Term limits only limit voters' choices

Posted: Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bill Smith, representing Homer on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, has of late taken the lead on a number of issues, particularly as the body works through the borough's budget.

Smith, who was elected to the assembly after gaining experience serving the public in a number of other capacities, has been asking tough questions and at the same time working toward reasonable solutions. Most recently, he sponsored legislation that would've funded the school district at $4 million less than it requested, but also sponsored a measure to add $2 million when it became clear that it would lead to job cuts.

In short, Smith is doing a very good job doing what voters elected him to do, first in 2007 and again in 2008. His current term is up in 2011, and he'd be an excellent candidate to serve another term -- except that he won't be eligible to run again until 2014.

At the end of this term, Smith will be "term-limited" out of office after four years of service, due to a voter initiative passed in 2007 and again in 2009. That measure limits assembly members to two consecutive terms -- both full and partial terms, such as Smith's first one-year term, count -- after which they must sit on the sidelines for a full three-year term.

The reasoning behind the term limits measure is to encourage new candidates with fresh ideas to run for office, and to prevent an "entrenched incumbency." Smith is the third person since 1999 to represent District 8 on the assembly -- turnover that occurred without the imposition of term limits. Clearly, new faces on the assembly don't need to come at the expense of public servants with quality experience.

Will borough government somehow be better when another candidate fills Smith's seat in 2011? Maybe, maybe not -- but the voters Smith represents should have the right to decide how his record measures up against another candidate's credentials.

In short: Term limits on borough assembly members restrict voter choice and do nothing to improve borough government.

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