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Service area board change mulled

Assembly postpones vote on ordinance

Posted: April 19, 2012 - 8:28am

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday continued discussion of an ordinance that could mean major changes to how residents are placed on the borough's various service area boards.

At its meeting in Seward, the assembly postponed Ordinance 2012-07, which would establish a process to appoint all service area board members instead of being elected under the current system.

No members of the public testified to the assembly on the issue.

Currently, board members of the borough's 14 service areas are elected during the regular October borough election, except for the road service area board. Vacancies from board member resignations during a term, or from no candidates running for a seat, are filled by the service area boards through a vote. The borough mayor and assembly are not currently part of the process.

Under the ordinance introduced by assembly member Linda Murphy, those interested in serving on service area boards would fill out an application which would then go to both the mayor and service area board for consideration. The mayor would then consider recommendations from the service area board before making the appointment, which would ultimately come back to the assembly for confirmation.

The borough clerk's office said the idea would save thousands of dollars if passed. The ordinance states appointed boards may increase public interest in board service and would significantly reduce time and expense involved in borough elections.

The ordinance will be up for a final hearing at the assembly's May 1 meeting in Soldotna.

Murphy said she still thought the ordinance was in the borough's best interest during the meeting, but was on the fence considering public opinion she's heard.

About a dozen residents testified against the ordinance at the borough's April 3 meeting and Murphy said people later likened her to a "Chinese dictator or Genghis Khan," because of the idea.

"I may be voting against my own ordinance because I have heard such an outcry from the public against it," she said. "I think that some people don't understand the ordinance. They don't understand that in the last 11 years only 14 percent of the vacant seats ... had any opposition and so essentially 86 percent of the seats were in fact appointed.

"If you have only one person running, that person may as well have been appointed because there was no opposition to the seat."

She said she would not try to "shove it down the voters' throats," but did not support the idea of placing the ordinance's fate on the ballot in October.

"I would never support that because this is a decision that Alaska statutes gives to the assembly to make and frankly I do not like it when politicians decide that something is so controversial they don't want to make a decision and so they pass it off to the voters," she said. "We were elected to make certain decisions."

Assembly member Bill Smith said he liked the idea of the service area boards voting on the ordinance's proposed changes themselves, especially considering the boards and election process were created by a vote themselves.

"I think that (Linda) Murphy's idea is an excellent one and it should be the way that we go," he said. "But I really stumble over (the fact that) the people voted in a certain system and although we have the authority to change it, I think it is entirely appropriate to revisit that with the service areas with a vote."

Smith said the boards are already "self-appointed" if one were to consider how many seats are unopposed during an election.

"The process of having the service area board make a recommendation and then the mayor make a recommendation and then the assembly approve would actually improve the public process of appointing people to service area boards," he said.

Brian Smith can be reached at

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Allen 04/19/12 - 11:40 am
Citizens Are Not Ignorant

Linda Murphy's comments are typical of the arrogance we see from many public officials these days. According to her, we citizens are just too ignorant to understand this wonderful ordinance that she wants the assembly to force on us. However, we citizens only too well that when public officials want to take away our right to vote on a candidate, or a tax, or an expensive capital project that we have to pay for, it's never a good deal for us.

Murphy and Smith's reasons for supporting this ordinance don't make sense. Since when has the cost of printing ballots been more important than our right to vote? And I for one would rather have the voters "appoint" a service area board member even though there is only one person on the ballot than trust the appointment to a mayor with an agenda to appoint "yes men" and an assembly which is just a rubber stamp.

Bill Smith is correct that voters approved the service area ordinances which require elected boards. Even though Linda Murphy is correct that the assembly can decide whether to have elected or appointed service area boards, the right thing to do is let the voters in the service area decide if they want to give up their elected boards.

jlmh 04/19/12 - 08:13 pm
Well-said, Allen. Since when

Well-said, Allen. Since when is saving money worth giving up one's right to vote? Democracy is such a nuisance. Maybe we should just scrap the assembly too, and declare the mayor king?

longmere 04/21/12 - 06:54 am
Amen Allen.

Some Borough Assembly members are following the lead of congressmen and State legislators. They have forgotten who they are supposed to be representing. There are numerous areas in the Borough that we can be saving money without taking away our desire to vote our representatives. The elected members of these boards represent us and are there to provide advice to support our needs. LEAVE IT ALONE!

Watchman on the Wall
Watchman on the Wall 04/21/12 - 11:09 am
The borough is their training

The borough is their training grounds for Moving On Up To The East Side, or should i say southeast side, as in Whono, as state reps then on to the Big Show in DC.
Practice now helps them fit in without missing a step as they join the power hungry controlers, being on the CPGH board is a major step in that direction for future controlers.
I am so sorry, i can't believe i typed this about those that only seek to serve others sacrifically and have no regard for self interests or thirst for power over others.

Jeremiah 6:17

santini 04/22/12 - 07:53 pm
Political Calculations

Politicians always are keen on "saving money" when it comes to reducing voter options. However, this Assembly has no problem spending money on non-emergency off-budget items that come along during the year. All someone has to do is run into the Assembly and state a need (usually averting some environmental crisis or some similar need) and budget-be-damned, they will vote in favor of it. The spending of these funds were not approved during the annual borough budget process and should not be done. As to the service are boards, I am always in favor of maintaining ballot box opportunities for the public to express their will no matter what is claimed to be the cost savings. Never vote to reduce right for the people to express their will!

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