This past Thursday’s borough assembly meeting was a trichotomous one with the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The “good” included the borough returning to the same building code that the city uses, the 2012 International Residential Code. And it’s to the assembly’s credit that originally they sought to revert to the simpler 1997 Uniform Building Code, which just hasn’t worked out. But in this case “failure” would have been in not trying to improve our building codes. So a pat on the back to our assembly, which very actively worked to do the right thing.
Also, I received some good-natured ribbing from the borough mayor over my incorrect assertion that under Robert’s Rules the mayor cannot recess the meeting for assembly members to use the restrooms. What a relief.
The truly impressive part of the packed assembly meeting was the mayor’s decision to allow citizens five minutes (instead of the usual three) to speak to the issue of whether or not the borough should enact an opt-out (slum) ordinance. This ordinance would allow construction of houses in residential borough neighborhoods that do not conform to any building codes (e.g., construction, electrical, plumbing, or life-safety codes). And for over an hour and a half, citizens lined up at the mike and shared their opinions, collectively vetting this issue ad nauseam. Most speakers were knowledgeable, some clueless; but regardless, each in turn had sufficient opportunity to say whatever it was that he or she had come to say. Indeed, this was democracy at its finest and contributed a plethora of facts and perspectives for the assembly to consider in its discussion of this ordinance, which followed.
Under the “bad”, it appears that adherence to Robert’s Rules of Order has now risen to the status of a sovereign fiat to which the assembly is required to pay dutiful homage. As an example, there were continual, repeated pauses (some lasting over a minute) while the assembly awaited an opinion from the borough clerk on some parliamentary point. It would appear that such immoderate, repetitious referring to Robert’s parliamentary protocols has now gotten to the point of where Robert’s is more of a hindrance than help.
Under “the ugly,” during assembly discussion of the “opt out” (slum) ordinance we have assembly members who have deliberately chosen to ignore the stated views and opinions of an hour and a half of unfavorable citizen testimony, preferring instead their own single-minded ideas as to what is best for the community. During citizen comments, many of Kodiak’s knowledgeable housing professionals spoke, their views and opinions virtually destroying any rational basis for implementing this ordinance. But these assembly members remained unswayed. Obviously for such members, listening and reasoning is just not their forte, leading one to question why any citizen of the borough should even bother to show up and speak at assembly meetings.
There is obvious harm and nebulous advantage in adopting the opt-out ordinance, and certainly it would represent an abasement to the character of our neighborhoods and community at large. As such, I believe the measure should appear on the upcoming Oct. 3 municipal ballot as either an initiative or referendum so the community as a whole can either accept or reject its provisions. But then, a substantial number in our community prefer (or at least are willing to accept) being told what to do, rather than to actively participate in civic affairs; so maybe just accept the terms and conditions of the ordinance, do nothing, and move on? I guess it all depends on what the quality of life here on Kodiak is worth to each of us and how hard one is willing to fight for living in a quality community.
All of which, of course, is just my opinion.
Jeff Stewart is a retired project manager and former member of the KIBSD Board of Education.