Controversy 'philosophical'?

Assembly, mayor do battle over commission appointments

Posted: Friday, March 03, 2000

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dale Bagley said philosophical differences were the root of the assembly's rejection Tuesday of several of his appointments to local advisory planning commissions.

But Seward assembly member Patrick O'Brien, who asked the assembly to reject four of Bagley's choices, said there were strong objections to them from the communities they were supposed to represent. He said he has no objections if Bagley wants to appoint less-controversial commission members who represent his points of view.

The debate arose when Bagley sought to fill single vacancies on the Kachemak Bay, Moose Pass and Cooper Landing advisory planning commissions and to revive the Hope/Sunrise commission, which has been inactive since October 1998.

Bonnie Golden, his assistant, said the administration advertised in local newspapers to find applicants for the vacant seats. It received no applications for the Moose Pass seat. On Feb. 15, the assembly confirmed John Coila, Bagley's pick for the Kachemak Bay commission.

However, it agreed to postpone action on Bagley's other appointments, since O'Brien, who represents Hope, Moose Pass and Cooper Landing, could not attend that meeting. It returned to those on Tuesday and confirmed the appointments of Todd Bureau, Chuck Graham, Jeffrey L. Kinzel and Diane Olthuis to the Hope/Sunrise commission.

O'Brien said he had heard about a dozen objections from Cooper Landing to Bagley's appointment of Sherman C. "Red" Smith to the commission there. Constituents seem to respect Smith's differences of opinion, he said, but they object to the way he expresses them.

"It's the way that you put this forth, sometimes in a confrontational manner, and sometimes in somewhat of an intimidating manner that concerns people," he said, apparently addressing Smith in the audience. "I've had many concerns expressed to me about the possibility of you being disruptive."

Smith asked the assembly three questions.

"Have I ever personally insulted you? Have you ever seen me publicly disrupt a meeting? Have you ever seen me drunk, drugged or physically unruly? If difference of opinion, openly and calmly expressed, is a disqualifying factor, then we truly have a serious problem," he said.

Jack Brown, assembly member from Nikiski, said he has known Smith for 20 years and has never heard any negative comments about him from any borough employee or official.

"He's always been tremendously respectful in any forum that I've ever seen him at," Brown said.

Other assembly members said they felt compelled to defer to O'Brien, since he represents Cooper Landing.

During a break, Bagley said the advisory planning commissions have not been balanced, and that is something he wants to change.

"There's usually people with a very liberal viewpoint on them," he said. "They seem to be the ones that want to be on these boards."

He told assembly members he realizes that his views differ from theirs.

"I think that's a poor reason for not appointing Red Smith or these other members from Hope," he said. "And that is the bottom line. And that is what this is about."

The assembly rejected Smith's appointment 6-1, with Brown casting the minority vote. Assembly members Grace Merkes and Paul Fischer were absent.

O'Brien said he had heard about nine objections to Bagley's appointments of Margie O. Andrews, Peck Hassler and Hugh W. Moore to the Hope/Sunrise commission.

"Overall, the community has indicated to me that they would rather not have an advisory committee than have one with the particular structure," he said.

Brown said that in 13 years on the assembly, he has never seen so many commission appointments rejected at once.

"I agree with the mayor that this is totally philosophically driven," he said. Bagley said he worked with Ed Oberts, his assistant, and Robert Bright, his new planning director, to appoint a balanced commission in Hope, and he thought they had succeeded.

"I'm not going back to the drawing board and finding new names," he said. "I'm going to keep submitting these individuals as long as they'll let me keep submitting them. You know -- we'll just play games."

The assembly rejected Andrews, Hassler and Moore, 6-1, again with Brown in the minority.

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