Taking choices out of the people's hands

Posted: Sunday, May 02, 2010

Borough Mayor Dave Carey's decision not to veto an ordinance restricting assembly members from simultaneous service on a city council or as a city mayor is another instance of what has become a disturbing trend on the Peninsula: as a citizenry, we are taking too many steps to dictate to other voters the candidates for whom they may or may not cast their vote.

Currently, Hal Smalley represents Kenai on the assembly and also serves on Kenai's city council. It is not the first time an assembly member has served on two governing bodies, and while the ordinance will not affect Smalley's service, it would make him the last person to be able to do so.

This move comes after voters last year reaffirmed term limits for assembly members. Voters approved the current term limit ordinance in 2007. Portions of the initial version limiting assembly service, specifically those which would have applied term limits retroactively, were found to be unconstitutional. Why? According to Superior Court Judge Anna Moran's decision, "The initiative could cause one group of voters to be able to nullify other voters' selections of candidates from individual districts."

In prohibiting its members from also serving on city councils, the assembly has essentially done the same thing. A small majority has dictated another restriction on potential candidates, offering no opportunity for voters to weigh for themselves a candidate's merits against the potential effects of a conflict of interest.

Voters in Kenai or Soldotna? Sorry, the assembly members elected by voters from other districts have taken that choice out of your hands.

The question is, if voters in a district want a specific candidate to represent them, because they like that candidate's qualifications, experience or demeanor, why should other voters be allowed to restrict that choice, whether through term limits or other legislative machinations?

Here's an idea. Let people decide for themselves who should represent them by casting a meaningful, unrestricted vote at the ballot box.

In short: People should be able to decide for themselves whether a candidate should represent them on the borough assembly.

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