January 19, 2012 | Vol. 39, No. 3

Council regrets leaving redistricting suit

After hearing initial news reports from the redistricting lawsuit brought by Fairbanks, some of the Petersburg city council expressed regret Tuesday night, at not approving additional funds to stay in the legal fight with Fairbanks.

Councilor John Jensen commented that after hearing some of the points that were made by different attorneys, he was disappointed about not going ahead with the other $10,000 (in legal fees to continue the lawsuit).

“The dialog is still open. If there is any possibility that it would benefit us, I think the council should get back into this,” Jensen said.

According to councilor Strand, the final court decision will come in February. She said, “I too agree that if there is some way to get back into this, we should try our darndest.”

Mayor Al Dwyer replied, “I think we have just given too much money to attorneys… especially since we don’t have a prayer.”

John Jensen replied, “I’m surprised at the outcome of the Fairbanks decision so far.”

Dwyer said, “We can put this on the agenda but I thought we had already debated this. My understanding is that if there is any change, it will have a ripple effect on all the other districts.”

“It’s possible,” Strand commented.

Following the 2010 census, voting the Alaska Redistricting Board amended districts and Petersburg was moved into District 32, which consists of areas of Juneau, Skagway, Gustavus and Tenakee Springs.

In December Superior Court Judge Michael P. McConahy ruled, “The shape of the district is caused by Alaska’s unique geography, particularly the shape and placement of the islands. At some point a district must be deemed, ‘compact enough’ to satisfy the requirements of the Alaska Constitution.”

At the final city council meeting of the year, the council decided not to continue its legal challenge to the State Supreme Court.

The city spent approximately $30,000 to mount the court challenge, and according to the city manager it would cost another $10,000 to appeal it to the Supreme Court.

Councilor Sue Flint spoke against continuing the fight. “I really hate to spend another nickel on this. The judge kind of said no. In order to open this up again, they’re going to make people that are happy with their district, unhappy. …I feel we’ve gone far enough with this.”

The mayor concurred with Flint.

Councilor John Jensen said, “It’s unfortunate how we got redistricted. I wish we wouldn’t have let the other part of the appeal go, but we did. It’s like apples and oranges. I don’t know that we should spend any more money on this, but it is unfortunate.”

Councilor Nancy Strand commented: “I’m not surprised. I’m really disappointed. It’s too bad we didn’t do this earlier like Ketchikan, and just threaten to spend the money on this.”

The motion to drop the appeal passed with only John Jensen voting against.

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