In Kenai’s Oct. 6 city council election, voters will choose two city council members from a group of three candidates that include one incumbent council member, one former council member, and a current member of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.
The candidates are incumbent Bob Molloy, a lawyer who has served on the city council since 2005, Mike Boyle, a former Kenai Central High School vocational education teacher who previously served on the council from 2005 to 2014, and James Glendening, a former oil industry manager and current Kenai city and Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning and Zoning Commission member.
Kenai candidates are nominated to the council race by collecting 20 signatures on a nomination petition. The seven Kenai City Council members serve staggered three-year terms, with two council positions opening every year.
In addition to Molloy’s open seat, current council member Ryan Marquis was also up for reelection this year. Marquis did not file a candidate application by the Monday deadline and will not be running.
Glendening, who has served two years on the Kenai Planning and Zoning Commission and was appointed to the Borough Planning and Zoning Commission in March 2015, has also worked as an oil and gas projects coordinator for oil company Arco Alaska. Glendening said he decided to run his first council race at the prompting of a group of Kenai residents.
“They thought I had done a good job on the commissions for the city and for the Borough planning, and they thought because of my background and how I handled myself in committee meetings I would be a good candidate for city council,” Glendening said.
Boyle was defeated in 2014 by current council members Tim Navarre and Henry Knackstedt. He is an education coordinator at the Wildwood Correctional Complex in Kenai. He said he wants to return because council service “is a valuable thing for people to do.”
“I had a good rest,” Boyle said of his year away from politics.
Molloy, who owns the Kenai-based law firm Molloy and Schmidt with his wife Kristine Schmidt, said he is seeking re-election because the council has “unfinished business and new business I’m interested in.” He said these pending items of interest include revisions to the city’s purchasing code he is authoring with council member Henry Knackstedt, future rules governing commercial marijuana in Kenai, and the possibility of revisiting the city’s comprehensive plan.
The comprehensive plan, a document that provides a foundation for Kenai’s land use decisions by outlining basic goals, was last modified in 2003. In 2013, the council approved an updated plan that was later rejected by Kenai voters with a ballot proposition in that year’s municipal election. Although discussion of the controversial plan is unlikely to take place this fiscal year (June 2015-July 2016) because the city had not budgeted money for the process, the plan remains an issue he would like to address in a future city council term, Molloy said.
“That would be an item for next year’s budget,” Molloy said. While gathering signatures for his nomination petition, Molloy said he had heard Kenai residents “express concern over not having (commercial) strip development on the (Kenai Spur) highway,” a controversial proposal made in the rejected 2013 comprehensive plan.
Boyle said he also believes the comprehensive plan will return to the council’s agenda, and wants an opportunity to address. In the council’s April 17, 2013 meeting, Boyle was the only council member to vote against the revised version of the plan.
“I think the shape of the city, the way the city looks, should be citizen-driven,” Boyle said, referring to the plan. “I think oftentimes, the majority of that council have not listened to the citizens.”
Another piece of future legislation Boyle said he wants to deal with are proposed changes to Kenai’s junk car ordinance.
“I think it way over-regulates,” Boyle said of the proposal. “We dealt with this once before, about three, four years ago. Now it’s back again, and I think people want to regulate things that don’t need to be regulated, and that’s one of them.”
When asked what issues would concern him as a city council member, Glendening said preparing the city for the economic and infrastructure impact of the Alaska LNG project would be one of his priorities.
“The Alaska LNG facility is going to be a huge impact on our city, and it will be imperative to protect the quality of life for our citizens,” Glendening said. “We have to understand all the issues that will be coming with this… It’s huge, it’s world-class. It’s going to have a tremendous impact on our infrastructure and how we provide service for our citizens.”
Glendening also named the veteran’s memorial in Kenai’s Lief Hanson Memorial Park as a concern that prompted him to run for council. He said some of those who had encouraged his council candidacy were veterans bothered by last year’s controversy over the memorial.
In early 2014, a proposal was made to remove the memorial, which depicts a cross, from the park because of concerns that it exposed Kenai to lawsuits alleging violation of the separation of church and state. A motion to remove the memorial was suspended indefinitely by the Kenai council at a meeting on April 2, 2014.
“The motion was tabled, and there was no discussion made,” Glendening said. “I thought that was a disservice to the veterans that were there at the meeting, and I thought it was wrong… That’s going to be part of my discussion on this candidacy.”
Although Molloy said he intends to introduce an ordinance related to his revision of the city’s purchasing code, neither Glendening nor Boyle said they have plans to bring new legislation before the council if they are elected.
“My interest is more in the day-to-day, month-to-month running of the council,” Boyle said. “And offering another voice, being another person to be heard.”
Reach Ben Boettger at firstname.lastname@example.org.