All politics is local, and lately, some politics is more local than others.
This past week, the Kenai City Council debated an ordinance that would allow non-city residents to serve on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, the body that addresses permit requests and makes recommendations to the council on issues such as zoning changes and capital improvements.
Much of the council’s debate centered on whether a person who doesn’t reside in Kenai should be making decisions that impact Kenai residents. In a split decision, the council amended to ordinance to allow only a non-resident who owns a business in Kenai to sit on the commission, and sent the measure back to Panning and Zoning for further review.
The debate in Kenai is just the latest in a series of discussions pitting local agendas against broader regional interests.
Earlier this year in Soldotna, there was a great deal of influence from non-Soldotna residents on the special charter commission election — with much of the opposition focused on limiting the city’s taxation powers. Soldotna voters rejected the measure.
Currently, Kenai Peninsula Borough residents from outside Soldotna city limits have been making regular visits to Soldotna City Council meetings, speaking in opposition to the city’s interest in exploring annexation.
And at the borough level, this past week’s assembly meeting included some tension over district representation after Sterling/Funny River representative Stan Welles proposed funding to study the Kalifornsky Beach area flooding situation, and was told by Kalifornsky representative Kelly Wolf, “Remember, it’s my district.”
When it comes to local government, we tend to want the people making the decisions to have some skin in the game — and to be equally impacted by the consequences of those decisions, good or bad. There are legitimate arguments to be made for people living outside city limits or district boundaries to be involved in a city decision process. The annexation issue springs to mind.
There are also some governance decisions that should be left for residents to make. Kenai is facing one of those decisions with the proposed Planning and Zoning Commission change, and we encourage city residents to carefully consider the issue and share their thoughts with council members before they make their decision.