Discover more from The Alaska Memo by Matt Buxton
Anchorage is a clown car and Bronson’s at the wheel
[Circus music plays eerily in the distance]
Good evening, Alaska!
In this edition: My planned look at the redistricting lawsuits takes a backseat to the clown car that is Anchorage’s executive branch following a gobsmacking report of impropriety between the executive branch and the Anchorage Police Department and one of the more scathing editorials to come out of the Anchorage Daily News.
Up next time: Let’s get into the redistricting lawsuits… finally.
Twitter status: Still suspended. I’ll probably give it a few more days to see if a human can see my appeal before just taking my lump and getting back on. A “fun” thing about how Twitter suspensions work is that the penalty clock doesn’t start rolling until you delete your offending tweet, so it may be a while.
Anchorage is a clown car and Bronson’s at the wheel
Things are getting wild in Anchorage. On Saturday, the Alaska Landmine published an article detailing some shocking accusations that Mayor Dave Bronson regularly interfered with the Alaska Police Department in the lead up to Police Chief Ken McCoy’s decision to leave. The actions detailed by the Landmine include the Bronson administration pressuring police officers to vacate the Anchorage Assembly during the peak of the mask mandate fight (which would be in addition to the administration dismissing the private security, removing the plexiglass barriers and attempting to cut the public feed), pressuring the police to get involved in the treatment of a covid-19 patient and that he had police turn off the city’s fluorination system in the public water supply for several hours.
Perhaps most troubling of all the accusations is that Bronson has a renegade faction of the police department—specifically officers associated with the politically active Anchorage Baptist Temple, of which Bronson is a member—reporting directly to him. A personal police force more committed to church connections with a wannabe tyrant? Yikes.
The mayor’s office denies all of this, of course, but given their track record there’s not a lot to trust.
If there’s any grain of truth to any of this, then it goes a long way to explain why McCoy decided to step away… though it wouldn’t really excuse his apparent decision to be silent about it:
“McCoy, a 27-year veteran of APD, had earned widespread attention for being Anchorage’s first Black police chief,” writes the Landmine. “Now, multiple sources tell the Landmine that McCoy announced his resignation in response to a series of improper demands by Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson and Municipal Manager Amy Demboski. Moreover, the Alaska Landmine has been told of a growing chain of command crises at APD in which a contingent of police officers have begun reporting directly to Bronson and Demboski.”
We’re not likely to get a straight answer out of the administration anytime soon but the Anchorage Assembly is getting in on the action. Over the weekend, its leadership issued a request that the administration provide all the voicemails, emails, text messages and other records of the alleged incidents as well as any communication that included the name “Dan O’Barr,” the covid-19 patient whose treatment the administration allegedly tried to interfere with.
It’s just the latest in what has been a bewildering first six months in office for Bronson as he’s reshaped the city’s executive branch into what is apparently a model government for the extreme right. There’s been a mass exodus of long-time city employees, everything around the masking mandate, the full-throated endorsement of covid-19 conspiracy theories (the kind that get you banned from twitter for quoting), the petty devolution of the efforts to handle the city’s homelessness issues and the blatant effort to undercut covid-19 testing in the city by quietly ceding it to a for-profit operation (oh, and Anchorage just so happens to be the home of the state’s first detected omicron case).
Much of the blame seems to rest with Municipal Manager/Shadow Mayor Amy Demboski, who was the focus of one of the most scathing editorials to come from the desk of the Anchorage Daily News’ editorial board. Published on the same day as the Landmine report, the editorial focuses in on Demboski’s attempt to cut the public feed of the masking meeting and the impotent defense that “the livestream was not shut down at any time.” It’s one of many black eyes for an administration that quite literally promised to “be very transparent.”
Had former mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s administration attempted such a stunt when they were in office, Bronson and his supporters would have been rightfully enraged. Bronson’s administration, on the campaign trail and in office, has laid claim to the mantle of being more transparent and responsive to public concerns; Demboski’s action puts the lie to both of those.
It’s clear there is no possible benign or public-minded reason why Demboski would have ordered the Assembly feed cut. At best, it was an attempt to assert control over the resources of the Assembly chamber in an attempt to bring a coequal branch of government to heel. At worst, it was meant to shroud the terrible scene in secrecy, a clearly antidemocratic aim. Despite Demboski’s belief to the contrary, the old adage is true: Sunlight is the best disinfectant.
Coupled with the cascade of firings and resignations still underway within the municipality, it has become blindingly apparent that Demboski is at the center of the dysfunction crippling our city government. If Mayor Bronson wants to accomplish any major part of his agenda and regain public trust in his administration, he can’t do it with Demboski at the helm.
Suffice it to say, that’s not great.
While plenty expected the Bronson administration to be a trash fire before he took office, there’s many more centrists out there that approached the whole thing with a “let’s give him a shot” or a “we owe it to the voters to try to make it work.” And time and time again, Bronson and his cronies have not only proved that well-meaning impulse wrong but have seemed to delight in doing so. Anchorage is in dire need of some leadership as it navigates the next few months—the omicron variant, the economic recovery and the litany of other issues facing the city—and instead we have an administration whose leading philosophy seems to be to aggravate the libs and the Anchorage Assembly (which, for the record, isn’t some ultra-liberal group).
And as much as we’d all hope that a change in city manager would right the ship, there’s still the captain at the wheel.
It’s going to be a long, cramped ride in this clown car.