In Resolution, Nome City Council Pushes Back Against Dunleavy Budget

Double doors with a small placard reading "Council Chambers."

In response to Governor Mike Dunleavy’s recent budget proposal, the Nome City Council decided to amend their resolution endorsing the 2019 State legislative priorities and position statements during their regular meeting on Monday.

The amendments recommend the state look at alternative ways of collecting income, such as collecting a school tax to fund education, instituting a state sales tax, and capping PFD distributions.

Councilmember Jerald Brown put forth the resolution and its amendments.

“To me, what that does is it tells the governor that we don’t want him to just look at massive cuts across the board; we want him to look at taxes, other revenue sources and oil tax credits [he laughs] as an option.”

Not all members agreed with the resolution. It passed five-to-one with Councilmember Jennifer Reader objecting. 

“Each one of these suggestions are very personal to the individual who may want to vote for or not vote for, and for us to speak on behalf of our community for things that we find ourselves ok, I do not feel comfortable doing. I would rather see citizens contact the legislature directly.”

The original agenda for Monday night included a final reading for an ordinance creating a public safety commission, but that was postponed until April, after citizens asked the Council for more time to consult with legal representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Back in February, the City Council discussed soliciting advice from the ACLU during their regular meeting; however, the ACLU claims that they were not reached by the City of Nome for consultation until March 21, only two business days before the final reading of the ordinance.

On Monday night, the council unanimously decided to postpone the second reading until April 22. Interim City Manager John Handeland suggested requesting ACLU submit their commentary before the upcoming April 8 meeting, so it could be available for public review as part of that City packet.    

Also, on the City Council’s agenda was a resolution adopting Tariff 15 for the Port of Nome, which would replace all other tariffs. The proposed tariff does not raise port rates. Port Commissioner Derek McClarty did not think there was enough discussion within the Port Commission about rate increases.

“I don’t recall a discussion on a tariff hike; I don’t think that that was ever discussed. 3 percent, 5 percent — none of that was ever brought to the table at all.”

But Port Director Joy Baker disagreed that there had been no discussion. She added that, as recently as 2018, she recommended the City Council increase the tariff rate, but the Council rejected it.

“There is a fiscal situation in the state and in Nome that has been of great concern, and that’s why there hasn’t been an increase since 2016, but we also have a facility to run, operate and maintain, and we can’t do that barely making bank every year.”

Baker says it is important for the other language changes and updates in the new tariff to go out to the public as soon as possible, but discussions on rate increases could continue later. The Council passed the ordinance adopting the new Port tariff and, at Baker’s suggestion, scheduled a joint work session with the Council and Port Commission to discuss possible rate hikes. That is tentatively scheduled for April 16.

The city also received a letter from a citizen of Nome objecting to the application for a retail marijuana store, Grass Station 49. According to claims made in the letter, Grass Station 49 is too close to the Nome United Pentecostal Church. The council decided to leave the matter to the State.

The next Nome City Council meeting is on April 8, 2019.

Image at top: file photo: The entrance to the Nome City Council chambers. Photo: Emily Hofstaedter, KNOM.