The Assembly Members are the Decision Makers
The Assembly is the elected legislative body for Anchorage and is the final authority on many planning matters - ordinance amendments, general plans, public facility site selections, rezonings , liquor licenses, and appeals. The majority of the planning issues that come before the Assembly are public hearings, however, there are some that are not. Regular Assembly meetings are broadcast on cable TV at channel 10 each Tuesday that the Assembly meets.
When will the item be heard? - Agenda and Calendaring
Those planning matters that require a public hearing will appear on the Assembly's agenda at least two times. The first appearance will occur under the Consent Agenda heading and is sometimes referred to as the "first reading." The Assembly takes action of the Consent Agenda in one vote except when an Assemblymember asks for an item to be removed from the Consent Agenda. Removed items are dealt with individually.
The first reading is when the Assembly sets the matter for public hearing by selecting or calendaring it for a specific Assembly meeting. Typically there is no Assembly - public interaction at this point, however, inquiries to municipal staff sometimes occur. The setting of the hearing date starts the legal notice which may include newspaper ads, property posting, and mail-out notice.
The second time the matter appears it will be listed under the New Public Hearings heading. When the Assembly gets to the item the Chair will announce the matter, usually by referring to its agenda item number or its document number. The letters appearing before the document number note the type of document:
- AM = Assembly Memorandum;
- AIM = Assembly Informational Memorandum;
- AR =Assembly Resolution;
- AO = Assembly Ordinance.
Copies of the Assembly Agenda and each public hearing item are available in the rack located in the Assembly Chambers Lobby at the meeting and from the Municipal Clerk's Office prior to the meeting.
The Assembly strictly limits the amount of time for anyone's testimony to one time per agenda item and to 3 minutes. A timer visible from the public's podium advises of the time remaining. On completion of an individual's testimony the Assemblymembers may ask questions. There is no time limit imposed for Assembly questions.
If the Assembly completes the public hearing, it will often debate and take action immediately. If it fails to finish the public hearing, the item is "carried over" to the next Assembly meeting and placed on the "Continued Public Hearing" agenda heading so that further testimony may be taken. If the Assembly's debate and action is not finished, then the item will be placed under the "Unfinished Business" heading.
Motions and Voting
No matter what the issue the starting point for the Assembly will be a positive motion. One Assemblymember will move to approve the item and another Assemblymember will second the motion. The conversation will be something like:
- "Move to approve AO 2003-1200."
- "The item has been moved and seconded. Is there any debate?"
When debate has ceased the Assembly will vote on the motion and any amendments. The amendments will be dealt with one by one until all have been handled. Then a vote will be taken on the amended motion. To pass or approve the motion the Assembly must have at least 6 positive votes.
Talking or writing to Assembly members privately about a planning matter is allowed except in two instances - Board of Adjustment items and liquor license conditional use permits. The above items are not legislative so ex parte contact rules apply. Ex parte means the Assembly members must receive all information and discuss the matter only at the hearing. This rule is imposed in order to insure a fair and impartial hearing occurs. In all instances, except Board of Adjustment hearings, written testimony can be submitted to the Municipal Clerk for distribution to all Assembly members.