Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly

The assembly approved an ordinance Tuesday night that reaffirms its support for Americans’ right to bear arms.

The ordinance repeats some of the language from the Second Amendment to the federal Constitution, which protects Americans’ rights to keep and bear arms. Sponsored by borough mayor Charlie Pierce and assembly members Jesse Bjorkman, Norm Blakeley and Kenn Carpenter, the main change in the ordinance is to declare the Kenai Peninsula Borough a “Second Amendment Sanctuary.” That term comes from a national political movement by gun advocates pushing local governments to pass laws saying they won’t enforce state or federal gun laws, which gained significant attention in Virginia earlier this year.

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The borough’s addition of a vote-by-mail option, set to go into effect next year, will stand for now, after the assembly overturned borough mayor Charlie Pierce’s veto.

The ordinance allows voters to choose to vote by mail, but polling places and absentee ballots will still be available. It also extends the amount of time between an election and a run-off, and removes proposition statements from the voter information packet. The ordinance came from a stakeholder working group on election reform, following a lawsuit about equal access to voting within the borough.

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Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce has vetoed an ordinance recently passed by the assembly expanding the number of ways to cast a ballot in borough elections.

In his memo to the assembly, Pierce says such a significant change to the borough’s voting procedures shouldn’t be left to the assembly, but rather, put to a vote of the public. Pierce said that such changes would directly impact “the fundamental right to vote.” Pierce also questioned the security of voting by mail, one of the main features of the ordinance.

Like most government bodies, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly has been meeting online since mid-March to promote social distancing. But while other governments have resumed in-person meetings, the assembly hasn’t made that move yet, and won’t for the foreseeable future.

Some members of the assembly are pushing to go back to meeting in person. Assembly member Jesse Bjorkman of Nikiski introduced a resolution Tuesday that would have the assembly and public gathering in person again at the upcoming July 7 meeting. Because the assembly chambers are too small to be practical, Bjorkman suggested asking the school district to use a local high school auditorium to allow for social distancing.

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The borough assembly voted to establish a commission on climate resilience and security on Tuesday without much opposition.

The commission will be advisory and include nine members with experience in at least one of the commission’s areas of focus representing the various regions of the peninsula. They will recommend policies for the borough on items like reducing waste going to the landfill, improving energy efficiency, increasing local use of renewable energy, and improving food security, among other areas. The commission will meet once per month and collaborate with the borough, utilities, communities, and other entities to adapt or mitigate significant changes to the environment, according to the ordinance.

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