WASILLA — The Wasilla City Council voted to approve a resolution to waive the signature gathering requirement from the Alaska Alcohol Marijuana Control Office in a tie vote that had to be broken by Mayor Glenda Ledford. Resolution 21-09 would petition AMCO to waive the signature requirement for businesses to prevent unnecessary exposure to COVID-19 of business owners seeking licensing.
“I think that this is an important thing that has been done historically in the community to get out on foot and counter the community in which you’re fixing to influence and I think that it should remain in place for now,” said Councilman Jordan Rausa. “I think that the primary objective here is not being fulfilled and in the process we’re losing an important action that happens within our community.”
Rausa believed the change to be permanent, but Councilman James Harvey asked for clarification that the suspension of the requirement of signature gathering for licensing of new alcohol and marijuana businesses would only last until the COVID-19 emergency declaration within Wasilla had expired. City Attorney Holly Wells of Birch, Horton, Bittner and Cherot further clarified that the ordinance would not take immediate effect and the decision whether to suspend the requirement would still lie with the AMCO board.
“This is not an authority that falls within the city’s purview, it’s the alcohol and marijuana control office that has the petition requirement and so they’ll ultimately decide but the Mayor was approached by business owners who were finding this to be burdensome right now to the idea of going door to door during the pandemic was daunting and so this resolution really just provides that support,” said Wells. “I do not know of a municipality that has allowed their emergency order to expire or failed to renew it if it has come due and I think that’s in large part due to standing up an emergency operations team again if there is a wave, that takes time that takes resources and then also the funding mechanisms as long as we have federal emergency there are funding opportunities that come to these municipalities.”
Ordinance 21-09 passed 4-3 with Councilman Tim Burney and Tim Johnson voting with Rausa in opposition. Councilman Simon Brown, James Harvey and Councilwoman Nikki Velock voted in favor of 21-09, tallying a 3-3 tie which Mayor Ledford broke by voting in favor.
“There was some resistance from business owners to get out on foot and do this task because of the pandemic, I can tell you just from knowing some business owners that have been tasked with doing this task, they didn’t like it before covid. They have to get cut on foot and get signatures so you know it wasn’t fun then either,” said Rausa.
The Council unanimously approved Ordinance 21-10 to codify the changes to ballot dropboxes. Rausa questioned how the clerk can certify that late ballots were not accepted. During the last election, Wasilla used two ballot drop boxes located around city hall that automatically closed at 8 p.m. on Election Day.
“As we established a drop box it was just important to me to have it in code that I mean, it was implied because I designated that location as a drop box but I just wanted code to explicitly call out the drop box so I considered that a technical amendment,” said Clerk Jamie Newman. “They gather the ones that were legally dropped by 8. They fill out an actual affidavit where they swear these are the ballots in hand. Those go into a certain envelope and are sealed, those are presented to the canvass board that they were received on time and then the ones that weren’t, there’s an affidavit with those that says those were received after the fact. This last election we got one the next day. Those are presented to the canvass board and following code they are not able to count those because they weren’t received in accordance with procedures and code,” said Newman.
Under the consent agenda, the council approved Resolution 21-12 which directs Councilman Brown, the clerk, deputy clerk, and city attorney to draft a Code of Ethics ordinance that would be applicable to elected and appointed officials. The Palmer city council passed their own Code of Conduct earlier this year.
“Under the direction of the Mayor, Human Resources is planning to review and possibly update ethics policies applicable to city employees and directors,” reads the ordinance.
Among the three items moved off the consent agenda by a motion from Rausa, the council also passed Resolution 21-13 entering into a land use agreement with Wasilla Youth Soccer Association to expand the bumpus ballfields soccer programs. Rausa questioned how WYSA would maintain the gravel in the parking lot and other standards.
“They can cancel and the city can cancel in 30 days. This is just use, so what that does is it prohibits any assignment so there is a provision in here making it very clear that they cannot assign and that they cannot encumber the property and they are required to maintain parking, in that they have to pick up the garbage, they have to take steps not only regarding the fields but also regarding the parking lot,” said Wells.
Music in the park will begin at Iditapark occurring every Friday in June and 5,200 lbs of garbage was removed during cleanup days. The next Wasilla council meeting will be June 14.