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Kenai council debates legislative process

Posted: May 21, 2014 - 9:22pm  |  Updated: May 22, 2014 - 9:16am

An ordinance that would have changed how the Kenai City Council and city administration handle the legislative process failed at Tuesday’s meeting.

With no public in attendance and gray smoke billowing in the sky outside, the city council spent nearly 90 minutes of discussion on two ordinances sponsored by council member Mike Boyle. The first one would have required all ordinances and resolutions to be sponsored by at least one council member.

Boyle said because the council is a legislative body, council members should be involved in all city business items from the beginning.

“It is the function of council to pass legislation,” he said. “So much has been passed without the council’s name attached, we would remiss in doing our jobs.”

While Boyle did not attach a supporting memo to his ordinance, Kenai City Manager Rick Koch sent out a memo to the council in opposition because the ordinance would bog down the process of day-to-day city business, he said. A summary of city manager sponsored ordinances and resolutions from the previous three years came out to 342, compared to 48 from the mayor and council members during the same period.

Koch referenced the majority of ordinances and resolutions are administrative in nature and he listed nine examples like budget items or permits.

Council member Bob Molloy offered an amendment to the ordinance with the exception that the council delegates authority to the city manager for such administrative policies.

While the amendment passed 4-3, a majority of the council still had reservations about the effect of the ordinance.

Council member Tim Navarre said the code would raise a political and legal issues and he didn’t see a problem with the present set-up.

“If someone can tell me where the conflict is, maybe I could get behind it but I just don’t see it,” he said. “I see it only would create problems. We hired the administration to do their jobs and this would slow the process down.”

Mayor Pat Porter said the ordinance is the height of micro-management and it would be too time-consuming for administration to track down a council member every time an ordinance or resolution would need to be introduced.

Koch said the council still maintains authority on every piece of legislation that comes through their agenda.

“This ordinance would limit how I conduct city business,” he said. “If I have abused my authority or done anything inappropriate I would like to hear about it.”

Boyle said his intent was not to limit the administration’s job, but to bring the council into the process from the start.

Molloy motioned to postpone the ordinance, but that motion failed 3-4.

Kenai City Attorney Scott Bloom, who helps draft ordinances for council members, said if this ordinance passed, he advised the council he would seek sponsorship from the mayor first as a way to not show favoritism to any individual council member.

The ordinance then failed 2-5 with Boyle and Molloy the two yes votes.

The council voted to postpone Boyle’s other ordinance that would have amended code for all city commissions and committees to be advisory to the council.

Boyle said the idea for this ordinance has been a topic of discussion for about a year where issues came up about the clarification of each commission’s role as advisor to the council. He said he appreciated when two parks and recreation commission members came to the council a few weeks back to voice their support of a playground proposal for Municipal Park because it builds good communication.

Koch said the ordinance would eliminate the code provision making some boards advisory to both council and administration and other committees are advisory only to council. He said the if the proposed ordinance passed, all the committees would need to go through council for advice, which could tie them up.

Presently, the harbor, parks and recreation, library and beautification committees seek direction only from administration. The council decided to draft an ordinance for each commission and will bring them back one at a time for discussion at the second meeting in August.

The council did pass four ordinances Tuesday. One was to appropriate a $250,000 grant form the Alaska Department of Commerce Community and Economic Development for the Kenai bluff stabilization project. Another approved $2,769 in cash seizures to move into the Kenai Police Department budget.

The other two ordinances amended previously passed ordinances relating to the personal-use fishery. One gave the city manager authority with proper public notice to temporarily close portions of the beach for safety reasons, Molloy said.

The other expanded the area of restricted public access to environmentally sensitive areas along the north and south shore.

Council member Brian Gabriel, who co-sponsored with Molloy on the two dipnet related ordinances, said he was pleased that the council has made efforts to address dipnet issues in advance of the season and be proactive rather than reactive.

The council postponed a resolution to adjust the mill rate until after the city budget has been approved.

 

Reach Dan Balmer at daniel.balmer@peninsulaclarion.com

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