Adapted from The Midnight Sun Memo, a newsletter project from your humble Midnight Sun editor. For everyone who’s been asking about keeping up via email or how to support the work we’ve been doing here, we finally have an answer in this nifty newsletter… which comes with two free editions per week and extras for subscribers (though, as you might have learned from following this blog, the schedule can’t be entirely guaranteed). Sign up now!
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 fluoridation 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 folks in the mayor’s office deny all of this, of course, but they’ve done little but squander their credibility throughout their time in office.
Which is precisely the problem with all of this. As it currently stands, the anonymous accusations are just anonymous accusations from the Alaska Landmine. There’s reason to take it all with a grain of salt but also reason to worry there might be another fire or four contributing to all the smoke coming from city hall.
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.
Given that the Bronson administration seems to love aggravating the Anchorage Assembly more than just about anything, it’s an issue that’s likely to be dragged out for a long time. After all, the Bronson administration still doggedly clings to the impotent defense of Municipal Manager/Shadow Mayor Amy Demboski’s attempts to shutdown the livestream of a public meeting with the technically correct claim of “the livestream was not shut down at any time.” (They just tried very hard and if not for one city employee who followed the normal chain of command instead of reporting directly to Bronson/Demboski, then it would have been shutdown.)
And if you need any other reason to question the motivations, honesty and transparency of this administration, just look back at what have been a head-spinning six months in office for Bronson. 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).
As elections come into focus, voters would be wise to take note because this is apparently the ideal version of far-right conservative governance.
At least it seems that many are starting to wake up to the reality of it all. The Anchorage Daily News editorial board (which isn’t exactly a bastion of dirty liberals) published one of its most scathing editorials I’ve ever seen directed right at Municipal Manager/Shadow Mayor Demboski. 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 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. In a largely throwaway line from an interview with Alaska Public Media earlier this year, Bronson told us exactly where his priorities rest.
“If I wake up in the morning and the Left is—or the assembly at least—is not attacking me then I don’t enjoy that.”
That line has proved to be increasingly illustrative of the Bronson administration.
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.