• Other propositions ask about raising property tax exemption, bonds
By Naomi Klouda
Among four ballot propositions, voters will be asked a two-part question on term limits when they enter the voting booth Oct. 1.
The question asks whether the concept of a two-term limit should be repealed. The second asks if term limits should be changed to 10 years maximum or three, three-year terms.
Kenai Peninsula Borough Clerk Johni Blankenship explains that if the majority of voters say yes, they want to repeal term limits, then it doesn’t matter how people vote on the second question.
“It only goes into effect if 3a is defeated. If both of them fail, then things stay the same,” Blankenship said.
Homer’s Assemblyman Bill Smith wrote the final version of the ordinance that placed the question before voters. It was initiated by Assemblyman Hal Smalley, who advocated in favor of repealing term limits as an assembly action. Term limits were voted in five years ago at the ballot. The assembly has the power to repeal them.
“The assembly has authority to repeal term limits, but because the people have voted on it more than once, I wasn’t going to support that the assembly would repeal term limits like that,” Smith said. “I didn’t see any harm in asking the people to vote on it.”
Gaining experienced assemblymen takes time. There’s a huge learning curve on ordinance-making and how to make a process work.
“Experience can cut both ways. Term limits works at getting rid of bad people and getting new ideas. But it also gets rid of good people,” Smith said. Last time the term limit question went to voters, one assemblyman, Paul Fisher, was voted in for his sixth term. “When you see that, you go, ‘what’s the message?’”
Smith won’t seek office again next year when his term is up. He will have served eight years on the assembly.
The Alliance of Concerned tax payers sees the matter differently. Mike McBride of Soldotna notes this is the fourth time voters will be asked to decide whether term limits stay or go.
“It’s distressing to me. Hal Smalley, who represents Kenai, said he and his constituents do not believe in term limits. He introduced the ordinance for assembly to repeal term limits. This was a few months ago, with the first hearing in July,” McBride said. “He knows the power of incumbency. It makes statements that there’s ‘no one in Kenai who can represent you as good as I can.’”
ACT is against the assembly messing with term limits at all.
“The people have voted already three times on this question. They said we want the assembly to have two terms.”
The borough mayor is also limited to two terms, as are school board members. But the only one complaining about it is the Assembly, he said. Another prop has ACT’s favor: Prop 1 ups the property tax exemption from $20,000 to $50,000. The revenue loss results in $1.3 million less to run the borough’s government, but McBride believes putting that money back in the pocket of citizens will spur the economy in other ways.
Prop 2 would borrow up to $22.9 million for a slate of school improvements, including a turf field at the Homer High School and work on Homer Middle and Paul Banks Schools. Such projects qualify for at least a 70 percent reimbursement from the state.
“You do have to maintain the buildings. But most on the assembly believe, and the ballot language implies, that 70 percent will be reimbursed,” McBride said. “That could be misleading. Historically it has happened in almost every case. But if this is a 20 year bond, in five years with declining oil flow, the legislature won’t have the money to make such large reimbursements.”
It’s term limits, in Prop questions 2 and 3 that may prove the more controversial.
“The real issue is that people already said they want term limits – two , not a three, not a five, they want a two-term limit,” McBride said. “It shows arrogance on part of the assembly or certain members to think they are better or smarter or something than the public. It’s like a child testing the boundaries.”
Smith said his eight years is enough, though there are goals and projects he looks forward to impacting in the coming year. One is a submerged land issue, he said.
The state allows municipalities to select submerged land such as where a docking facility is planned for shipments out of Pebble Mine. Anchor Point has looked at a harbor and there’s another harbor in the plans by Pac Rim Coal near Tyonek.
“If we had submerged lands, then the borough would have a say in it. We would have participation in the process if we could lease some submerged lands,” Smith said.
Having connections, experienced assemblyman, working on some of the issues with far reaching consequences can be a good thing, he said.
“They are the ones who know who to go to, they have made the connections. They know who to call and say ‘can you work with me on this.’ I have these relationships that have developed over time, you go to meetings, you work on committees with them. It takes time,” Smith said.
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