Citizens speak, council listens

The seats were full and the comments were plenty regarding the upcoming recall of Homer City Council members Donna Aderhold, Dave Lewis and Catriona Reynolds. However, the council was in listen-only mode on the subject at its regular Monday meeting, following the advice of city attorney Holly Wells, who was not present.

Council members are free to comment on their own time, Mayor Bryan Zak told the council chamber crowd, but “none can respond to or address comments raised tonight regarding the recall petition.”

City Clerk Jo Johnson certified on April 5 a recall petition against the three council members and set a special election for June 13.

“Please be aware that my determination that the petitions are sufficient and thus subject to certification in no way reflects the merits of the statement of recall in the petitions, as the City Clerk is prohibited from considering the truth or falsity of the allegations contained in a recall petition,” Johnson said in her April 5 memo to Zak and the council.

Referring to Johnson’s memo, long-time Homer resident Roberta Highland said she found the upcoming recall heartbreaking.

“The only silver lining is that it has brought so many people together,” said Highland, noting the number of individuals present in support of the three council members.

Prefacing her remarks by saying she was speaking “on behalf of the individuals who initiated the recall,” Sara Vance acknowledged that it has “undoubtedly caused a divide in this community. Neighbors are no longer feeling the love.” She said she wanted to make it clear the recall effort was “not about hatred, its about truth and accountability. The recall is not a personal attack on these three individuals, but a matter of expecting honesty and integrity from elected officials. … Disagreeing with your actions does not mean we hate you. It means we care enough about this community to lawfully demand honesty, accountability, responsibility and truth,” Vance said.

Speaking in support of the three council members who brought forth Res. 17-019 at the request of constituents, Wendy Wayne said the resolution’s failure “should have been the end of it. … I hope the other council members not threatened with recall would speak out and show uniformity.”

Referring to emails between Aderhold, Lewis and Reynolds, Roxanne Lawver said not all of the emails have been made public and contain “things that the council members have said that are not true. … It upsets me that you can sit there and look at your constituents and expect us to swallow that.”

Larry Sloan reminded the council that when they spoke, it wasn’t just for themselves, but “for thousands.” Adversely, Rika Mouw said, “The three that are being recalled do represent a big sector of the community. They certainly reflect mine. I don’t see how all of you can reflect all of us because we’re pretty broad.”

Giving a nationally historical perspective, Ron Keffer said, “We’ve always disagreed, even about the most basic founding principles. … One thing you can predict is that we’re going to keep on fighting. … That’s the way Americans do business.”

Focusing on “small town values,” Poppy Benson’s comments offered levity as well as caution.

“Whenever there are really painful incidents when people are yelling at each other ‘liar’ — I heard that just last week — what’s going to happen when your son wants to marry my daughter? Are they going to forget that?” Benson said, drawing a laugh from those in attendance. “We are a tightly woven fabric in this town and we have to protect that. This recall is too much for that fabric. It’s tearing at us. … A recall is a political assassination.”

Of the three allegations contained in the statement of recall, Johnson’s memo said she did not find sufficiency for:

Allegation 1: Aderhold, Lewis and Reynolds are unfit for office because they had violated Homer City Code 1.18, prohibiting “political activity,” by sponsoring Resolution 16-121, supporting Standing Rock Lakota Tribe and opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline, and Resolution 17-019, an “inclusivity” statement that the city of Homer was committed to “resisting efforts to divide this community with regard to race, religion, ethnicity, gender, national origin, physical capabilities, or sexual orientation regardless of the origin of those efforts, including from local, state or federal agencies.” Resolution 16-121, originally sponsored by Lewis, was introduced and passed by the council Nov. 21, 2016. Resolution 17-019, originally sponsored by Aderhold, Lewis and Reynolds, was introduced Feb. 27, but failed at introduction.

Johnson said she did find sufficiency for:

Allegation 2: Aderhold, Lewis and Reynolds are unfit for office because of violating an oath of office by drafting the two resolutions. Johnson referred to Homer City Code and Alaska Statute requirement that officials “honestly, faithfully, and impartially” perform their duties. Lacking a legal definition for “impartial,” Johnson chose to give a liberal interpretation favoring certification of the recall petitions.

Allegation 3: Aderhold, Lewis and Reynolds committed “misconduct in office” through the “irreparable damage done by draft Resolution 17-019 being made public and widely distributed on social and news media and publically promoted as conspicuously drafted by and representing the City of Homer.” It also alleged that those actions caused the city economic harm and financial loss.

In the midst of the back-and-forth, Daniel Zatz pointed to the nearly completed South Peninsula Athletic and Recreation Center, SPARC, facility as a reminder of what the community is capable of achieving. 

“A lot (of the project) is in large part thanks to you all. In another part, thanks to the community because we’ve had more than 3,000 hours of volunteer time put into it from many crafts people throughout the community,” Zatz said. “We started about a year ago and now have this space. This community when it decides to can all come together and get things done.”

While the public was free to comment for and against the recall, the six-member council, Mayor Bryan Zak and City Manager Katie Koester stayed focused on the agendas as hand, beginning with a work session on city employee wages and benefits, a Committee of the Whole, and the council’s regular meeting.

In other business Monday night, the Homer City Council:

• Presented three proclamations: Chamber of Commerce Cleanup Day, April 22; National Library Week, April 9-15; Earth Day, April 22.

• Ordinance 17-07(S), offering appellants the choice of being heard by the Board of Adjustment or a hearing officer: Substitute was approved, public hearing set for April 24.

• Ordinance 17-16, prohibiting the sale and use of free-floating luminaries, amended to exclude “piloting balloons”: Unanimously approved.

• Ordinance 17-17, removing the prohibition on the city manager and city employees from receiving or giving money toward nomination or election of a candidate for municipal office: Unanimously approved.

• Ordinance 17-18, appropriating $5,000 from the general fund balance and authorizing city staff time and equipment for public information on ballot proposition: Unanimously approved.

• Resolution 17-38, amending the Homer Accelerated Roads and Trails Program Policy Manual: Public hearing set for April 24.

• Re-appointed Mike Stockburger to the Port and Harbor Advisory Commission.

• Delayed filling a seat vacancy on the Cannabis Advisory Commission.

McKibben Jackinsky is a freelance writer and can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@gmail.com.

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