Council delays action on public safety commission

The Nome Common Council met April 22 in regular meeting and postponed the two action items on the agenda, pending more discussion and additional work sessions.

The ordinances centered on a personal property tax exemption issue and a community Public Safety Commission under new construction. Both appeared on the Council agenda for second reading and final passage.

The public safety commission hit a snag in part because documents showing amendments to the enabling document from last week’s work session had not been included in the Council packet.

Last week, attendees at the work session poured over particular tenets of the ordinance and compared amendments for each provided both by the American Civil Liberties Union, Anchorage branch, and amendments provided by Nome’s City attorney in concert with City administration.

The Public Safety Commission will serve as an advisory group to the Council to advise on restoring police—community trust and confidence, as well as provide yet-to-be-refined assistance to persons who feel their cases are not being attended.

Some community members expressed disappointment at finding only the original draft ordinance bare of suggested amendments and changes considered at the work session. 

One issue dividing the ACLU and community activists, and City is inclusion of the city manager and police chief as ex officio members of the 11-member commission. Excluding them would provide a non-police option for reporting sex assaults in the Public Safety Commission, Triada Stampas, ACLU policy director told the Council.

Several came to the podium to say they backed the ACLU suggested amendments.

The ACLU’s amendments “are in line with research and the efforts put forth,” said Keith Morrison, who urged the Council to adopt the ACLU amendments unconditionally.

“I disagree with the suggested amendments by the city attorney and City management. I agree with the ACLU,” Lisa Ellanna said.

Handeland suggested postponing the ordinance for a couple of weeks pending another work session after which the Council would have a new substitute ordinance in their packets to consider. “We can come back with a substitute version with suggestions from both parties in it,” he said. “Then the Council can say what to keep and what to scrap,” Handeland added.

The Council voted unanimously to move the ordinance back. However, several stressed that they wanted to see the new ordinance in plenty of time to go over it and to read it.

“I’m disappointed it is not ready tonight,” Councilman Jerald Brown said. “But it is important to get it right as much as possible the first time around.”

A second ordinance that came up for second reading and final passage concerned making snow machines and ATVs for personal use exempt from personal property, based on their use for subsistence activities to ameliorate the high cost of living.

That being the case, why then not boats used for hunting and fishing? Councilwoman Jennifer Reader wanted to know.

Let’s think it over, Reader urged the Council. Although the loss of revenue would come to less than $8,000 that amount of money might count for much more in times of increasing economic stress at the city, state and national level, she said.

A short budget work session preceded the regular meeting. Available for the Council was a memo from NPD Chief Robert Estes with information on the effort to audit cases residing in the NPD files beginning with 2005, on Sex Abuse and Sex Abuse of Minors.

There are about 460 cases that fall into that time frame.

“We started with those cases that were still showing an ‘open’ status in the computer system,” Estes said in the memo. “Currently we are conducting a 100 percent complete audit of SA First Degree and SA Second Degree cases. To date, we have internally completed [years] 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015.

“With the cases being audited, we have taken 76 cases to the district attorney’s office for review. The DAO declined prosecution on 57 of the cases. Of those 57, we have been able to write the final supplement and correctly assign disposition codes to five cases,” Estes reported. “Of the remaining 19 sexual assault cases, the DAO has requested continued investigative steps be taken.”

 During public comment session Adelaide Ahmasuk presented the idea of the Peace Circle, that incorporates a traditional circle into the justice system. Ahmasuk cited as an example the Kake (Alaska) Circle Peacemaking model supported by the Kake Coalition and promoted by the Alaska Native Justice Center. The concept has a base in Tlingit values and has an aim to remove adversarial relations in repairing rifts in relationships and community rather than using punishment for the rule that is broken, according to the manual online.

“Peace Circle is training outside the Western construct,” Ahmasuk said and provided a constructive way for victim and victimizer to peacefully mend and make amends, “to get away from the colonized way of seeing things.”

 

In other business, the Council: 

• Heard Austin Ahmasuk chide them about not being attentive to dust and dust control. His interaction with state Dept. of Environmental Conservation revealed that DEC believes dust issues belong in City of Nome’s lap. “I really hope the City can tackle dust issues,” Ahmasuk said.

 “We have to start kicking that can again,” Councilwoman Jennifer Reader added.

The City can lay down thousands of pound of calcium chloride, Joe Horton, public works director, said, but it is effective only with water. Sodium Chloride ceases to work when it freezes according to Horton, who said he has 80,000 pounds in storage to get started. 

• Heard from Handeland that, as school is coming to a close soon, the City is picking up the bus stop sheds. “Not just young folks, but older folks are congregating in the sheds for drinking and smoking,” Handeland said.

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