Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 6:28 PM on Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Appointed service area board seats make good sense



By Milli Martin

Re: Ordinance 2012-07, to provide that all Kenai Peninsula Borough Service Area Boards are appointed instead of elected

Learning moments. There are many when serving on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly. But I think the vocal public reaction to the above ordinance is unfortunate. Yes, anyone who is willing to step up and serve on the borough assembly had better have a thick skin, because there will be those who insult you and attack you. It is called being in the line of fire.

I do support this ordinance. Over the nine years I served on the assembly, I saw year after year, the struggle to find folks willing to run for service area boards. Throughout the borough, there were always positions open, to be filled by appointment after the election. And the cost in time and materials to the borough clerk, aka taxpayers, in gathering election information and printing it is huge. Voter pamphlets that must go to all in the general population, regardless that only 20 percent vote, are much larger than they would be, because of the service area seats up for election.

It had been my intent to bring this issue forward some years ago because of that cost; however, I simply ran out of time. So, I welcomed this ordinance.

Sometimes we tend to overlook history. Back in the 1980s, when the four Roads Service Areas were formed in the borough, those roads boards consisted of elected positions. In 1991, three of the four elected service area boards asked the borough to form one unified road service area for efficiency. Ordinance 1991-18, passed by the assembly in August of 1991, did exactly that and also went from elected boards, to one board with all members appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the assembly.

Alaska Statute 29.35.450 allows for the "establishment, operation, alteration or abolition of service area boards, by the assembly," which is what was cited in the ordinance. That Alaska statute also gives the assembly the authority now to act, if that is in the best interest of the public. Considering the public's often voiced concern about borough expenses, you would think it would make sense.

The borough planning commission has always been appointed, again by the mayor, with confirmation by the elected assembly.

I have not always agreed with the decisions of the various mayors regarding appointments to the roads board and the planning commission. And, in reality, when the mayor decided to make some changes, I was concerned, but have found the appointments recommended and confirmed by the assembly to be effective.

Remember, the elected assembly has the final decision. Service area boards are advisory to the assembly in all matters. They may be elected, but it is the assembly that has the final word.

With the amendment that assembly member Linda Murphy of Seward proposed, the sitting service area board also would be given the choice of weighing in on recommendations to the mayor for consideration. I believe that gives them more say over who serves than they have under the current process.

In closing, I sincerely apologize to Ms. Murphy for not being there to voice this opinion sooner, and I am so sorry for that. She deserves a heck of a lot better than what she has gotten. I commend her for bringing this forward.

Milli Martin is a former member of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly. She represented the southern Kenai Peninsula.

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