A proposed ballot measure could change the role of Soldotna’s mayor. Council member Linda Murphy will introduce an ordinance this week to put a question before voters to change the city’s charter, and allow the mayor a vote on the council.
She says her proposal would give the mayor’s office the same responsibilities as other home rule cities, like Kenai or Seward.
“It works very well in that community, I know it works well in Kenai. When we were just a general law community before we became home rule, Title 29 required that the mayor act as our mayor does now; no vote except in the case of a tie and having veto power. And that’s common for general law communities, in fact, they have to operate that way.”
When Soldotna residents approved switching to a home rule model two years ago, changing the mayor’s role became an option. The tie-breaking nature of the mayor’s vote was highlighted last year when former mayor Pete Sprague cast the deciding opinion on ending the city’s moratorium on cannabis businesses. With other contentious issues looming, like annexation, could this be seen as an extra vote? Murphy says no.
“I frankly have not looked at in that light at all. In fact, the way we’re set up now, let’s say the vote was three to three. The mayor would then get to cast a vote and so however the mayor feels about annexation would certainly come into play in that event.”
The tradeoff is the removal of the mayor’s veto power, which would happen if this measure is approved. Murphy says allowing the mayor a vote also makes it possible to conduct business with fewer council members.
“I think it makes it easier for us. For instance, right now, a quorum is four for a six member council. A quorum is also four for a seven member council. So, at this time, if for whatever reason, three council members could not attend a meeting, we couldn’t have a meeting. If we had a seven member council, three could be away and we could still get the city’s business done.”
The ordinance will be introduced when the council meets Wednesday night. A public hearing is scheduled for July 25th.
This post has been updated. Former mayor Pete Sprague cast a tie-vote to end the city's cannabis moratorim last year, not current mayor, Nels Anderson.