City to review remote meeting codes

May 13, 2020

Credit City of Homer

The Homer City Council is heading into a third month of holding its meetings via video conference because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And while emergency proclamations and ordinances have got the council covered as far as meeting remotely goes for now, City Clerk Melissa Jacobsen thought it would be a good time to start the conversation on streamlining the city’s code, which has grown to keep up with the times.
    In that effort, she transformed about 100 lines of code to roughly five.
    While acknowledging the growth in the code over the years, Council member Rachel Lord suggested a lighter touch might be needed in revising it.
    “ I mean, this code's even grown since I've been sitting on council and I'd be really interested to kind of hear more as to the rationale behind this,” she said. “And maybe if we couldn't consider scaling back on the deletions and try to do maybe more (of) a cleanup instead of a complete replace.”
    Council member Heath Smith agreed that the shrinkage went too far in the new ordinance, allowing for an elected official to attend remotely at any time, from anywhere, as often as they pleased.
     “There are times that we're working or on vacation, and it's completely reasonable to request to participate in another way,” he said. “But the way the language is currently crafted, there doesn't have to be any real reason other than that's what you want to do.”
    Mayor Ken Castner indicated that the city needed to retain limits on the number of remote meetings a council member or a Mayor may attend, no matter how advanced technology gets.
    “I think that we all have a duty to go to our seats in the council chamber and be there for city council. I think that that's our primary obligation.  People can find us. They can grab you during a break, they can talk to you before the meeting or after the meeting and everything like that,” he said. “So I think our primary obligation is to meet in our seats at the chambers. And I would hate to create a crutch where people just called it in. And I think you have a higher obligation than just calling it in. So that's my 2 cents.”
    Council member Donna Aderhold also thought revising the current code needed more subtlety.
    “What I like about this is it's trying to clean up some code and it's trying to get us back in a better compliance with state law. We've gotten a little bit more restrictive than state law, so that's the part that I appreciate about this,” she said. “So I'm interested in a revision, but maybe a little bit, as we've said, more nuanced.”
    Introduction of the ordinance came on a 5-1 vote, with Smith against. Council member Caroline Venuti offered to work with the clerk on revisions to be presented at the May 26 meeting, where there will be a public hearing and a second reading.