Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Anchorage Assembly Contemplates Charter Amendments Changing The Structure Of The Anchorage Assembly And School Board

Update December 18th: School board proposal shot down 7-4; updated post HERE.

On December 4th, 2012, South Anchorage Assembly Member Chris Birch is introducing two ordinances which would allow voters to decide whether to change the structure of the Anchorage Assembly and the Anchorage School Board. Birch proposes to change the Assembly from its current configuration of five districts with two members each and one single-member district to a configuration of 11 more compact and contiguous Assembly districts represented by one member each. He also proposes to change the School Board from its present configuration of seven members elected citywide to 11 members representing geographical districts; the district boundaries for both Assembly and School Board seats would be identical.

The ordinances will be initially introduced by Birch at the December 4th meeting; each one must be seconded to be added to the official agenda of the December 18th meeting. It is at the December 18th meeting that public testimony will be taken and Assembly members actually vote on the ordinances. One Assembly member who appears quite hostile to the ordinances is Downtown Assemblyman Patrick Flynn; in this personal blog post, he uncharacteristically rakes Chris Birch over the coals, claiming that if Birch understood the charter prior to promoting his plans, which he considers deficient, the result could’ve been nine single-member districts and a single two member district, or some other mix thereof. Assembly Member Debbie Ossiander is believed to favor the latter alternative, as she would rather her large Chugiak-Eagle River Assembly District be represented by two people.

Here are updated links to the two proposed ordinances along with a brief description:

-- Ordinance No. AO 2012-119: Will divide Anchorage into 11 single-member Assembly districts formed of compact and contiguous territory containing a relatively integrated socioeconomic area. The assembly shall be reapportioned whenever it becomes malapportioned; it shall determine and declare by resolution whether or not it is malapportioned within two months of the adoption of a final state redistricting plan under Article VI, Section 10 of the Alaska State Constitution, or within six months after the assembly determines for itself that it has become malapportioned. A substitute ordinance, AO 2012-119(S), was subsequently offered, which struck out the proposal for two-year terms.

If adopted during the December 18th Assembly Meeting, this initiative will be placed on the April 2013 Municipal Election ballot. If approved by voters, the Assembly shall create the official boundaries of the 11 new election districts within 90 days of certification of the election results. The boundaries shall be in effect for the regular election in 2014, including for determination of residency for assembly candidates. In order to maintain staggered terms, the initial term for 5 seats shall be 2 years. The Assembly shall designate the 5 seats subject to 2 year terms, determine whether current terms need to be truncated, and amend the Anchorage Municipal Code in accordance with this ordinance and the Charter amendment, all at the time it adopts the new election district map.

-- Ordinance No. AO 2012-121: Will change the School Board from its current 7-member citywide composition to an 11-member board from geographical districts mirroring the Assembly districts. If adopted during the December 18th Assembly Meeting, this initiative will be placed on the April 2013 Municipal Election ballot. If approved by voters, the school board shall use the election district boundaries established by the Anchorage Assembly beginning with the regular election in 2014, including for determination of residency for school board candidates. Each school board seat shall use the same designated seat identifier as used by the Assembly, and the election for the corresponding school board seat shall occur in the same year and for the same term as its respective Assembly seat.

In order to transition to the new 11-member composition and terms, the Assembly shall, by ordinance passed and approved at least 60 days prior to the clerk’s publication of notice of vacancies for the 2014 regular election, determine whether current terms need to be truncated, and amend Anchorage Municipal Code in accordance with this Ordinance and the Charter amendment.

Analysis: The change to 11 more compact 11-mmber districts is long overdue; it will promote better representation. An example of good representation in a single-member district was provided by Patrick Flynn himself, when he handled a possible code violation privately through contacts with citizens rather than file an official complaint against an elderly man who has difficulty physically keeping up his yard. It will also end the imbalance between the single-member Downtown District and the dual-member remaining districts; each district will have a more equal playing field.

As for the School Board, it seems to respond effectively to public concerns in its present configuration, although it did not act very expeditiously to resolve the public interest conflict with board member Pat Higgins attending board meetings remotely from Kwajalein. The School Board did unanimously pass a policy change on November 15th imposing greater limits upon remote participation, but they don't become effective until July 2014, which is three months after Higgins' current term expires. Thus the urgency to change the School Board configuration is not as great.

1 comment:

  1. Feel free to contact me.
    David Nees if you would like to help get the single member issue on the April ballots.
    Davidneesak@gmail.com
    5221118

    ReplyDelete