Thursday, March 27, 2008
Alaska Supreme Court Overrules Superior Court Judge Arthur Morse, Decides Anchorage Midtown Assembly Candidate Dick Traini Is Eligible To Run
On March 27th, 2008, the Alaska Supreme Court placed democracy back on the menu in the Anchorage Assembly's Midtown District, ruling Dick Traini (pictured at left) eligible to run for re-election. Story published by the Anchorage Daily News and the ADN's Alaska Politics blog, and aired by KTUU Channel 2. Previous posts on this issue HERE.
Click HERE to read the six-page Supreme Court opinion in PDF format.
Overruling Anchorage Superior Court Judge Arthur Morse, a Tony Knowles appointee who ruled on March 17th that the Anchorage Municipal Charter barred Traini for running for a third consecutive term because he interpreted Traini's partial first term as a qualifying term, the Supreme Court disagreed with that interpretation. They decided that since the Municipality obtained a legal opinion allowing Traini to run, that Traini made a good faith decision. They also decided that because the language in the Municipal Charter is ambiguous, that the benefit of the doubt should be extended to the Municipality in this case. This means Traini and Midtown both benefit.
The dispute revolved around the definition of the word "term". The applicable part of the Charter uses the phrase "consecutive terms". Dr. Peter Mjos, who claimed the definition meant any portion of a term, sued to get Traini off the ballot. Morse agreed with that interpretation and ruled Traini ineligible, counting the partial first term as a full term, even though it was too late to solicit a replacement candidate. This meant the Midtown District would have had just one candidate from which to choose. Bringing Dr. Mjos' motives into question was the fact that he had contributed $150 to the campaign of Traini's opponent, Elvi Gray-Jackson.
The Supreme Court recommended that the Municipality change the Charter language to eliminate the ambiguity. Simply changing the phrase "consecutive terms" to "consecutive full terms" would be sufficient.
While Traini is pleased with the decision, he's concerned about how the confusion would impact the election. Of particular concern are those who cast absentee ballots based upon the impression that Traini was no longer a candidate. Traini left open the possibility that if he loses the April 1st election, he may challenge the results.
And Dick Traini is particularly and justifiably incensed at KAKM Channel 7, the local PBS outlet. When Traini showed up at KAKM's studios on Wednesday March 26th to participate in the televised candidates debate, KAKM denied him the opportunity to participate based on Judge Arthur Morse's original decision, even though Traini was appealing the decision. Yet KAKM allowed a write-in candidate for the Eagle River seat, Janet Brand, to participate even though write-in candidates are not customarily accorded that opportunity. I strongly suggest Anchorage residents manifest their displeasure at KAKM by not contributing a single penny to them during the next fund drive. KAKM has consistently been the worst PBS station I have seen in the country ever since I moved up here in 1991. Even Alaska State Rep. Mike Doogan (D-Anchorage), in his previous incarnation as an Anchorage Daily News columnist, characterized PBS as "Programming By Socialists". I couldn't agree more.
No reaction from either Elvi Gray-Jackson or Dr. Peter Mjos yet. However, I can't wait until Dr. Mjos opens his property tax bill in August. HOO-HOO-HOO!! (just kidding, Doc)