The contentious minor offenses ordinance, an order that assigns fines to more than 200 violations, will take effect Jan. 1 with an amendment to clarify who exactly can write the tickets. The ordinance passed Tuesday evening during a four-hour emotional rollercoaster of a meeting.
There were tears, threats, applause, yelling and a couple of Nazi references, but despite it all, the controversial minor offenses ordinance passed 4-3 Tuesday evening at the Haines Borough Assembly meeting.
“This smacks of Hitler and Nazi-ism to me. I mean some borough employee having the right to just blindly give a ticket? That’s just crazy.”
“I’m a Vietnam veteran and I fought a war about communism and stuff like this a long time ago and we don’t need this kind of a dictatorship.”
“If you violate your oath of office, I’m afraid you will be prosecuted for it.”
“We need more information and we also need to build trust in our community.”
“Please reconsider your vote and give the citizens of Haines due respect.”
Those were Haines residents Bruce Spencer, Gene Strong, Paul Nelson, Carol Tuynman and Dave Button.
The ordinance takes violations that already exist in borough code and, according to borough staff, streamlines the enforcement process. The long list of rules has caused such an uproar because it is seen as excessive and overreaching. People are worried that they’ll be cited for driving around with their family dog in the bed of their pickup or jaywalking on Main Street.
It passed with the amendment that borough manager Dave Sosa develop a policy regarding who can issue citations, what codes can be enforced and what training is required to do so. If the policy is approved by the assembly, the minor offenses ordinance will take effect on Jan. 1. The ordinance was also amended to reflect a few recommendations from the Government Affairs and Services committee.
Nearly 20 residents at the meeting spoke out against the ordinance citing infringement on their constitutional rights, and an unlawful process leading up to Tuesday’s vote. Four committees were assigned to comb through the ordinance and make recommendations to the assembly. Borough clerk Julie Cozzi said at the meeting that she still hasn’t received any committee recommendations.
Mike Denker asked where that information was and what happened at those committee meetings.
“Do these committee meetings have a quorum? Are we dealing with a minimum number of committee members that made that decision? Was there public present? What was the discussion like? That’s critical pieces of information to make decisions so the public knows what’s going on. So, that information was not provided. As a community we’ve already violated two sections of code,” Denker said.
Early on in the four-hour meeting, deputy mayor Diana Lapham threatened to eject members of the audience for speaking out, applauding and interrupting the proceeding. Ryhs Williams suggested she focus her energy on the matter at hand.
“And if the people want to applaud someone’s statement, so be it, let it go. It’s OK, they can applaud and we can relax,” Williams said.
“One more outburst and I will have you removed from this room. Thank you,” Lapham responded when applause erupted.
When it finally came time to vote on the ordinance, the count went like this: Mike Case, Lapham and Joanne Waterman voted in favor of passing it. Dave Berry, Jr. and Ron Jackson voted against it. But when Cozzi asked George Campbell for his vote:
“I refuse to vote. We do not have the information from all the committees. We know that there is information out there. It violates the Open Meetings Act. I refuse to vote,” Campbell told Cozzi.
“You have no authority to do so, sir. Code does not allow abstention,” Cozzi replied
“I refuse to vote. Arrest me, call me in contempt, whatever.”
The unorthodox move held up the process.
After some discussion and research, Campbell’s non-vote counted in the negative, causing a 3-3 tie.
It was then that the emotional session caused Waterman to tear up saying that the vote “just doesn’t feel right.”
It was up to Mayor Jan Hill to break the tie. She was on speaker phone on her way to Miami for borough business. Hill voted in favor of passing the ordinance.
Many feel that the relationship between the assembly and its constituents has been damaged as a result of this development. Kyle Ponsford spoke twice at Tuesday’s meeting. He finished with this after the ordinance passed:
“It makes no sense. You want to talk about losing the faith of the people? We don’t trust you because you’re insane. And I use that word insane on purpose because your mind isn’t working right.”
It was clear Tuesday from those who spoke, that they feel the minor offenses ordinance needs work before it is implemented. That, they can agree on. The first working group meeting takes place on Oct. 2 at 6:30 in assembly chambers.
Related links: Proposed minor offenses ordinance progresses through committees; Minor offenses ordinance nearly squeaks through at Borough Assembly meeting;Haines assembly debates nuisance order, minor offenses ordinance; A list of of the offenses