The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Tommy Wells
Seward Phoenix LOG 

Council sends new term plan to voters

 


The residents of Seward will face a Shakespearean dilemma in October. And it is one that could tack extra time onto those who choose to seek office.

Truly, will it be three? Or will it not be. That is the question.

Members of the Seward City Council approved a resolution on Monday during their regular meeting authorizing the inclusion of a measure in the October 3, 2017, general election to extend term length for the mayor and seven members of the council to three years. By placing the measure on the ballot, the council will be seeking the voters’ permission to amend the city’s charter, which was established in 1959.

Currently, the city charter requires that members of the city council be elected to 2-year terms.

By adopting the three-year term, and a staggered temporary plan to implement the system, the city would be able to limit the amount of turnover on the city council. Currently, one-half of the city council could be replaced in any given municipal election, a fact that could have new council members voting on budgets they had no hand in crafting. Such a turnover could force newly elected officials to lean on city administrators for guidance on vital issues, a move that could give city officials the ability to affect public policy.

“I would suggest that is not the best way to craft a budget,” said Assistant City Manager Ron Long

The move would also give incoming members an opportunity to have a greater impact on the budget process by allowing them time to adjust to the process of serving in an elected position.

“The current system could have three people voting on a budget they didn’t have anything to do with,” said Long. “With this (a transition to a 3-year term), we would also have some continuity and every member would, at least, have the opportunity to be a part of two budgets.

“I feel the current system potentially lends undue influence to the administration. The public could be better served.”

Under the proposed switch to a three-year term, the council would see a gradual extension of terms. During the upcoming election, the mayor and three members of the council would be elected to 2-year teams. In 2018, two members of the council would be elected to 3-year terms while another would serve a 2-year term. In 2019, the mayor’s position and two of the expiring council seats would be extended to 3-year terms, while the remaining position would be filled under a 1-year role. Under this plan, in 2020 and 2021, the city council would have two seats open each year, with the mayor’s role open every third year.

Councilwoman Ristine Casagranda voted against the resolution, saying the extension of term lengths could decrease the number of applicants seeking positions on the council.

 

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