Movement is underway to repeal an ordinance passed by the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly earlier this month.
On July 3rd the assembly passed the ordinance with the intent of providing guidelines for appropriate behavior during assembly meetings. Among other things, the ordinance states that community members cannot attack or question the motives of another person. In the weeks following the ordinance’s passage, dozens of community members have expressed concerns about the ordinance and what they feel is an over step in terms of free speech.
Betty MacTavish spoke during the assembly’s regular meeting on Thursday and said she and other concerned community members are waiting for petition sheets from the borough clerk’s office so they can collect signatures to place a repeal on the borough’s October election ballot. She said that isn’t ideal, and would rather the assembly take action.
“It’s my understanding that the borough assembly could vote to repeal this ordinance yourself, avoiding the community vote, so as the assembly wishes.”
She encouraged the assembly to do just that, and said the ordinance as it stands goes too far in potentially silencing voices of the community.
“Kodiak Island is way too small to silence anyone from being able to express their opinion no matter how colorful the language or uncomfortable the message.”
Judi Kidder said she understood the assembly’s intent, but didn’t feel the ordinance reflected that.
“It’s real critical that we’re allowed to speak our minds. You know if we see you do something wrong, that’s basically the first opportunity for us to say hey wait a minute take another look at it. The problem I have with this ordinance – and I understand where you’re going with it – is that is overly broad. You’re OK with praise but you’re not OK with criticism. It’s not content neutral and that’s where it violates he first amendment to free speech.”
Borough Clerk Nova Javier said she is waiting for the borough attorney to look over the petition MacTavish and other citizens submitted. From there, they will have to collect more than 235 signatures, which will then need to be certified by Javier before August 7. She said technically ballot initiative information should be collected by July 11 to give ample time for the borough’s process, but she is working with the petitioners to expedite the process and help get things certified in time to qualify for the October ballot.
Still, Javier said some things are beyond her control and it should be clear in about two weeks whether the repeal will be included on the ballot.