Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 6:25 PM on Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Assembly should not have changed what the voters approved (And other election-related wrongs)


As the adage goes, two wrongs don't make a right.

Wrong No. 1: The term limit measures approved by Kenai Peninsula Borough voters in 2007 and again in 2009. Whether by design or oversight, the term limit ordinance approved by voters defined an assembly member's term as all or part of a term. It limited the amount of time an assembly member can serve to two consecutive terms, with any portion of a term considered a term.

Wrong No. 2: The recent action by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly that redefines a full term of office as three years.

The assembly action would allow current assembly member Bill Smith, who represents Homer, to run for another term. Without the assembly's action, Smith would be prohibited from running because he served the third and final year of Deb Germano's term after she resigned from the assembly in 2007. Smith was elected for a full, three-year term in 2008.

Don't get us wrong. We like Bill Smith. He's an effective assembly member for Homer. But he's not necessarily the only person who can effectively serve this community.

Having said that, we're not particularly fond of term limits, particularly at the local level. They infringe on people's fundamental voting rights. The candidate of choice might be the really wonderful assembly person who can't run again because of term limits.

But, having said that, what is even worse than term limits are assembly members changing what voters approved, as soon as the law let them.

It's a slap in the face to voters, even if you aren't a fan a term limits. Any changes to the term-limit ordinance should come from the people who approved them, not from the folks serving on the assembly. Because the action immediately affects Mr. Smith's ability to serve another term, he should have refrained from voting on the ordinance, which was passed on an 8-1 vote. Only Brent Johnson of Kasilof opposed the action. Good for him.

We understand Borough Mayor Dave Carey is considering a veto of the assembly action. We would encourage him to do so — not because Mr. Smith isn't a qualified, effective assembly member, but because we believe voters knew what they were doing. The assembly's action is arrogant and disrespectful of voters.

The assembly doesn't right the wrong of short-sighted term limits by changing them without voters leading the charge on the issue.

Speaking of election-related wrongs, here's another one: jumping from one elected body to another without completing one's term.

It's a fairly common practice, but it would better serve voters if it were stopped. People elect someone to serve a full term, not a partial one. It's really unfair to voters to have someone not finish the term they committed to when they were elected.

Again, don't get us wrong. We like Bryan Zak, who currently serves on the Homer City Council, but has filed to run for Homer's assembly seat. Mr. Zak certainly is qualified to run for the assembly, but we'd sure like to see him finish his council business before he begins work on the assembly.

If Mr. Zak is elected to the assembly, someone must be appointed to fill his seat until the next election. That shortchanges voters who have a reasonable expectation when they vote for someone that the candidate will fulfill their term of office, barring an unforeseen emergency.

These election-related wrongs are gentle reminders that just because something is legal to do, it's not necessarily the right thing to do.

They're also reminders that we need more committed people to run for local office. You have until Monday to file.