Richard Derkevorkian speaks at a borough and district work session on Tuesday, March 2 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Richard Derkevorkian speaks at a borough and district work session on Tuesday, March 2 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Assembly rejects 3-minute time limit for member comments

The ordinance would have limited assembly members’ closing comments to three minutes during assembly meetings.

Legislation that would have limited how long Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly members could speak during their closing comments failed during the body’s Tuesday night meeting after it was withdrawn following roughly 20 minutes of debate.

The ordinance, introduced by assembly member Richard Derkevorkian and co-sponsored by assembly member Kenn Carpenter, would have limited assembly members’ closing comments to three minutes during assembly meetings. The ordinance cited the three-minute limit on public comments on agenda items and said it would be in the “best interests of the public’s time” to limit closing comments.

Derkevorkian echoed those sentiments during the assembly’s Tuesday meeting.

“I love that the public is coming out to attend these meetings, but for the assembly, when you give your closing comments tonight, whatever time that may be, please reflect upon who is still left in the audience,” Derkevorkian said. “These meetings go on for a long time.”

The legislation was amended twice during the meeting: once to increase the limit to five minutes and again to add a section to the assembly’s agendas that would be specifically for committee reports. Assembly members traditionally give committee reports as part of their closing comments.

Assembly member Tyson Cox, who introduced the amendment to add an item to the assembly’s meeting agenda, said limiting time for closing comments could mean members would be unable to fit in comments and reports in five minutes.

Assembly member Jesse Bjorkman said that adding an agenda item and putting a five-minute time limit on assembly members’ closing comments could end up making meetings go longer, and that he frequently uses his closing comments to address concerns identified by his constituents.

“I’m afraid that what we’re doing by putting this time limit in and now adding another agenda item is we risk making our meetings longer,” Bjorkman said. “Not everyone goes on in their assembly comments for any length of time and if you think someone is going on too long you should let them know.”

The assembly unanimously supported increasing the time limit to five minutes, but the legislation was ultimately withdrawn by Derkevorkian, who said he would vote against the ordinance if it was amended to add a section to the assembly’s meeting agendas.

In all, the assembly spent about 20 minutes debating the ordinance during the meeting, which lasted for about four hours and can be viewed in full on the borough website at kpb.us.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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