The city of Kenai decided Wednesday to appropriate $15,000 of taxpayers' money to pay for a public information campaign concerning a vote on a taxpayers' referendum.
The Kenai City Council voted 4-3 in favor of making the money available to inform the public about Kenai ballot proposition A on the October ballot, calling for the repeal of Ordinance 2393-2009 that rezoned 14 parcels of land along the Kenai Spur Highway to Limited Commercial. Most of the parcels had been Rural Residential 1.
Because a number of homeowners in the MAPS Subdivision believe the rezone would change the composure of their residential neighborhood, they petitioned for the referendum to be placed on the municipal election ballot this fall. MAPS stands for the streets bordering the neighborhood: Magic Avenue, Aliak Drive, Princess Street and the Spur Highway.
"I'm opposed to this ordinance," said MAPS resident Roy Espy on Wednesday, referring to the public information appropriations ordinance.
"There's something wrong when the city expends money to oppose its citizens," he said.
Espy added, however, that if the $15,000 appropriation is approved, "it still will be perceived as an abuse of power," in effect aiding the cause of the MAPS residents.
Mayor Pat Porter read an e-mail message from Kellie Kelso in which she said she spent many hours obtaining signatures to get the proposition on the ballot, and asks that the city council establish a "bi-partisan team to draft the (language) for the information that is published."
Another MAPS resident, Becky Espy, said, "I don't think you should spend taxpayers' money to give only the city's side of the story.
"It's my job to walk door-to-door to talk about something I care about," she said. "It's your job to walk door-to-door to get something you want."
Councilman Joe Moore, who suggested the appropriations ordinance, said, "Your bipartisan team is right here," indicating the city council members.
Councilman Rick Ross asked for clarification that the proposed ordinance only appropriates the money to put out information; it does not propose the language that would be disseminated.
"Yes," said City Manager Rick Koch. "Anything that would go to the voters would come back for council approval."
Councilman Bob Molloy said he would prefer seeing a statement for and a statement against in the election pamphlet that customarily goes to the voters, rather than appropriating $15,000 for a brochure.
"I'd rather see that money put into having binders of information available (to the public) at the library," Molloy said.
Expressing a need for sound information to be provided to voters, Ross said he continues to have people come to him with misconceptions about what the rezone ordinance does.
"I'm very supportive of educating the voters," said Porter.
Councilman Mike Boyle suggested an amendment proposing the city council form a committee "to ensure unbiased information" is contained in any publicity, but his motion failed 3-4.
The appropriations ordinance passed with Porter, Moore, Ross and Councilman Barry Eldridge voting in favor, and Boyle, Molloy and Councilman Hal Smalley opposed.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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