Juneau mayor abstains from no-confidence vote against Alaska Legislature

Posted: Friday, February 06, 2004

Some Alaska mayors that voted "no confidence" in the Legislature last week may be ducking for cover in fear of retribution from state lawmakers.

But Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho, who abstained from the vote indicting the Legislature for failing to establish a comprehensive fiscal plan, isn't one of them.

"I thought it was the fairest thing to do," he said. "I'm not critical of the other mayors trying to get the (Legislature) to deal with the state's fiscal situation."

Botelho said his abstention was not related to attempts to secure funding for a new capitol in Juneau.

"Obviously, I don't think it's a narrow issue of trying to get a new capitol," he said. "It's a broader role of what I think is good faith and fair dealing with (the Legislature)."

During an annual meeting of the Alaska Conference of Mayors last week, about 30 mayors representing Anchorage, Fairbanks and other municipalities across the state voted for the no-confidence resolution and promised to hold lawmakers accountable with a "legislator's report card," if no action is taken this year to fill Alaska's chronic fiscal gap.

During two days of deliberations crafting the message, Botelho and a few others proposed amending the no-confidence message to give the Legislature one more session to act on a fiscal plan.

"It was simply suggesting that rather than an immediate vote of no confidence that if action was not taken this session, then it would result in a vote of no confidence," Botelho said.

Botelho said the amended language never came to a vote in the mayors' meetings because most thought they must act immediately.

"Our contention was that we've already given them a year," said Pelican Mayor Kathie Wasserman, president of the Alaska Conference of Mayors. "There were probably two or three mayors there that were a little uncomfortable with this. The difference is that they feel that they still have something to lose."

Wasserman noted that the city of Pelican, a small fishing community on Chichagof Island, already has lost law enforcement, revenue sharing and regular ferry service.

"They are going to be hard-pressed to take away something from me," she said. "I would hope that no legislator would punish a mayor for taking a stand like this. But I'm sure it's a fear."

Wasserman noted that Botelho was not the only mayor who abstained from voting on the measure.

He was absent from the press conference on Jan. 27, when the conference of mayors went public with their no confidence vote. Instead, Botelho was in Washington, D.C., meeting with Alaska's Congressional delegation and Alan Hantman, federal architect of the capitol, and doing other business.

Botelho said he also met with an architectural historian, William Seale, who has written about the history of state capitols, and Charles Goodfell, a political scientist who studies how architectural design affects the democratic process.

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