People who serve on Juneau's Planning Commission and chartered boards can stay as long as they want.
Juneau Assembly members Monday voted down term limits for the Planning Commission, the Bartlett Regional Hospital Board, the Docks and Harbors Board, the Juneau Airport Board, the Eaglecrest Ski Area Board. Board members would have been limited to three consecutive terms under a proposal reviewed by the Assembly.
Mike Barton, chairman of the Airport Board, said it takes time for board members to understand the nuances of the state, federal and city laws in play at the airport.
"I don't want to suggest that new people can't come on and learn, but the Assembly has the ability to make the determination," he said. "You have the mechanism and authority to make changes."
But Assembly member Marc Wheeler said it is impossible for the Assembly to vote against incumbent board members. Many people who want to serve on the city's boards are turned away and some people are appointed because of political connections, he said.
"I think having term limits is very important to keeping democracy alive in Juneau," he said. "Term limits are the only way to assure we're getting fresh blood."
A motion to delete wording in a resolution that would have imposed term limits passed on an 8-1 vote. Wheeler voted for term limits.
The Assembly also voted down compromise language offered by Assembly member Frankie Pillifant that would have called on the Human Resources Committee to strive for balance and diversity in appointing people to boards and commissions.
The motion failed on a 4-5 vote. Pillifant, Wheeler, Jim Powell and Sally Smith voted yes. Jeannie Johnson, Ken Koelsch, Randy Wanamaker, Dale Anderson and Don Etheridge voted no.
Pillifant said later she was disappointed in the outcome of the term limits discussion.
"I think there's still plenty of opportunity to honor the diversity in this town and the desire by a number of people who want to serve, but don't necessarily want to run for elected office," she said. "There are a lot of wonderful people out there who get discouraged. I don't think it should have to be a Herculean effort to try to get on chartered boards."
Johnson said both diversity and institutional memory are important.
"As we worked through it, there just didn't seem to be a place to balance those two things out," she said. "It's incumbent on each one of us on the Assembly in our selection process to give equal weight to diversity and institutional memory."
In other action, the Assembly approved wording that calls on all Assembly members to sit as the Human Resources Committee when appointments to the Planning Commission and chartered boards are under review. Currently, the four-member committee forwards a recommendation to the full Assembly.
Joanna Markell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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