Assembly Has Worries About Agenda Format

Category: Local News
Created on Thursday, 30 April 2020 16:40

Sentinel Staff Writer

The Assembly had a lively debate Tuesday over the order of business at Assembly meetings.

In the end, members agreed to consider an ordinance at a future meeting that would move Assembly and staff reports to the end of the agenda.

Valorie Nelson and Kevin Mosher co-sponsored the measure.

Nelson said she felt the reports belong at the end of the meeting, not the beginning, when there may be members of the public waiting to testify on items farther down on the agenda.

She said sometimes the reports take up a lot of time.

“I realize how important it is for the public to show up,” she said. “When people take off time from work to get to a meeting to speak to an issue that might be on the agenda, and then they have to go through an hour of listening to us talking about our liaison reports ... I don’t think that serves the public well.” 

Mosher agreed. “I don’t see why we can’t move it to the back of the line. It’s still going to be done, just in a different place on the agenda.”

Richard Wein and Kevin Knox said they preferred the order of business as it stands, with the administrator, attorney and Assembly liaisons updating each other and the public about what has been happening since the last meeting.

“What I feel is that the municipal part of this with the reports, which include the mayor and administrator, attorney,” Wein said, noting that reports were few and brief at Tuesday’s meeting. “It just represents a public face. ... People get to hear about the various meetings, what municipal individuals are doing as well as the liaisons.”

He said he believes citizens are interested in what officials are doing, and that more will hear the message at the beginning than the end, when the room clears out.

Knox agreed, saying the updates on boards and commissions are important to share with the public.

“It’s a good opportunity for the public to hear about what’s happening,” he said. “It might attract some interest into some of those boards and commissions and we know how hard it is to fill those.”

No vote was taken on the proposed change in the meeting format, but the consensus was to consider it as an ordinance on first reading at a future meeting.


Other Business

The Assembly approved a liquor license renewal application for Moose Lodge No. 1350, and forward the application to the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office for approval.

The vote was 6-0 in favor.

The decision follows an agreement negotiated between the Moose lodge and city, in which the lodge will have a schedule for paying some $15,000 it owes for sales tax, utilities, and personal and real property tax.

“Staff feels it’s a workable solution all the way around,” Finance Director Jay Sweeney said. He also stressed the importance of the liquor license in raising the money to cover the debt to the city.

The Assembly agreed to forward the license application without objection.

“If we shut down their liquor license, they will never be able to repay,” Nelson said, noting she has been a member of Women of the Moose for some 40 years. “Why cut their wings?”


Historic Commission 

Earlier in the meeting, a motion failed that would have rescinded a vote the Assembly took at its April 14 meeting. The Assembly had heard objections then from two members of the public on the reappointment of Anne Pollnow to the Sitka Historic Preservation Commission, and the motion to approve her for a new term failed on a 1-6 vote.

Wein and Kevin Mosher put an item on the April 28 agenda to rescind that decision. The Assembly heard from members of the public both for and against the motion to rescind, and in the end voted 4-2 in favor. However, the motion failed because Assembly rules require a supermajority of five votes to pass a motion to rescind.

Wein, Mayor Gary Paxton, Thor Christianson and Mosher voted in favor of rescinding; Nelson and Knox voted against. Steven Eisenbeisz was absent.

Commission members, speaking as individuals, submitted written testimony in favor of rescinding the previous vote and for approving Pollnow for another term on the commission. They said Pollnow’s past service, background and professional expertise were assets to the panel. 

Those who spoke against Pollnow at the last meeting, and again Tuesday night, said they didn’t think Pollnow was open-minded on a decision related to the Sitka Music Festival renovation of their historic building on the SJ Campus.

Assembly member Knox objected to rescinding the April 14 vote, saying he felt it wasn’t appropriate to use the motion to rescind if there was a decision members didn’t agree with.

But Wein, who voted two weeks ago in favor of Pollnow’s reappointment, said there was a process in Robert’s Rules of Order for rescinding. Mosher, the co-sponsor of the agenda item to rescind, said he felt he didn’t give adequate consideration to the matter when he voted against Pollnow on April 14.

Pollnow was out of town and testified by phone. She provided some background on some of the issues surrounding the music festival building on the campus and information she had provided.

“I feel disappointed that my efforts to print materials on my own dime, and research on my own time, has come to this, as a volunteer,” she said. “I leave it up to the Assembly, if my work isn’t appreciated, so be it ... I love sharing my profession with my commission. I think we have an amazing commission right now.”

Other issues at the Assembly meeting were covered in Wednesday’s Sentinel.