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Term limits veto undone

Assembly overturns mayor’s action on ordinance

Posted: August 18, 2011 - 7:00am  |  Updated: August 18, 2011 - 8:11am

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly took action Tuesday to undo a veto made by Borough Mayor Dave Carey.

At its regular meeting, the borough assembly approved, 8-0, to overturn Carey’s veto of Ordinance 2011-24, which redefined borough assembly term limits to mirror the mayoral term limits. Bill Smith abstained from voting after assembly president Gary Knopp ruled Smith had a potential conflict of interest with the issue, stemming from his assembly candidacy.

Carey vetoed the ordinance Friday citing concerns the assembly did not follow proper public process when significant changes were made to the ordinance after public testimony in an early August meeting.

Those changes, made by amendments from assembly member Linda Murphy, were significant enough, Carey reasoned, that the public should have had an opportunity to vet them before approval.

Before voting to overturn the veto, the assembly heard several comments from the public, who were not in favor of the ordinance in general.

Ninilchik resident Ruby Denison thanked Carey for vetoing the ordinance and “protect(ing) what is left of the rights of the people.”

“The assembly has spent four months talking about a way to circumvent the term limits as they were passed by the people twice — in 2007 and 2009,” she said. “… It is just wrong for the assembly to ignore the vote of the people.”

Murphy acknowledged there was concern across the borough that wording under her amendments could allow an assembly member to serve 10 years on the assembly without being term limited.

“That was never the intent of that, or at least it wasn’t my intent … that should happen,” she said. “I think the likelihood of that happening is very small.”

However, Murphy said she would propose an ordinance at the assembly’s next meeting amending borough code to read, “that in no event shall any assembly member serve more than eight consecutive years without a break of 180 days.”

Murphy said she wished someone had mentioned public process concerns before the assembly approved the ordinance at its last meeting, so members weren’t put in a position to have to overturn a veto, or appear to be dodging public input.

She added later that she is “one of those people who believes we should follow the rules because process is important.”

“I regret that the attorney didn’t speak up and say something because that is the attorney’s job to let us know if perhaps we need to have another public hearing because the amendments we have made are substantial,” she said. “I regret that didn’t happen. I regret that I didn’t think of it and didn’t ask to postpone.”

Before the overturn of the veto, assembly members were limited to serving two terms, with the definition of a term being any or all of a three-year term, as result of a citizen initiative.

Several amendments were offered to Ordinance 2011-24, changing it from its original intent to add another term to assembly member service before being required to take a break.

The ordinance changed so much that members delayed voting to hear more public feedback. It was brought back at the assembly’s Aug. 2 meeting, where after two residents testified, the Murphy amendment was introduced and passed without being mulled by the public.

The Murphy amendment did not have to go before voters in the October election — a significant change from previous versions of the ordinance.

It will take effect on Oct. 14 and changed term limits to read that “no person who has completed two consecutive full terms on the assembly may serve another term or portion of a term until a period of 180 days has passed since the end of his second consecutive full term of office.

“A full term of office means the regular term of office for assembly and does not include portions of a term served by appointment or election to the remainder of an unexpired term vacated by another person or to a truncated term resulting from assembly redistricting.”

Kasilof resident Dianne MacCrea testified against the overturn of the veto and said that when it comes to term limits, “changing a word changes the world one way or the other.”

“I am a little offended that you are changing what it is — it’s sneaking around; it’s underhanded,” she said. “We feel that we are not being represented, but resented.”

Assembly member Brent Johnson originally voted against the ordinance. He said he would prefer to put the idea to the voters. However, the first meeting in August was the deadline for the assembly to place items on the ballot.

“I want to make perfectly clear that I support Murphy’s amendment,” he said Tuesday. “I think that it is just common sense that the assembly ought to get six years and there’s nothing irregular about that. We ought to get the same thing the mayor gets.” 


However, Johnson said he found himself in somewhat of an “unpleasant situation.”

“I guess if I support the mayor’s veto and enough people do, then we will basically postpone this for a year and I don’t think that’s doing the people justice,” he said. “But, on the other hand, the people don’t have a choice now, and that’s not justice either. I certainly believe in the initiative process as the most sincere, basic type of government.”

After the veto was overturned, Smith said he would continue with his candidacy for a one-year term — due to reapportionment — on the assembly. Smith would have been term limited in October, had the veto not been overturned, after serving four years.

“Some people seem to be obsessed with terms but they accept six years as OK,” he said. “So it’s kind of not a very rational demarcation unless your intent is to give the assembly seats the maximum term possible and I don’t think that’s good government.”


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akal 08/17/11 - 12:57 pm
the politico's have spoken

now we should vote all who have opposed the will of the people, out of office , it is plain to see they serve only themselves.this is one of the main reasons the country is going downhill . no regard for the citizens will. we have a national government that removed tarriffs and other import controls to enrich the few. now almost no good jobs. here we have a bunch of politico's that over rule 2 votes by the people of this borough. all we can do is vote out the self serving ones. anything less and we will lose what little we have left.and that go's for the federal and local government.

Allen 08/17/11 - 03:56 pm
Term Limits Ordinance Veto Overturned

Well it was nice while it lasted (the veto). Now here comes the Bill Smith Memorial Ordinance; that is, I hope the voters of Homer get a clue that Bill Smith was trying to preserve his job, and vote for his opponent.

Linda Murphy must think we are stupid. We understand exactly what she was trying to do, which is keep her colleagues from being term limited out. Her excuses after the fact don't wash. She was Borough Clerk for years, she knows exactly how it works, she doesn't have to throw the Borough Attorney under the bus.

longmere 08/18/11 - 07:00 am
Total financial Compensation

i agree that we should vote out all of these people that have circumvented the intent of the votes of the people. The Clarion ought to report on the total compensation that these assembly people benefit from. Not only are they paid for each meeting they attend, they are paid for committee meetings and seminars that they attend, I agree that they should recive this compensation. But what is not widely known is the medical benefits that they recieve for being in an elected position as well as a state retirement pay. These are things that many of us work 25-30 years for. For this type of compensation, they should be working for the people that elected them, rather than pursue their own personal agenda.

lilypad444 08/18/11 - 08:30 am

I don't believe that Linda Murphy didn't notice that this would be circumventing public process. Way to pass the blame.

jimbob 08/18/11 - 09:21 am
The Power Elite

Thank you Mayor Carey for doing the right thing. The lesson in all of this is that those who control the local governments intend to stay in power by hook or crook. They could care less about citizens initiatives and are only concerned about increasing their power base. I suggest never vote for an incumbent. As for these borough power elite, I will not vote for any of them. We need to be reducing the size of all local governments. VOTE FOR FRED!!

witchwitch 08/22/11 - 03:36 pm
Another voter approved initiative circumvented

Yep... the Assembly knows much more than the voters and they are willing to ignore what the voters say, while demonstrating their power and infinite wisdom.

Vote out the incumbents who refuse to obey the will of the people. Otherwise, just pay your increasing assessments, higher sales taxes and accept that the politicians know better than you how to spend your money.

They gave Bill Smith a shot at a third term. What have they given you ? Please return their favor, become informed and vote.

Raoulduke 08/23/11 - 07:00 am

It is obvious to me.There is not one politician worth their salt.Voting them out is not the answer.Having the WILL,and VOTE of the people RESPECTED is.This is not the first time This sort of thing has happened to the voters.These people are not serving for the people.They are SELF serving.We have been getting ripped off for years.They say what people want to hear,and the people foolishly cast their vote.I believe.ALL politician's are corrupt liars,and THIEVES.I have voted all of my life,and not straight party lines.I am so tired of beating my head against the wall expecting some change.Truth be told there has never been any change,and the candidates are of not a great caliber.So! We are forced to vote for the mediocre,and one's ignorant of basic Constitutional knowledge.Which keeps us DUMB as we watch our Constitution be dismantled.Wrong word dismantled.I meant to say CIRCUMVENTED i.e.5th.1st,8th,and 4th Amendments.So! I am not going to waste my time with this SCAM called voting process ever again.Call me APOLITICAL thank you

bluffbunny 10/19/11 - 02:00 pm
who enforces Alaska Statutes?

I have nothing against Mr. Smith, but I DEEPLY RESENT the way the current Assembly has subverted the vote of the people prior to the election held Oct. 4th.

The Alaska Statute that was in effect until October 14, 2011, would have prevented Mr. Smith from SERVING on the Assembly, as he would have been 'term limited out' , but Assembly members SUBVERTED the initiative passed in 2009, which very clearly spelled out what a 'term' was. They claimed the people 'didn't understand what they voted for'.

By "re-defining" what the word TERM means, they didn't even have to put the issue back on the ballot for the voters to decide. Allowing those 9 people to change the Statute passed by a majority of Borough voters, by simply 're-defining' words, is a dangerous precedent.

At first it could be asked why the Assembly spent months, deciding why to change the term limit issue as passed by the voters, for just one person. But then the matter of REAPPORTIONMENT comes into play, and it is possible that ALL of the current Assembly members could be up for re-election next year! So you can see how self-serving their action was. Heaven forbid! It might mean that rather than obeying the law as it was, by re-defining what the word TERM means, they will ALL be assured more time on the Assembly.

After wrangling, stewing and amending for an extended period of time, they now have guaranteed themselves AT LEAST 8 YEARS on the Assembly. Didn't they have anything more urgent to work on? Evidently not.

There are still legal questions ongoing, as to whether it is lawful to have granted another term to one person, who was by law term-limited out, by 're-defining' what a term is. Do you see how little they care about your vote?

Maybe it's time to 'term limit' them ALL out, at the next election?

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