Assembly eyes term limits for city panels

Posted: Monday, February 02, 2004

Some city boards and commissions would lose members with years of institutional knowledge if the Juneau Assembly enacts term limits, board officials told the Empire.

But term limits would bring fresh viewpoints to boards and allow more people to serve, proponents say.

The Assembly, which is subject to term limits, introduced an ordinance last Monday that would limit members of boards and commissions to three terms or nine consecutive years. Board members who have completed nine or more years will be allowed to complete the remainder of their current term, the proposed ordinance says.

The Assembly will hold a public hearing on the proposed ordinance at its next meeting, on Feb. 9.

Bartlett Regional Hospital Administrator Bob Valliant will lose four of nine board members by 2005 if the ordinance passes.

"As a hospital administrator who relies on the board to be trained in the industry, it doesn't appeal to me," Valliant said.

Bartlett board Vice President Stacy Toner, appointed in April 1994, could lose her seat when her term expires on Dec. 31 this year.

"I don't think it's reasonable for the hospital board, in particular," Toner said of the proposed ordinance. "They need a certain degree of expertise in their field."

Toner works as an out-of-home care program officer for the state Office of Children's Services. She brings behavioral health expertise to the hospital board.

It takes years to understand the health care system and how subjects interrelate such as Medicare reimbursement, physician recruiting and health care services to the community, she said.

At the Juneau Airport, all four of the board's original members would lose their seats by 2005 under the proposed ordinance. Seven members sit on the board.

One of the original members, Chairman Joe Heueisen, said that he understands the need for "fresh blood," but added that long-term board members bring years of technical knowledge. His term expires this June.

"It's kind of a mixed-emotion thing," Heueisen said.

The airport originally had an advisory board for nearly two years. Once the city made the airport an enterprise fund, expected to pay its own way, a formal board of directors was created in 1995.

Docks and Harbors Board President Dick Knapp called term limits "reasonable" given that enough people are willing to do the job. He is in his second term on the board.

The ordinance would allow others to serve who have been waiting for years, Assembly member Jim Powell said.

"There are people out there who have been serving for years, and we have many interested and qualified people who would like to serve," Powell said. "Why should we turn people away who want to serve?"

Powell will be "termed out" this October after nine years of service. Assembly members are subject to three terms or nine consecutive years. They can run for re-election after sitting out one year.

The Assembly might add a clause that says termed-out board members may re-apply for appointment after staying off a board or commission for one year. It also might make exceptions in cases in which a person with specific expertise is required to serve on a board.

• Tara Sidor can be reached at tara.sidor@juneauempire.com.



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