, it could be considered a line-item budget veto.  Member Flynn said something to the effect of, "Nice try, but no way."

For me the issue is separation of powers.  The mayor was, in my opinion, interfering in the Assembly process.  He can say he plans to veto it, but he can't just stand up at the Assembly meeting and veto things on the spot, even before the ordinance is passed, even if he writes a note explaining why. (Who knows what all attorneys can do to twist the process, but it just feels unseemly for the mayor not to wait for the process to play out, before he plays his authorized role.)

And if there was an opinion written by the Municipal attorney on an issue of such significance, why wouldn't it be shared with the Assembly in advance, instead of dropping it in like a bomb, perhaps to see if he could get away with it?  I think the answer is worth another post - a discussion on how seriously divided the Assembly has become.  Divided so that they are toeing the ideological line on practically every minor amendment.  Even when it wouldn't matter particularly.  So divided that both sides seem to assume the worst about the whatever the other side proposes.

UPDATE June 29 11:30 pm:  Let's see if I can make this work. The Muni video of the Assembly meetings has a way to embed specific parts of the video, but I'm leery. These should be:
a. The mayor vetoing the amendment. (if it works, I'll put up b)
b. A bit later when they get clarification

a) didn't capture the part it was supposed to get. I'll try b.  This one is closer to the part I was trying to get, but still misses it.  I'll leave it for now, for anyone who wants to see how Assembly members talk to each other.  Meanwhile I'll try again to get the right clips.
[Friday July 1: I've deleted the video clip because and can't turn off the autostart and having the video automatically go on is just plain annoying.]

[AUTOSTART DISABLE HELP NEEDED: Anyone know how to change the html to disable the autostart? Autostart and play are both set to false. What else is in there that needs to be changed?]

I'm having trouble loading up the video again. Meanwhile, my Firefox access to Blogspot gets me a "Bad Request Error 400" message - I'm using Safari now. Did that come from the Muni video link? It started after I was using it.

But I did learn from the video I wasn't able to upload that the second attorney, Julia Tucker does work for the Assembly and she did raise the issue of separation of powers.

You can go to the Muni site yourself and load up the video.
The motion gets passed and the mayor says he vetoes it @ 1:24:00 - 1:25:26
Then they do other things while waiting for a clarification of the Mayor's basis for being able to veto.
Then they get the clarifications from the Mayor's attorney and the Assembly's attorney @ 1:30:50-1:34:00.


  1. I met the Mayor for the first time last month. That isn't to say that I haven't had the opportunity before since his election. I was pulling a Sarah Palin and being impolite in avoiding eye and hand contact with a man whose politics I find odious.

    The guy (like Governor Parnell) is going to easily coast into a second term with little effort, because we are all so lazy and indifferent to their seemingly innocuous leadership.

    Sullivan is dangerous, his agenda is anything but for the citizenry of the State's largest city. Parnell serves Corporate Alaska and uses his "servants heart" to serve all the rest of his duties.

    How do we do it? How do we let this happen. Shame on us. Shame on them.

  2. I watch the Assembly meetings often on T.V. Was tuned in last night because I was interested in how the Assembly would handle the Boards and Commissions situation.

    Was very, very surprised when the mayor vetoed the amendment to a proposal - it just didn't seem legally correct that he got involved at that point. I hope we hear more about the matter.

    I don't agree that he will 'automatically' be elected again next cycle. Many, many people I talk to are getting pretty sick and tired of Republican actions - on the national, state and city levels.

    It is for sure I'll be encouraging others to get out and vote!

  3. What a power hungry idiot he is! He wants to be a dictator, and the sooner you folks in Hinkeyville turn him out of office the better.


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