At its regular meet last night, the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly voted on an ordinance to allow assembly members to participate in its meetings via teleconference if they cannot attend in-person. That would include voting on ordinances and resolutions. Currently, assembly members can only call-in to participate in work sessions.
To the surprise of a few assembly members, community residents turned out to voice their disapproval of the policy change. Sue Jeffrey said passing this ordinance would make the assembly less transparent to the public.
“You owe it, I believe, to be present in public and allow people to look you in the eye, and you look them in the eye when you’re voting.”
Mel Stephens adamantly agreed with her.
“This is bad public policy. You need to vote it down. I think communication face to face is far better than communication by telephone.”
The majority of the people who gave their opinion on the issue told the assembly it shouldn’t pass the ordinance, and the assembly listened. Assemblyman Matthew Van Daele said hearing the public’s testimony definitely helped him decide how to vote.
“Listening to the public opinion tonight has completely, completely opened my eyes and changed my opinion on this matter. So I will be voting no.”
The assembly voted unanimously against allowing its members to participate in special and regular meetings if they aren’t present.