Student testimony sways Council to mock resolution

Hints were dropped weeks in advance that the Skagway City Council would give school students something to talk about during Local Government Week. But no one took them seriously until a new curfew resolution showed up on the Jan. 15 agenda.
The proposed curfew in Resolution 04-01R would have made kids stay at home from 7:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 8:45 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and holidays. It cited an “increasing presence of undisciplined hooligans” who are “particularly prone to victimize and abuse innocent citizens of this community.”
The current curfew requires kids to be home at 10 p.m. on school nights, and at midnight on weekends, holidays and over summer vacation.
To remind kids to get home in time under the new, earlier curfew starting times, the resolution proposed sounding the fire horn 15 minutes beforehand. Penalties would be stiff: a $100 penalty for first offense, $150 for second offense, and six months of community service for a third violation.
Copies of the agenda and resolution circulated around the school as students returned from Christmas vacation. By Jan. 8, when the Don Hather Tourney started, petitions calling for the resolution’s defeat were being circulated by distraught kids who felt their rights were being violated.
The students showed up en masse at last week’s council meeting, which had been moved to 1 p.m. to accommodate them. As such, with the revised Juneau Access resolution also on the meeting’s agenda, there was a standing room only crowd at the afternoon meeting. Many of the nearly 50 kids in attendance sat on the floor, and waited their turns.
School Superintendent Michael Dickens said the resolution had certainly made the kids interested in coming to the meeting, and he said they were prepared. “Very rarely can you pop students into a situation and not have them embarrass you,” Dickens said.
About a dozen students then came to the mike to testify.
Tylor Forester said the new curfew times would make it difficult for students to get to and from summer jobs. Cody Burnham said any activities scheduled after 7:30 p.m. would have to end. He and others listed the Teen Center, Community Education programs at the school, some activities at the Skagway Recreation Center, and the Summer Solstice picnic as events that would be affected by the resolution.
Grace Blanchard said if the Council would just keep up their good work, the kids would stay off the streets, but Shelby Surdyk said there was no evidence in the police blotter of “kids going around and abusing adults.”
She presented a petition signed by more than 100 students, teachers and parents objecting to the new resolution, and then attached her own financial note: “The city put in a lot of money into the climbing wall, and will have no one to use it.”
Speaking for sixth graders, Samantha Welch and Mozelle Nalan said they would be unable to get home from activities. “It’s not reasonable,” Welch said.

Samantha Welcch and Mozelle Nalan address the City Council on behalf of the sixth grade. JB

But one student got up and supported the resolution.
High school sophomore Michelle Harris said 7:30 p.m. was a good time, and that students could adjust their job schedules.
“Kids can learn to stay inside,” Harris said.
Although some in the audience didn’t take her seriously, junior Crystal Ketterman bolted to the mike, and said, “Michelle, no offense, you’re a crack head.”
This broke the ice, as the audience roared in appreciation of the kind of talk they are used to hearing from teenagers.
Then Ketterman calmly encouraged the city to “promote healthy activities to make us well-developed adults.”
A few adults then came forward. Gayle Beckett, who lives near the fire hall, objected to the warning siren.
Visiting grandparent Barbara Moore, who raised nine children in Skagway said the kids had come forward with good, rational reasons for defeating the resolution.
“I’ve worked with kids for over 50 years,” Moore said. “These are mostly good kids that are law-abiding citizens,” drawing a huge applause.
She then added that if kids see something wrong, they have the responsibility to report it.
When the resolution reached the Council table, the first voice was one of support. Mike Catsi noted that the kids had missed one important issue – that the curfew allowed them to be out with their parents or guardians. He said the resolution would “encourage family values” and would be “on par with National Homeland Security.”
But Monica Carlson disagreed. While the resolution encouraged parental supervision, it said nothing about allowing kids to be on the streets with their parents after curfew, she countered. Carlson, the chair of the Public Safety Committee, also said the fire siren can only be used in an emergency.
“With the size of these fines, I think it would be an emergency,” interjected Dan Henry.
Catsi said the more kids they caught, the more “free labor” they would have and eventually could do away with the Public Works department. But Dave Hunz said the penalties would not cover the enforcement needed to police them.
“There’s nothing broken,” Hunz said. “I can’t support this.”
Finance chair J. Frey concurred.
Before the vote, Mayor Tim Bourcy said one positive thing he could see from the resolution was that it would get kids to tie their shoes, “because they are going to be running a lot.”
The resolution, however, was defeated by a 4-1 margin, with Catsi casting the only vote in favor. Mike Korsmo was out of town and avoided the controversial vote.
After the gallery applauded and students breathed a collective sigh of relief, the mayor addressed them.
“This in a way was a hoax, but it wasn’t,” Bourcy said. “The point we made was that even though you don’t have a vote, you do have a voice ... and you did very well.”
City Manager Bob Ward applauded Harris for speaking up for the opposing view. Too often, he said, a preponderance of people speaking up for something in a room will deter others from speaking against it.
Catsi then clarified that he did not really support the mock resolution. “But if I had told you it was a joke, you would have treated it that way.”