Bethel City Council Considers Capping Meeting Times, Adding Recess Option

Apr 15, 2016

Bethel City Council discusses the proposed ordinance overhauling the city’s alcohol laws.
Credit Anna Rose MacArthur / KYUK

Bethel City Council introduced an ordinance at Tuesday’s meeting to cap council meeting times. The proposal, introduced by Council Member Nikki Hoffman, would stop regularly scheduled meetings at 11:00 p.m. with the option to recess until the following day with a two-thirds majority vote.

“It’s allowing for us to not rush through things and make rash decisions at late hours or early hours— however you want to look at it,” Hoffman said.

Under city code, council meetings can extend past 11:00 p.m. with a motion—something the current council has almost consistently employed, sometimes adjourning at 1:30 a.m. Many of the meetings extending into the morning hours occurred during the council’s months long discussion overhauling the city’s alcohol codes.

Council Member Leif Albertson opposed the change, saying he clears his schedule for council meetings, and he’s unwilling to consistently dedicate another evening, twice a month, away from his family and other responsibilities.

“I build my schedule around this,” Albertson said. “I keep these Tuesdays free [for] as long as it takes to get our business done. I can’t keep Tuesdays and Wednesdays free just in case.”

Council Member Zach Fansler worried that pushing agenda items to the next day could lead to what he calls political gainsmenship.

“You got something you know you don’t have the votes for, but you know two people are going to be missing tomorrow, and so I’m going to prattle on about aimless things that are kind of tangential and get us to [11:00], and I can get whatever I want approved or unapproved,” Fansler said. “And I don’t like the idea of that one bit.”

Council Member Chuck Herman says he likes the option to recess but says if shorter meetings are the goal council members can simply speak more efficiently.

“There’s a lot of stuff we could do individually as council members to speed up the meeting—being succinct, not reiterating points over and over,” Herman said.

The motion to introduce the ordinance passed 5-1 with Albertson in opposition.

The meeting began on time with all members present except Vice Mayor Byron Mazynski. The meeting adjourned at 10:56 p.m.