The Alaska Municipal League’s 71st annual local governance conference got underway Monday in Anchorage, opening three days of presentations and conversations about aspects of municipal government here in the Last Frontier.
Overall, this is a good thing.
As a strong statewide organization, the Alaska Municipal League provides a mechanism for local governments to stay current on best practices, new developments and issues involving similar entities and officials across the state — if not nationwide. The power of shared experience can save individual municipalities time, stress and a lot of local taxpayer money if their elected and hired officials are willing to listen and learn.
AML, too, can benefit individual communities by working on their behalf. A prime example has been AML’s working with communities to develop the Alaska Remote Sellers Intergovernmental Agreement. This is the agreement that established the Alaska Remote Sellers Sales Tax Commission that, in early 2020, approved the uniform Remote Sellers Sales Tax Code that is bringing revenue from internet retail sales to local governments such as those in Ketchikan.
In addition, local officials who participate in AML processes — including the annual conference — help ensure that the communities they represent have a voice in the statewide organization and on issues of importance to those communities. We can expect that the Ketchikan officials participating in the conference will do well on our behalf.
The agenda for the 71st annual local governance conference has several components. These range from the practical — such as panels on housing and homelessness — to the political — such as a gubernatorial candidate debate.
It’s also fitting that the agenda reflect on local governments’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been a dominant issue for all levels of government since early 2020. On Monday morning was an event titled “Untold Stories.”
“Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, local governments have served on the front lines, working to protect the health and wellbeing of our residents, and driving economic recovery in our communities,” reads the two-paragraph event summary. “Together, local governments have highlighted our critical role and the key services cities and boroughs provide, demonstrating to the public and to our federal partners that local government matters.
“Now, we have an opportunity to tell the full story of our efforts and how we have made incredible differences in the lives of our residents through the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan Act, historic investment in our nation's counties and cities,” the statement continues. “Let’s demonstrate how local governments are helping our residents stay in their homes and keep food on the table. How we are supporting small businesses. How we are steering our communities into the future and helping our residents THRIVE.”
We’ll leave it to individual AML participants to reflect upon how well that description fits their respective local governments.
What we do hope is that AML participants find that phrasing aspirational. As has been said many times in recent months, we may be done with COVID-19, but COVID-19 isn’t done with us. Local governments continue to have a key role to play. It would be great if they performed as noted by AML.