Ketchikan City Council does not fund a library campaign or cut council payments


The Ketchikan City Council did not consider a request for funding for a campaign to support the library at its Thursday night meeting. The group also opposed an attempt to reduce the mayor’s and council members’ pay.

Council members should consider a budget transfer of $10,000 that would have been paid for an educational program to inform the public of a voting proposal to defund the library. However, the application failed without a second when it was introduced. The motion was brought to the council by Acting City Manager Lacey Simpson in response to a proposal to cut approximately 40% of Ketchikan’s library funding. The issue will be on the ballot this fall, prompting voters in counties outside of the cities of Ketchikan and Saxman to repeal a tax that provides about half a million funds to the library annually.

During a public comment at Thursday’s gathering, Pastor John Judson spoke out against the awareness campaign. He disagreed with the wording in the motion, which says the purpose is to “influence the outcome of the election proposal.”

“And it just occurred to me that it’s not the government’s job to try and take one group of people and sway them against another. Those people out there in the district decided they wanted to let the voice of the people speak, not anyone else.”

Judson also says $10,000 could be better spent.

Another motion to cut the mayor’s and city council members’ salaries by $100 per regular meeting also fell through. The measure would save the city $19,000 annually and was proposed by Councilman Riley Gass.

“I just think we’ve had to make some very difficult decisions that affect the whole community, that affect the lower-income citizens of our community more, by raising taxes. And I think that would be a good way to take a little hit yourself. It shows the community that we are in this together.”

Several council members spoke about the time they spend reading materials, researching issues and responding to emails and questions from citizens. Councilor Judy Zenge, whose term ends this October and is not seeking re-election, spoke about the time commitment.

“While I understand Councilor Gass, ‘it’s a goodwill gesture’, I see what we’re doing, even with this compensation, as a gesture of good faith. We have invested many hours. We give a lot of time. And although I won’t be here, I’m allowed to vote on it and I can’t support it.”

The motion failed 5-2, with Gass and councilor Jai Mahtani voting in favour.

Also on Thursday evening, the council unanimously approved a motion to extend the contract of acting city manager Lacey Simpson until the end of September. The new city of Ketchikan/KPU Public Utilities Manager, Delilah Walsh, will take office on October 1.

On other matters, the council voted to defer a resolution to change the city of Ketchikan’s compensation plan until the first regular meeting in October, when the new city manager is on board and able to contribute. The resolution would give the manager greater powers to offer incremental increases to current and new employees.

The Council also held a discussion on whether to draft a resolution against the Constitutional Convention. The idea was suggested by council member Janalee Gage. Similar resolutions were adopted by the Alaska Municipal League and the Juneau Chamber of Commerce. Alaskans will vote this November on whether or not to revise the state’s primary government document.

Since this was not an action point, the staff was directed to bring back a proposed solution. The next regular meeting of the council is on June 15.

Disclosure: Jai Mahtani also serves on KRBD’s non-profit board of directors, who does not oversee the newsroom.


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