No special election to fill vacant seats
A push by Haines Borough Mayor Stephanie Scott to allow use of special elections to fill vacancies on the borough assembly died Tuesday after failing to gain majority support on the assembly.
A vote to advance the measure to a second public hearing failed with only two votes in support. Members Steve Vick, Debra Schnabel and Norm Smith were opposed. Daymond Hoffman and Joanne Waterman favored the change. Member Jerry Lapp was absent.
Vacancies on the assembly occur when seats come open before full terms are served. Under current law, the assembly must appoint a resident to fill the seat until the next municipal election, a period of time no more than a year.
Scott sought the change that would have made special elections an option, saying she has always been uncomfortable filling seats by assembly appointment. “I feel whenever possible, that person should be elected,” Scott said. A special election would cost about $5,000, she said. “To me, it’s a cost worth bearing.”
Member Debra Schnabel said she was fascinated that the results of a special election, under the proposal, would only extend to the following municipal election. “We shouldn’t be having people elect to appoint. They elect to elect.”
Schnabel said she also feared the assembly would default to special election when vacancies occurred. “It would be very costly and disruptive to the borough.”
Scott said afterward, “It’s always been a concern of mine that five people get to appoint someone to represent the electorate. It doesn’t matter if 900 or 1,200 people show up at the polls (during a special election). It’s better than five.”