FAIRBANKS — Assemblyman Aaron Lojewski has sponsored an ordinance providing residents more privacy of their personal information. He hopes the measure will increase public testimony on affairs of the Fairbanks North Star Borough.
Under Ordinance 2018-10, residents would no longer be required to provide their address when speaking at assembly meetings. Instead, testifiers would be asked to disclose whether or not they live in the borough.
Lojewski said people have raised privacy and safety concerns with him, especially considering Borough Assembly meetings are broadcast live on KUAC radio.
“I’ve had several people tell me specifically that they don’t testify because they don’t want their personal residential address put out on the radio,” Lojewski said.
The address requirement has been in borough code since 1986, according to Borough Clerk Nanci Ashford-Bingham. The code requires a name, spelling of the last name and address to be disclosed, though people usually don’t spell their last name.
Ashford-Bingham reviewed assembly meeting minutes from the 1970s and said testifiers were asked to provide their address in those days, before the practice became codified.
The Borough Clerks’ Office conducted some light research on how other Alaska municipalities handle testimony, and it varies, according to a summary of the results. Some municipalities require addresses be provided and some do not.
In Anchorage, the code states that the presiding officer may ask for a name and the neighborhood or community of residence.
Other municipalities have no local law on the matter but, in practice, will ask for names and sometimes addresses. Still other municipalities ask testifiers to disclose whether they live inside the jurisdiction.
At the city of Fairbanks, testifiers are not required to publicly state their address, according to Jerry Cleworth, a former city mayor currently serving on the City Council. He said the rule was put in place to assuage safety concerns because the meetings are streamed live on the internet and broadcast on 970 KFBX-AM.
Under the code at the city of North Pole, testifiers are asked to state their name and where they live before speaking. The information is also requested on a sign-up sheet. The information is published in meeting minutes, according to City Clerk Judy Binkley.
The borough also has sign-up sheets for testimony though testifiers are not required to use them. Ashford-Bingham said testifier addresses are not published in borough meeting minutes.
Lojewski acknowledged his ordinance offers limited privacy protection. Someone intent on getting another person’s private address has multiple ways to find it. For example, the borough maintains a public database of all property owners. Anyone can access all addresses owned by a person. However, Lojewski said offering even a small amount of privacy protection has value and would make some people feel comfortable speaking at meetings.
“I don’t think it costs the rest of us anything and it gives some people a little bit of privacy protection,” he said. “It will increase public participation just a little bit.”
The ordinance is scheduled to go before the Committee of the Whole on Thursday and the full assembly on March 22.
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