City OKs candidates with bad debts
A measure that would bar all candidates who owe undisputed debts to the City of Nome from elected or appointed offices failed to gain approval at the Dec. 12 Nome Common Council meeting. When the question came up on the agenda for second hearing and final passage, the Council put Mayor Richard Beneville on the hot seat to break a 3-3 tie vote.
Beneville voted no.
During citizen comment period, Bob Hafner took the podium. He found the proposed ordinance “kind of an odd thing”; he had sifted through ordinances for other cities in Alaska and not found one with such an ordinance. “It’s about people’s access to be represented,” he said. He wished he had an answer to his letter to the American Civil Liberties Union concerning the issue, he said. It knocked down a guy who “struggles in a town that is very expensive to live in,” Hafner added. Passing such an ordinance was “trying to make this an exclusive club and keeping the little man down,” he said. “That’s what stinks about it.”
He agreed, Councilman Louie Green Sr. said. “The collection of taxes shouldn’t be entered at all. What’s wrong with our tax collecting system that all these are piling up?” Green asked. “If it’s OK to vote, it should be OK to be voted for.”
The city had passed the similar ordinance in 2013 with the city attorney’s approval, Tom Moran, city manager said. “You can do a lot of things, but is it right?” Hafner said.
Councilmen Tom Sparks, Stan Andersen and Jerald Brown voted yes; Councilmen Mark Johnson, Lew Tobin and Louie Green Sr. cast no votes. A similar ordinance adopted in 2013 applies to those running for the Council, but did not apply to all city panels and commissions. Voting down the ordinance Monday leaves the prior 2013 ordinance on the books to require a candidate for Nome Common Council to be current in all undisputed financial obligations to the city.
Councilman Sparks said he regretted that the perception was that the Council was trying to block people from serving on city bodies, that it was not the intent.
A person with unpaid obligations to the City of Nome could be eligible as a candidate if he or she signed an enforceable promissory note to clear the debt, Tom Moran said.
The Council approved the city signing a memorandum of agreement with state Dept. of Transportation and Public Facilities to cooperate on applying water, sand and the plow to roads to keep them safe throughout the winter.
The Council tabled an issue dealing with the transfer of three city taxi licenses from EZ Cab, owned by Steve Longley, to Mr. Kab, after strong objection from RJ Jones, owner of Checker Cab. Putting the three taxi licenses on the streets would destroy his business, Jones said, as the market could not support that many taxi licenses. Longley was not using the three, but Mr. Kab would use all three, bringing the number of cab licenses on the street to 13, according to Jones.
Longley told the Council he was tired and wanted to retire from the taxi business and start a new business shortly.
The Council tabled the question pending more information.
In other business, the Council affirmed the state and federal wish lists they wanted to see funded. The lists reflected edits the Council identified in a work session with Rep. Neal Foster and Sen. Donny Olson.
At the top of the federal funding list was the Arctic deep-draft port, followed by federal land adjacent to the Nome Airport, and money to develop alternative energy resources including geothermal and energy storage technology, small boat harbor dredging, water and sewer infrastructure upgrades.
Water and sewer infrastructures topped the state funding list followed by design money for the Arctic deep-draft port, full funding for power cost equalization to ease Nome’s utility bills, Nome road improvements and full support for a statewide port construction bond package.
And finally, the Council approved Mayor Richard Beneville’s appointment of Jessica Farley to the Nome Planning Commission to fill a seat vacated by Derek McLarty’s appointment to the Nome Port Commission.
Raeshawndra Jett also applied. Beneville commented favorably on her extensive public service in Detroit, but acknowledged he wanted to appoint a person more familiar with Nome issues.