Striking a balance with term limits

Recently, Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly president Gary Knopp introduced an ordinance to rework the current term limits on assembly members.

His idea — which will need to OK’d by the assembly and passed by voters in October — seeks to make the limit on assembly members three full terms, with a term being described as three years.

Currently, assembly members are limited to two terms, with a term being defined as any part or all of a three-year term.

In effect, Knopp’s idea strikes a balance between the decades without term limits and the current, somewhat constricting definitions of term limits.

Two terms with a maximum of six years just isn’t practical. It doesn’t allow our assembly members enough time to properly learn the job, perform and excel at representing their constituents.

We would urge the assembly to consider approving this ordinance and ask voters what they think. It is clear the voters want some form of term limits — as exampled by elections in 2007 and 2009 — and that’s fine.

But there is nothing wrong with making a good idea better. We agree with Knopp’s sentiment that once an assembly member reaches his or her prime, they are often forced out of service.

Term limits have become popular nationwide as an additional means of keeping politicians in check and allowing for eventual diversification of the governing body.

Knopp’s proposal would achieve those goals, and acknowledges the borough voters’ wish for term limits while allowing for a more experienced governing body.

In fact, with three, three-year terms, voters will be able to make a decision on assembly members’ performance twice before they would be term-limited out, thus putting more control in the voters’ hands over who is elected and who can stay on the assembly.

We also feel there has been and will continue to be adequate turnover on the assembly to keep things fresh.

With the current term limit system, the most experience any assembly member can have is six years before being forced to take a break, and it is a very real possibility to have a very inexperienced assembly running our borough.

It has also been suggested that assembly members inherently don’t want term limits, with the not-so-thinly veiled sentiment that they are some version of power hungry politicians. At this level of government, that’s not the case. They are public servants performing a needed service few else would step up to do.

Knopp’s idea would help keep experienced assembly members around a little longer — as long as voters deem they are doing a good job. It would allow for a healthy mix of political wisdom and fresh ideas and perspectives on the assembly as a whole.

In short: Adding another term to assembly members’ term limits and redefining the definition of a term is valid idea. It would be a balance between the voters’ wishes for term limits and the sentiment assembly members need more time to be most effective.

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