Hoonah mayor casts tiebreaker on 'change of government' ordinance

    Hoonah City Hall

    Hoonah, Alaska (KINY) - Voters in Hoonah will not be asked to decide on a change in the form of government.

    The Hoonah City Council voted 4-3 on Thursday night on an ordinance that would have sent a question on changing the municipality's form of government to the voters.

    The council was evenly split, with members Stan Savland, Shawn McConnell and Duane Jack, Sr. voting "no." Mayor Gerald Byers cast the tie-breaking voting against the ordinance.

    The ordinance would have asked voters whether or not to adopt a managerial form of government. Hoonah currently has a strong-mayor form of government, with Byers presiding over city business.

    Council member Bill Miller voted in favor of the ordinance, but said the city should focus on a borough formation, rather than a change in the form of government at this point.

    "Not one person has come to me and said that we should have this on the ballot," Miller said. "Since this has been brought up ... not one person, so, I'm opposed to this. I assume you should focus on on current issues at hand ... focusing on the borough formation and leave it at that."

    Resident Gordon Greenwald address the issue during public comment, saying, "I was here when we had a strong mayor, and people who were upset with the mayor in that system petitioned and got a strong managerial form. It cost the city big bucks to get a person, and cost some big bigger bucks to buy them out .. because they found out that it didn't work. They didn't like that person. So, my feeling about the issue is, if we don't like a strong mayor, why not? What's the problem? Let's address the problem, rather than kick the problem down the road and hope somebody else solves it."

    Council member Amelia Wilson weighed in, saying the question should go to voters.

    "I don't think it's about liking or not liking who is in charge," Wilson said. "It's about ensuring that the best interests of the people are being represented ... There are six members of the city council ... each person has different people that will speak to them. And I have heard that it's a vote that should be to the people."

    Council member Brian Lackey added that being a mayor is sometimes a "popularity contest."

    "The mayor is a popularity contest," Lackey said. "If you got a great guy, let's take your boat out, his boat out on the weekend, bring your fish in ... he is a swell guy. Let's make him mayor. He may not be qualified for it. But at least if you went with a manager, you have six chosen people on the city council to make sure that we get the right person."

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