The public will now have access to far more detailed records of Kenai City Council work sessions and the joint get-togethers it has with city commissions after passing a resolution recently authorizing the audio recordings of those proceedings.
"The only thing it does that's different than what we do now, in practical effect is we will record our work sessions and our joint work sessions with commissions and committees," said Councilman Bob Molloy in defending the measure he introduced. "It doesn't talk about them, by themselves. It's something we might look at later when we look at the commission policy again. Of course, we do have a practice of recording the regular meetings of the Planning and Zoning Commission."
During the public hearing on the resolution, Bob McIntosh of Old Town Kenai expressed his support of the measure.
"In the research I've done over the past couple of years, you find hearings, work sessions that last three hours, but you got half a page summary and you don't really know what happened," McIntosh said. "Everybody can remember this whole "Lawton" thing recently, where January they held a public meeting and everybody seemed to go away thinking it was a pretty good outcome, and by the time July, I think it was, or June, when it came up for election there were different recollections among the council members and the citizens as to what really happened in that meeting, or what the conclusion was in that work session."
The measure did not, however, enjoy universal support on the council. Councilman Henry Knackstedt said that he thought recordings during work sessions might intimidate speakers and could stifle discussion. Councilman Jim Glendenning added that recordings may serve to hamper the free flow of thought that he says is vital to sorting out issues.
"If I can get all Zen with you, we would say, 'Sometimes the answer is in the question.' We're not just asking positive questions, we're asking interrogatory questions," Glendenning said. "We're not coming to conclusions, we're not deciding anything, we're just trying to get a taste and a feel for what the issue is."
Mayor Brian Gabriel said he could see how a work session recording could actually protect a council member.
"In fact it might be to the benefit of, where people might take comments that you made at a work session that weren't captured and take them out of context, where, in this case, there's a record of what you said," he said.
After a brief recess to add a section exempting outdoor gatherings of the council if they are impractical to record, the resolution passed 4-2, with Knackstedt and Glendenning voting no.