Ketchikan City Council did not take up a motion to fund a campaign supporting the library at their meeting Thursday night. The group also rejected an effort to reduce compensation for the mayor and councilmembers.
Council members were scheduled to consider a $10,000 budget transfer that would have paid for an education program to inform the public about a ballot proposition to defund the library. However, the motion failed without a second when it was introduced. The request was brought to the council by Acting City Manager Lacey Simpson in response to a proposal to cut about 40% of Ketchikan’s library funding. The issue will be on the ballot this fall, asking borough voters outside the cities of Ketchikan and Saxman to repeal a tax that provides about half a million in annual funding to the library.
At Thursday’s meeting, Pastor John Judson spoke in opposition to the education campaign during public comment. He objected to wording in the motion which states the purpose is “to influence the outcome of the ballot proposition.”
“And it just occurred to me that this is not the government’s job to try to take one group of people and influence them against another. These people out there in the borough had decided that they wanted the people’s voice to speak and not anyone else’s.”
Judson also says $10,000 could be better spent.
Another motion to reduce the pay to the city mayor and city council members by $100 per regular meeting also failed. The measure would save the city $19,000 annually and was suggested by councilmember Riley Gass.
“I just think that we’ve had to make some very tough decisions that affect the entire community, more strongly affects the lower income citizens of our community by raising taxes. And I think this would be a good way of taking a little hit ourselves. It shows the community that we’re in it together.”
Several councilmembers spoke about the time they spend reading materials, researching issues and responding to citizen’s emails and questions. Councilmember Judy Zenge, whose term ends this October and who is not seeking reelection, spoke about the time commitment.
“Although I do understand Councilman Gass’, ‘it’s a gesture of good faith,’ I feel what we do, even with that compensation, is a gesture of good faith. We put in a lot of hours. We give a lot of time. And even though I’m not going to be here, I get to vote on this and I can’t support it.”
The motion failed 2-5 with Gass and councilmember Jai Mahtani voting in favor.
Also Thursday night, the council unanimously approved a motion to extend Acting City Manager Lacey Simpson’s contract through the end of September. The new City of Ketchikan / KPU Public Utilities Manager, Delilah Walsh, starts October 1.
In other business, the council voted to defer a resolution amending the City of Ketchikan Compensation Plan to the first regular meeting in October when the new City Manager is on board and can provide input. The resolution would give the manager greater authority in offering step increases to current and new employees.
The council also held a discussion on whether to draft a resolution opposing the Constitutional Convention. The idea was proposed by Councilmember Janalee Gage. Similar resolutions have been adopted by the Alaska Municipal League and Juneau Chamber of Commerce. Alaskans will vote this November on whether or not the state’s primary governing document should be revised.
As this was not an action item, staff was directed to bring back a proposed resolution. The council’s next regular meeting is September 15.
Disclosure: Jai Mahtani is also a member of KRBD’s nonprofit board of directors, which does not direct the newsroom.