Kenai ballot initiatives propose changes to city council

Editor’s note: This story has been changed to correct the misreported date of Kenai’s general election and an inaccurate description of the proposed changes to the council election process.  

On October 7, Kenai voters will be asked to consider three ballot initiatives that could change the process for electing city council members and the mayor. Kenai Mayor Pat Porter introduced the trio of initiatives, and the council approved their inclusion in October’s general election ballot at the its June 17 meeting.

On last year’s Kenai council ballot, voters were asked to make their choice of candidates for mayor, and make two selections from the list of council candidates. In order to become a ballot-listed candidate, each prospective candidate had to submit a petition with 20 signatures. Both of these features may be changed by the new initiatives.

One initiative removes the petition requirement, which in the resolution Porter wrote “merely presents an inconvenience to candidates and creates administrative work for the City without any real benefit to the public.”

Instead, any individual who submits a statement of candidacy to the city clerk will be listed on the ballot.

Another initiative creates two seperate election contests for the two council seats that open every year. Under the current arrangement, the two contested council seats are won by the two top vote-getters of a single race, who run against all other contenders for council. The iniative proposes designating each of the six council seats, possibly with letter designations, and allowing candidates to choose a seat, for which they will run only against the other candidates seeking that seat. 

Porter wrote in the resolution that allowing council candidates to run for a designated seat may “encourage more candidates to run because candidates can choose a seat to run for and avoid running against certain other candidates running for different seats.”

In an interview, Porter said the proposed system would allow prospective council members to specifically challenge an individual sitting council member without potentially displacing the other member up for re-election that year.

“This way, if a person decides to run for election, you can run against the person in Seat A or the person in Seat B on an individual basis, thereby not necessarily running against a person you think is doing a great job,” Porter said.

The third initiative would allow future council meetings to be canceled by a majority vote. Presently, the council is required to hold two meetings each month. It can postpone a meeting within a calendar month but not cancel it. The initiative would allow council members to cancel up to one meeting per month for any reason, so long as a minimum of 20 meetings are held per year.

Porter wrote in the resolution that “there are times when it is not necessary to hold two regular meetings each month or when such a schedule would greatly inconvenience council members, administrative staff and the public due to holidays and seasonal activities.” Porter also wrote a lack of a quorum (the minimum number of present council members required to make official decisions — in the Kenai council, four members) could also prevent a meeting.

 

Reach Ben Boettger at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com.

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