KENNETH CITY — Council members caved in to demands from an angry crowd and delayed approving a neatness ordinance until officials explain every word of the 26-page document to Kenneth City residents.
In what was estimated to be the largest crowd to ever attend a Kenneth City Council meeting, an outraged group of residents railed at the proposal that would regulate the upkeep of both the exterior and interior of all property in the town.
The proposal basically sets standards for upkeep and appearance and gives town officials the right to enter homes. If the owner refuses to allow the official to enter, the town can go to a judge for an "administrative search warrant" to allow access to the interior of buildings. Violations would cost up to $250 a day.
Angry residents likened the proposal to rules created by Communist or Nazi dictatorships. One person said the result would be to create a network of spies to snitch on neighbors to council members and other town officials. Someone suggested the town should change its name from Kenneth City to "Petty City."
Still others said town attorney Paul Marino was overstepping his bounds. Marino, who drafted the ordinance at the urging of the mayor and council, defended himself, saying he felt the audience was trying to shoot the scribe and that he was only doing his job. One person in the audience claimed that council member Al Carrier had driven by his house as a way of threatening him to drop his opposition to the ordinance. Carrier did not respond to the charge that he was abusing his office.
Others said the council needs to explain every part of the ordinance to residents and that after that, the residents should be consulted about redrafting the new rule, if necessary, to tailor it to Kenneth City's needs. As it is, the ordinance is a virtual copy of others in places like Fort Walton Beach and Belleair Beach.
Residents will get their chance to hear the ins and outs of the proposal at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Community Hall, 4600 58th St. N. The meeting is not only open to the public, but Kenneth City officials seemed to challenge residents to attend.
"Let's see if you all show up for a workshop," Marino commented, adding he would go through the document paragraph by paragraph if that's what the council wished.
And Carrier said, "If you are not here, you have nothing else to say."
Council members will not be able to make a final decision at Wednesday's workshop. But they can decide whether the proposal needs to be sent back to the drawing board, totally dismissed, or scheduled for a vote.
Election is coming
Until the November meeting, passage seemed to be a slam dunk. But with an election in the offing, it is unclear how officials who may want to be re-elected will react to a large crowd of dissatisfied residents. Up for possible re-election are Mayor Muriel Whitman and council member Phil Redisch, neither of whom has indicated future plans. Council member Harold Jividin's seat will also come open, but Jividin cannot run for re-election because of term limits.
Qualifying opens Dec. 12 and closes at noon Dec. 19. Candidates for the council must have been registered voters and residents of Kenneth City for at least two years before qualifying to run. Candidates for mayor must have been registered voters and residents of Kenneth City for at least three years before qualifying to run.
Council members earn $300 a month. The mayor is paid $500 a month. Council members serve a term of two years and the mayor serves for three years. The election is at-large and nonpartisan. For information or to pick up a packet, call Town Clerk Nancy Beelman at 544-6655 or go to Town Hall, 6000 54th Ave. N.
The election is March 10.