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Citizens Discuss Walrus Ivory Ban, Seasonal Sales Tax, and More During City Council Meeting

Papers in Nome City Council chambers

Citizens’ comments during Monday night’s Nome City Council meeting ranged in topics: from the walrus ivory ban to seasonal sales tax and many things in between. In terms of business on the agenda, all seven ordinances in the second reading phase regarding fiscal year ’16 budgets were successfully passed.

During the citizen comment portion, Nome citizen Vera Metcalf took to the podium first. She spoke as the director for the Eskimo Walrus Commission about a movement to protect walrus ivory from being banned in Alaska and potentially across the country.

“Over the past couple months, several states have passed legislation — basically New Jersey, California, Hawaii, and New York — to ban the sale, use, and possession of ivory in an effort to curb commercial trade of African elephant ivory, so everything is kind of mixed into this ivory ban. But we thought that the ban would impact Alaska Native art and crafts sales,” said Metcalf.

Metcalf wanted the Council to be aware of the EWC and many of its members’ resolutions for opposing the inclusion of walrus, mammoth, and mastodon ivory in the U.S. ivory ban laws.

During the last portion of citizens comments, Mark Johnson, a city council candidate for this month’s past election, questioned the Council about their decision to enact an increase in the seasonal sales tax.

“But I’m just wondering why, as a citizen,” Johnson questioned, “why we even put it on there when we’re having a surplus in our budget, in revenues, why are we trying to get more revenues from sales taxes?”

City Manager Tom Moran addressed the question by stating, “Mr. Johnson, I think, is failing to understand or whatever, that we had to order ballots in advance of an election, we didn’t get the ballots printed up on the day of the election when we knew what the surplus was, first of all, and I am not trying to be dismissive. So there was no way after the resolution was passed by the City Council this summer, telling us to put the ballot proposition on the ballot, that we could have not put the ballot proposition on the ballot.”

Councilman Stan Anderson expressed his concern as well, but since 61% of the election voters favored the tax increase, he supported what they wanted. The ordinance to amend the seasonal sales tax increase passed with all four present Councilmen saying “yes.”

Another citizen’s comment came from the Carrie M. McLain Museum Director, Amy Chan, who elaborated on the benefits of the new museum management policy, just approved by the Council minutes before.

“It really kind of gives procedures, best practices for the long term care and preservation of the collection, and it also establishes precedent and a set of guidelines, really, for museum staff over the years, so there is a handbook in place. The other thing that the collections management policy signifies, is that it shows that we are a professional institution, we’re kind of dedicated to the seriousness of purpose of the museum,” Chan said.

Before adjourning to executive session, Councilman Anderson made a motion regarding an upcoming fall search and rescue effort for Joseph Balderas.

Anderson chimed in, “I’d like to make a motion that we put up to $10,000 for gas, food, whatever it would take to make one final search out there…”

To officially allocate those funds for a search and rescue effort, a resolution could be on the Council’s agenda by their next regularly scheduled meeting. The Council will convene again on October 24th, a week before Congressman Don Young’s visit to Nome.