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Kenai council acted appropriately

Posted: Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I find the recent (Jan. 11) "Voices of the Peninsula" very unsettling. In question is an action taken by the Kenai City Council at their Jan. 6 meeting where a vote was taken to not allow public comment on a certain issue at that time. The former councilmen who penned the op-ed do the citizens of this community a huge disservice by taking one part of the meeting to make their case that the council did not listen to the public.

The council was scheduled to reconsider a vote taken at their previous meeting. Prior to the meeting on the 6th, all official public notifications specifically said, "No Further Public Testimony Will Be Taken." Unfortunately, behind the scenes a select group of people were told they could testify by using the 3 minute "unscheduled comment period" at the beginning of the meeting as a way to get around the "No Further Testimony." The 4-3 vote to not allow that back door attempt is what the op-ed authors build their case on. They don't tell you that right after that vote, a motion was made by one of the majority to bring the issue at hand back to the next council meeting for a public hearing after official public notificatiion. This notification would then allow for all views on this issue to be presented. The motion passed, again with the same 4-3 vote.

The op-ed doesn't tell you that as a confused audience stood up to leave after a break was called, one of the council members that voted for the proper notificatiion hearing tried to explain to the audience that they could speak for 5 minutes at the end of the current meeting. Two members that had opposed the above said motion attempted to keep him from speaking.

The authors of the op-ed also don't tell of the numerous apologies the audience received that night from the council members, who had voted to extend testimony, for any inconvenience; or of all the accommodations made to the audience to have their testimony later that night included in the official council packet.

Lastly, the op-ed states that "in the past, the council has always provided an opportunity for any member of the public to provide "unscheduled public comment" at the beginning of a meeting." Mayor Porter herself acknowledged at the meeting on the 6th that she had once stopped such testimony during this past year.

If you look at the entirety of the Jan. 6 council meeting, the public was well served. By insisting on proper notification, all voices that want to be heard will now have that chance.

Mark Schrag



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