The debate over the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly’s recently-passed “decorum” ordinance has turned ugly. At least two assembly members have received violent threats in recent days from citizens upset with the ordinance and the denial of a ballot initiative to repeal it.
Assemblyman Dave Kaplan said he’s received many calls, and they were all civil, until one came in Tuesday morning.
“I tried to calm the person down. I said I would talk to you if it takes two hours on the phone, if you just use proper tone and respect; you’re calling my home,” Kaplan said. “From there they pretty much would not give me their name, and they hung up saying ‘You better watch your back.’ And I take heed to that, especially in these times.”
Assemblywoman Chris Lynch said she received a similar call last week.
“It’s serious when you say things whether your meaning them serious or not and whether it’s in the heat of the moment or because you’re passionate about a subject,” Lynch said. “It falls back to decorum. You have to treat people with respect, regardless if you agree or disagree with them.”
As a result of the continued threats, Kaplan said he informed Borough Clerk Nova Javier and requested a law enforcement presence at Thursday’s work session. Javier declined to comment on what precautions might be taken during the meeting, but Kaplan and Lynch said enough assembly members were in agreement and there will be a police officer in attendance.
“But that’s not unusual for us when we have these highly-controversial subjects,” Lynch said. “This has occurred in the past, so I don’t think it’s that out the ordinary.”
Kaplan said he requested law enforcement mostly for the safety of others in attendance at the work session, and hopes all the parties involved will see this as an opportunity to take a step back and gain some perspective.
“You know there’s a lot of emotion on this ordinance right now. We would like the parties that are very, very, very adamant on repealing this to take a deep breath,” Kaplan said. “This can be revisited again.”
In a letter sent on Monday, the borough turned down a citizens petition to repeal the decorum ordinance. They had sought to have an initiative question placed on this fall’s municipal election ballot. But that does not preclude the assembly itself from repealing it, especially after the elections when there may be new faces on the assembly.
The assembly work session is Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the borough conference room.
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