A question on political insiders’ minds, at least those that haven’t been focused on the usual end-of-the-legislative-session drama in Juneau, is who will be elected Assembly chair after three new members are sworn in on Tuesday. To explain, the Anchorage Charter dictates an annual leadership vote occurring after each municipal election so we need to conduct first a vote for chair, then for vice-chair, on April 20. In fact, it’s the only substantive task on our agenda. And it’s complicated.
As I mentioned in a previous post, some of my center-right colleagues felt a centrist coalition with one of their own as chair was the best option. I was asked if I’d be interested in serving as vice-chair in such a scenario, with Debbie Ossiander as chair. In our conversation it seemed her interest stemmed, in part, from her frustration that previous chairs with whom she’d worked had previously committed to supporting her as chair but didn’t follow through. Then, later, once she did get elected chair, she felt (feels) stung by her “ouster” last December. Looking forward, she felt her knowledge of Robert’s Rules of Order (which govern meeting procedures) and generally moderate political philosophy would serve the Assembly well.
I wasn’t sure I felt that was the best answer and was somewhat surprised that, for a variety of reasons, some of my other colleagues really didn’t like the idea. There was some interest in my continuing as chair, but it wasn’t clear how much support that idea enjoyed. Then, based on a rather interesting series of commitments and negotiations, it appeared Ms. Ossiander had the necessary six votes to secure the seat. Game over, right? Not exactly.
At least one of those six votes committed based on the understanding that soon-to-be-former Assembly member Dan Coffey would join the Sullivan administration by July. While I’d speculated on the idea long ago, I’d later come to believe Mr. Coffey wouldn’t be signing on for more public service. Then, in the past couple months, it seemed he would. In the last week that all changed again and, even after talking to Mr. Coffey, I have no clear idea why. The upshot is that Dick Traini, who’d previously committed to supporting Ms. Ossiander, Saturday morning began advocating for his installment as chair (at least, that’s when I first heard of it).
If I were a betting man I’d put my money on Mr. Traini ending up as chair, a position he held quite often in his previous tenures on the Assembly. Then again, it’s only Monday and our meeting isn’t until tomorrow! Stay tuned…
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