On July 31, the Assembly will hold a public hearing on whether to place a Charter Amendment on the October municipal election. The proposal provides greater flexibility in municipal procurement by allowing for alternative procurement on public improvements projects.

The Charter currently requires that public improvements (a.k.a. construction projects) be awarded to the lowest qualified bidder. The proposed change would allow the Assembly to pass an ordinance authorizing procurement methods that integrate price, qualifications and process. It’s similar to the procurement methods the State of Alaska has used locally on the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff State Library, Archives and Museum, and Capitol renovation projects.

While government procurement might not be everybody’s idea of an exciting topic, this issue does point to the infrequently discussed and little understood Charter itself.

The Home Rule Charter of the City and Borough of Juneau is our Municipal Constitution; it is the legal document that grants and restrains powers to the City. Find it at juneau.org on the Law Department webpage.

The Charter governs everything municipal, including CBJ’s form of government, elections, apportionment of duties, legislative structure, administration of taxation and adoption of the budget, how CBJ spends and allocates money, purchases commodities, incurs debt, and it authorizes the creation of empowered boards.

When CBJ passes ordinances, the ordinances must comply with the Charter. A close analogy is the state or federal government passing laws or statutes that also must comply with the respective constitutions.

If you ever wonder why CBJ conducts business the way it does, try reading the Charter and you’ll probably find the answer. And, it’ll also be good background if you’re following the Charter Amendment issue.​

(This originally appeared in the July 17, 2017 Juneau Empire in a segment called, “City Corner”)