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1/11/2014
Halt term limits

The Borough Assembly, as it begins to prepare its goals for the new year, should plan to do away with term limits.

In a public advisory vote several years ago, voters suggested that term limits be adopted by the Assembly and Ketchikan School Board.

The School Board decided against limits; the Assembly implemented them.

For the School Board, it was a wise decision. It's often difficult to find citizens who will seek a board seat, and gone are the days — at least for the time being — when voters had a large slate of candidates from which to choose.

Whatever reasons might be behind that, Ketchikan is a small community with a limited number of individuals interested in elected public service. It takes people who are willing to place their names on a ballot and face the possibility that the outcome could be a personal disappointment. Most people aren't comfortable with that. It takes courage, despite whether one can rationalize the reasons for a less-than electable showing, for example, lack of name recognition.

The small community and necessary boldness factors aren't isolated to the School Board.

While the Assembly tends to attract greater interest, with election challengers more frequently, it still must gather candidates from this community and, like the School Board, compete with the City of Ketchikan for candidates who are willing to take the time to campaign and, despite best efforts, risk defeat.

By the time Ketchikan fills all of its elected seats, it needs 21 volunteers; that doesn't include those who might seek office and aren't elected. It also doesn't include Saxman office holders and also-rans. It becomes challenging to create a field of choices for voters.

Local politics isn't like that at the state and national levels, either, where candidates create as big a warchest as possible in order to pay the cost of attempting to retain their seats. They don't receive money from lobbyists and the like.

Without those types of donations, local incumbents don't enjoy the power of state legislators and congressmen to stay seated. They don't become all-powerful because of their tenure. It is possible for a three- or four-term Assemblyman or mayor to be unseated at voters' desire.

The School Board heard next to no complaints when it didn't adopt term limits. As sad as it is to say, the public might be just thankful enough that people can be found to serve on that board. As a result, it is very beholding to those who will take on that responsibility.

The Borough Assembly, if it were to change course regarding term limits, likely would kick up a bit of a storm. But it should be a slight one.

The borough has a good mayor in Dave Kiffer and equally talented Assembly members in Allen Bailey, Agnes Moran, Mike Painter, Todd Phillips, Bill Rotecki, Glen Thompson and Jim Van Horn.

They don't always agree; individuals in the community don't always agree with them. But, one thing voters have said is that they're who should be representing the borough. Voters should be able to endorse them for as many terms as they want when it comes time for a municipal election. They will have the choice of whoever else enters the race.

It's silly for the borough to be the only one of three Ketchikan elected bodies to be governed by term limits.

Changing that by eliminating term limits should be a 2014 resolution.