I am writing to tell my fellow citizens that something terrible has just happened in this town. And it should scare the pants off everybody.
Assembly members Scott Arndt and James Turner want to take away your vote in the upcoming municipal election.
As you may be aware, Duane Dvorak has just resigned his seat. When a resignation occurs, the procedure is for the assembly to appoint a replacement who serves only until the next election, at which point the voters elect a replacement to fill out the remainder of the term.
In the case of Mr. Dvorak’s resignation, there was a misunderstanding on the part of the assembly as to how this process works. They mistakenly believed that there were missed deadlines and other issues that made putting it on the ballot impossible. Accordingly, they voted to appoint a successor and not put it on the ballot.
Several citizens stepped forward and pointed out that this was incorrect and why. The assembly then scheduled a special meeting to discuss and rectify the problem. That meeting took place Monday, Aug. 16.
During that meeting, several constituents called in and expressed the wish that they wanted to vote on this matter. Three attorneys also weighed in — Mel Stephens and Rebecca Skinner, both former assembly members themselves, and our own borough attorney. All three explained why the decision to appoint instead of putting it on the ballot was in error.
The majority of the assembly had the capacity to admit they made a mistake and voted to put Mr. Dvorak’s seat on the ballot. However, two assembly members — Scott Arndt and James Turner — still voted to make it an appointment and keep it off the ballot. They voted to make a decision that is not theirs to make. The law is clear that it is the voter’s decision to make. Because these two voted against the change the motion to put the matter to the voters failed. The voters will not be selecting Mr. Dvorak’s replacement.
The opinion of three attorneys — and yet they still refused to back down. This raises some pertinent questions:
What do they know that these three attorneys don’t?
Where did they get their law degrees?
And, the true long and short of it, why don’t they want this to go to a vote?
I am personally quite curious as to why they are so hell-bent on appointing someone. Are they trying to stuff the assembly with allies? Are they repaying a favor? Is there some sort of Secret Handshake Club that the rest of us don’t know about? What is the deal?
Mel Stephens warned that this could result in a lawsuit. Who is going to pay for any ruinous litigation that might follow? Why should the taxpayers foot the bill for something these two brought upon themselves through their arrogant, contemptible decision-making?
While making these remarks at the meeting, I invited Arndt and Turner to explain themselves during closing comments. Naturally, neither man did.
Can we examine what happened here? These two took deliberate action to curtail your voting for Mr. Dvorak’s replacement. It is clearly laid out in borough code and state statute. But, for whatever reason, they do not care. Nor did they see the need to explain themselves when asked to.
I view this as an attack on the social contract and our democratic process. It is corrupt and reprehensible. It will not and cannot stand.
It is unfortunate that people don’t pay enough attention to the workings of their local government. I point to our turnout rate of 17% in the last election. Well, friends, this is exactly what happens when people don’t pay attention. Bad actors exploit it.
An ugly precedent is being set. We cannot treat it with our typical apathy. If they get away with this, what will they attempt next? This is a toxic, creeping infection that must be stopped in its tracks.
I ask of you to make it known that this will not be tolerated. The assembly’s phone numbers are printed right here in the paper. Please call Scott Arndt and James Turner — as well as the mayor and the rest of the assembly. Make it plain that any attempt to disenfranchise any voter will result in painful consequences… such as never being elected for anything, anywhere, ever again. That is my plan for these people. I hope it will become your plan, too.
I have lived here for 14 years and have had the privilege of working for the borough for nearly four. I love our little community and being a part of local government. We are facing many challenges… COVID, the economy, the cost of housing, a state that’s going broke. We should not have to fight for our right to vote as well.
Lisa Zeimer is administrative assistant for Borough Manager Michael Powers. She has lived in Kodiak for 14 years, and has worked for the Kodiak Island Borough for nearly four years.