Term limits: For better or worse?


Posted: Friday, August 10, 2007

Citizen initiatives that will appear on the Oct. 2 ballot asking voters if they want to limit assembly and school board members to two terms are likely to generate some debate.

According to those who sponsored the measures, if they pass, they would apply to current members whose second consecutive term ends in 2007, 2008 and 2009. That means that someone running for a third term who gets re-elected in the Oct. 2 election would not be able to assume his or her seat if the measures pass.

That may prompt some qualified candidates not to file for re-election. Why put forth the effort to run a campaign and win and then not be able to take office?

Term limits aren't necessarily a bad thing, but the best way to oust elected officials who aren't doing a good job is at the ballot box. Term limits throw out the good with the bad. Why prevent qualified, effective people from running for office?

The term limit initiative appears to assume the worst about those elected to school board and assembly seats that somehow they lose touch with the voters who elected them and over time become part of the problem instead of part of the solution. That's pretty personal if you're an elected official who devotes countless hours to the community good.

Elected office, particularly at the local level, is a thankless job. There are always people who are unhappy with you. You're on call 24/7. Your motives are subject to be called into question. You have to attend endless meetings and read piles of paperwork.

There's really only one reason people choose to run, whether it's for an assembly seat or a school board seat or a city council seat or a service area board seat: They want to make a difference in the place they call home.

You can make that kind of difference. Filing is now open for four seats on the borough assembly, including three three-year terms and a single one-year term. The seats that are open are in Soldotna, Nikiski, Kasilof and Homer. Sitting in them now are Pete Sprague, Gary Superman and Paul Fischer. Deb Germano announced she would resign her seat following the election of her successor.

On the school board, three three-year seats are open, Seat 1, now held by Sammy Crawford, of Kenai; Seat 6, held by Lynn Hohl, of Seward; and Seat 9, held by Sunni Hilts, of Seldovia.

Numerous seats also are open on service area boards, including those for the Central Kenai Peninsula Hospital Service Area Board, Joint Operations Board for Central Peninsula Emergency Medical Service Area and Central Emergency Service Area, Nikiski Fire Service Area Board, Nikiski Senior Service Area Board and the North Peninsula Recreation Service Area Board

Maybe it's time to take things personally and do what you can to change the perception that your involvement isn't wanted or needed. It's a good time to remember that "we" are the government, and we get the government we deserve.

The filing period for local office closes Wednesday.

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