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Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion Andy Pevehouse files his ballot while election official Ruby Cobus watches at Precinct. No. 3 Tuesday October 1, 2013 in Kenai, Alaska.

Prop 1 passes; school bonds OK'd; term limits stay on the books

Posted: October 1, 2013 - 11:55pm  |  Updated: October 2, 2013 - 11:51am
  Rashah McChesney
Rashah McChesney

The tax break offered in Kenai Peninsula Borough Proposition 1 went over big with the voters who turned out for Tuesday’s election and assembly term limits won a fourth consecutive voter approval in 20 years — with the largest margin yet — 71 percent favoring continued term limits with Proposition 3A.

The citizen-sponsored law seeking to lower property taxes by hundreds of dollars annually passed with 64 percent support.

Also passing by a margin of 56 to 43 percent was Proposition 2, which sought permission to sell $22 million in bonds for school maintenance with the projects approved for the state’s 70 percent payback on completed work.

The results remain preliminary until final certification. This year’s election saw a 22 percent turnout from the 41,000 registered voters in the borough, up nine percent from the previous year.

Winning 64 to 36 percent, Proposition 1 sponsor James Price, from Alaskans for Property Relief Now, said he had hope for a larger margin of victory, but, considering there was no organized campaign and little money spent in support, he’ll take it.

“Obviously we got enough to win,” Price said.

With the borough looking to lose $1.3 million from its general fund, critics said that in reality the exemption would only lower the quality of the service in area recreation facilities and fire fighting facilities.

Proponents behind the increased property tax exemption said they had an understanding that a tax shift is likely in response to supporting budgets only recently approved. They said that the decrease from taxes on people’s homes would be adjusted for out of the borough’ reserve, which contained $20 million when the budget passed through the assembly in June.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly members will continue to face a limit of two consecutive terms in office after voters, for a fourth time, affirmed their desire to keep the office from lifers with the largest margin yet. The law will affect next year’s races in with all four seats terming out.

Several of the candidates running for first terms Tuesday and the people behind term limits hope the question limiting assembly members is finally answered.

“I’m hoping that this question won’t come up for another 10 years,” Price said.

Brought up by District 2 member Hal Smalley last June for assembly action based on claims that his district was opposed to limits, the idea was eventually sent to voters.

Smalley and many others opposed term limits as an infringement on peoples’ right to vote for whomever they like during any given election.

The winner of the Assembly race for District 4, Dale Bagley, pointed out that Smalley said his district opposed term limits. Tuesday’s results showed otherwise, Bagely said. Term limits won by more than 30 percent in Smalley’s district.

Tuesday night, Smalley said he had no comment on the attempt to overturn limits and said that assembly members Linda Murphy and Bill Smith decided to put the question to voters.

The last iteration of the initiative passed in 2007 initiative won voter approval 52.75 percent to 47.25 percent. In 1993, voters favored assembly term limits by a margin just shy of 2 to 1.

Six years later, without seeking voter approval, the assembly repealed the law before it could limit anyone seeking a longer stay in their seat. Again voters affirmed their preference that members only two consecutive terms.

Kenai resident Patsy Marston said she voted in favor of term limits for both measures and that if term limits were good enough for the president then they’re good enough for lower level politics.

“People get locked into a position and start getting stubborn,” said Marston.

Alaska law prevents the borough from changing or removing a law resulting from a citizen initiative for two years. In 2009 the assembly changed some language in the ordinance so that partial service of a term did not count as a full term in relation to term limits.

Smalley will be subject to term limits when his current term ends in 2014.

Most on the assembly publicly came out against term limits during summer-long discussions on the issue.

The change does not affect Johnson, who won his second term, and the two newcomers. However all three seats up for next year’s election, including Smalley’s, will be wide open as all the sitting assembly members will term out.

 

Reach Greg Skinner at greg.skinner@peninsulaclarion.com.

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