A not-quite-perennial debate sprouted again in July, when Kodiak Island Borough Assembly member Kyle Crow proposed placing “the idea of consolidating” on the Oct. 4 municipal ballot.
By approving this step — however non-binding, preliminary and tentative — the assembly sets off another round of an argument dating back at least 38 years. Proponents often say combining governments would save money, while opponents cite complications with jurisdiction and public services.
We will take up those concerns in coming weeks.
Meanwhile, we should consider what kind of relationship the borough assembly and city council have now, and whether it can stand improvement.
Creating a consolidated borough/city municipality would not in itself eliminate conflicts, any more than the assembly or council are without their own internal disagreements. That’s just the nature of representative government. But it would at least guarantee that our representatives communicate directly, eliminating a possible source of delay and misunderstanding.
But perhaps measures short of formal consolidation or unification are needed to smooth the workings of local government.
As things stand, the independence of the assembly and council — whatever its advantages — sometimes gets in the way of serving their many joint constituents, common interests and overlapping responsibilities.
They recognize the need when presenting coordinated positions to the state regarding capital projects and fishing policy. Why not apply that spirit more to local affairs?
In just the last few weeks, the two bodies revealed rifts on two significant issues. One is Crow’s original proposal, which prompted a July 18 letter from the city council members taking issue with some assembly members’ statements and asking for a joint discussion before the assembly took action. Another issue is the mismatch in city and borough building codes, which led to Thursday’s council vote [ending?] the borough’s long-standing use of city inspectors.
The two bodies occasionally hold joint work sessions to discuss items of interest to both, but neither body is required by code to schedule the sessions on any particular regular basis.
At the end of 2015 and the beginning of this year, they met frequently, with one joint session in December 2015, two in January, one in February and one in March.
It has been about five months since that last one in March.
The Kodiak Daily Mirror urges the two bodies to give higher priority to holding these work sessions and rescheduling them as soon as possible if cancelled. A minimum of four per year that their members and the citizens could count on well in advance would make their cooperation smoother.
Also nothing stops council and assembly members from attending most of each other’s meetings, just like any other citizen. Members should take turns to keep this simple, direct channel of information flow open.
If that means changing some meeting schedules so assembly work sessions don’t conflict with city council meetings, so much the better for citizens who want to attend both.
Maybe the outcome would be the same, but concerns could get faster airing and needed clarification could happen face-to-face. That could only help everybody.