The Haines Borough Assembly on Tuesday elected to put off voting on the controversial Minor Offenses Ordinance until the spring. A committee that will include community members is set to be formed in the coming weeks to offer citizen recommendations to the assembly. KHNS’s Jillian Rogers has more.
It only took 650 signatures and a regular parade of opposition to change the assembly’s mind on the minor offense ordinance. Those signatures were inked on a petition asking the assembly to reconsider its Sept. 22 vote to adopt it. And they were collected within the span of just two weeks.
Mike Denker was one of several locals leading the charge against the ordinance. He said the arguments against the list of 200 violations is many.
“Those arguments are both legal and political,” he told the assembly. “You have a tremendous opportunity tonight. We have 650 signatures of Haines residents who normally don’t see eye to eye on a lot of issues and these people are all walking the same way. How often do we have that in this community? We don’t.”
The ordinance is an inventory of violations that already exist in borough code. Questions around the legality of the assembly and mayor’s actions on Sept. 22, and the lack of information forwarded from committees to the assembly, catapulted a group of outraged citizens into a full-on coalition.
Brenda Josephson said collecting the names against the order was easy.
“It was easy because Haines citizens were concerned enough to step outside of the comfort zone and speak out and sign their names on a petition asking their representatives to respect the public process and respect their rights promised during consolidation,” she said.
Ron Jackson, who voted down the motion to adopt the ordinance at the last meeting, got the ball rolling on the reconsideration.
“650 people signed this huge document, I mean, that’s almost as many people that voted in the election just recently,” Jackson said. “The way I see it, there are two things that can change this. One, there are two people that can vote to reconsider or, as someone mentioned, the mayor can veto. I guess I would ask if anybody would want to do that at this point.”
Dave Berry also asked those who voted in favor of adopting the ordinance to reconsider.
Joanne Waterman spoke up after a few tense seconds.
“I guess I can honestly say that my resistance until now is due to my belief in not giving in to name calling and threats and bullying due to what I feel is misinformation that has happened through this process,” she said. “I challenge the people that have made these public statements: Come on step up now. You need live up to your words of wanting to fix this ordinance and continue work.”
Several members of public who were most outspoken about the ordinance did step up at the end of the meeting to volunteer.
Mike Case and Diana Lapham, who voted in favor of the ordinance a couple of weeks ago, agreed that the list of violations needs to be altered. Here’s Lapham:
“At this moment in time with 650 signatures on here, it isn’t good for the community. It needs to come back. And we will approach it in a different venue.”
The motion to reconsideration passed unanimously.
And so began a conversation about what that would entail.
The original motion to adopt the ordinance was eventually back on the table but this time with an amendment that the assembly would revisit it in April, 2016 after it has gone back for the various committees for review.
Once it became clear, however, that even though the addition had been made, the assembly was still voting to adopt the minor offenses ordinance, they called the whole thing off.
Waterman made a motion to postpone the adoption of the ordinance until April 26. And it passed unanimously.
Case then proposed the development a seven-person, community-driven ad hoc committee to examine the ordinance and make recommendations to the assembly. It also passed with an amendment to make sure the ordinance is scrutinized in its entirety.
At the end of the assembly meeting, community members thanked the assembly for their reconsideration. Over the coming weeks and months, the ordinance will once again make the rounds with the public encouraged to continue participation.