The Kodiak City Council will hold a final vote Tuesday on an ordinance that would allow “without limitation information that may influence the outcome of the election” in information campaigns about ballot measures.
The Oct. 4 municipal election includes votes on city employee unionization and the idea of consolidating local governments.
According to packet documents, the city allocates funds each year to provide voters with information on ballot measures. Under state law, information provided with public funds or resources, including staff time, must be nonpartisan and cannot influence the outcome of the election, unless appropriated by ordinance.
City clerk Deb Marlar told council members at a work session early this month that, because the Alaska Public Offices Commission defines “nonpartisan” narrowly, any information released on either initiative could be categorized as influencing the outcome of the election.
The ordinance would apply only to the $25,000 already earmarked for public information campaigns in the fiscal year 2017 budget approved in June.
Following the vote on the measure, council will enter into executive session to discuss the city’s strategy in response to the initiatives.
In council’s August work session, council members indicated a campaign related to Proposition 1, an initiative that would end the city’s exemption to the Alaska Public Employment Relations Act and allow city employees to unionize, is likely.
Council members and city staff voiced concern about two lines in an advertisement placed by the Teamsters Local 959.
The first is a line indicating the proposition would apply to all city employees. According to deputy city manager Mike Tvenge, some city employees are exempt from joining a union.
Some council members said another line stating the proposition would have no negative fiscal impact on the city is misleading.
The ordinance up for vote states that allowing collective bargaining for the city’s employees will create “higher labor costs, limitations on city contracting and managerial discretion, and significant expenditure of city management time on labor relations issues.”
Rick Canoy of Teamsters Local 959 denied the advertisement is misleading in a later interview with the Daily Mirror.
He acknowledged that some city employees would be exempt from unionization, but said the initiative seeks only to end the city’s exemption from PERA, and would include all PERA-eligible city employees
“The law is going to determine who’s actually excluded,” he said.
Canoy said the proposition has no negative fiscal impact, because its scope is limited to ending the city’s exemption from PERA. City departments would have to hold votes on whether or not to unionize at a later date.
Should Proposition 1 pass and departments decide to unionize, Canoy said any wage or benefit increases would still have to be approved by administrators and city council.
Kodiak City Employee Association president and public relations officer David Duncan maintains the movement to allow unionization for city employees is an effort to reduce job attrition rates and ensuring that employees are able to voice problems, concerns and suggestions.
The special meeting of the Kodiak City Council will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday in the borough conference room.