Cooper stands tough against calls for in-person Assembly meetings

Sep 3, 2020

Credit Kenai Peninsula Borough

Ever since the Kenai Peninsula Borough entered a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, assembly meetings have been held via Zoom video conferencing in order to comply with social distancing guidelines issued by the State of Alaska and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
    But despite the dangers inherent in public gatherings at this time, some in the public -- and on the assembly -- think it’s time for video meetings to end.
    A gentleman named Robert, who did not give his last name, commented at Tuesday night’s assembly meeting.
    “I would like to request that the meetings be held in the borough basement so that the public can attend and participate,” he said. “I would like the assembly members to go ahead come out into the public so we can interact with you.”
    He said life has returned enough to normal that it should be safe to gather.
    “People have been going to the Walmart. We’ve been going to church. I think it’d be alright if you came out and interacted with us,” he said.
    Assembly member Jessie Bjorkman echoed those thoughts, while also decrying the closure of senior citizen centers.
    “Certainly seniors in my community and across the state are feeling that,” Bjorkman said. “Whether they would choose to participate in their senior center or not should be up to them.”
    He also criticized the school district for its method of determining school opening. Currently, the case count in the Central Kenai is too high to allow in-person classes for most students.
    Assembly President Kelly Cooper agreed that it would be nice to return to normal, but that is not in the cards at the moment.
    “So yes, I want the economy open, yes, I want you in this room, yes, I want students in school full time, and yes, I want our seniors to be able to have that social interaction,” she said. “But my guidance will come from scientists and Dr. Zink and the CDC and DHSS.”
    Cooper added that she doesn’t plan to waiver in her decision to continue remote meetings while the infection risk from the coronavirus remains so high.
    “It is something that I pay attention to every day on a regular basis and research,” she said. “I know there are many that don’t agree, and I will carry this and be proud of the fact that I took the information that I could to keep as many people healthy, especially those that are at risk.”
    The next Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting will be on September 15. It was originally scheduled to be held in Homer, but instead will be conducted over Zoom.