Q&A: Candidates for Homer City Council; 2 to be elected; 3-year terms
1. What do you see as the most important role of a Homer City Council member and why do you want the job?
Corbin Arno: The most important role of a council member is being a voice for the people. I want this job because I don’t see government working for the people but rather working for themselves, and that is not what they were elected to do.
Justin T. Arnold: I believe the role of a council member is to be the voice for all of the citizens in the city of Homer, and I want the privilege of serving this community to make sure their voices are heard.
Gus VanDyke: A councilman’s primary role is to represent his constituents and make decisions that will benefit the majority of the same. One needs to listen to the concerns of the people and apply sound business judgment in all decisions, because it is the people’s money that’s being spent.
Bryan Zak: The most important role of a Homer City Council member is to represent the citizens. Having served two terms I am aware of the varied needs of the citizens in the community. As a city council member, I read the letters sent by individual citizens and listen to their testimony. When people take the time to testify, their concerns are genuine and you have to be willing to put yourself in their shoes and step outside of any preconceived ideas in order to make a balanced decision on issues.
The city of Homer continually faces tough issues that have a direct impact on its future, as well as the individual futures of many citizens. I am willing to put in the extra time that it takes to properly address the concerns and information shared by the citizens. My mission as a city councilman is to represent the citizens and to use the vehicle of the city government to meet the needs of the citizens. I would like to continue to serve so that I can see the projects in progress fulfilled and the ones that still need addressing to fruition.
2.What is the city of Homer’s major strength? What is the city’s major weakness? What would you do to build on the strength and fix the weakness?
Corbin Arno: The city of Homer’s major strength is its people. If there is someone in need or a community need we all come together to help. The residents of Homer are a giving and caring people. I believe the city’s major weakness is the cost of living, and I will do what I can to make Homer a more affordable place to live.
Justin T. Arnold: Homer’s major strengths are the rich natural resources and unrivaled beauty of this place we are lucky enough to call home, and the strength of spirit and will it instills in the people who live here.
Gus VanDyke: The city of Homer’s major strength is its people and its location, coupled with a well-run port. It is a Mecca for the traveler and tourist-related and support businesses. Its largest weakness is the size of its government in relation to its population size.
Bryan Zak: The city of Homer’s major strength is our location, which also is our major weakness. To build on our strengths I will continue to support the citizens that make up the community, as each citizen and their families are the greatest assets to the city of Homer. To fix the weaknesses, I would continue to take strategic actions with regards to providing city services while encouraging community involvement and buy-in. I would like to see a formal “Voice of the Customer” survey that measures the citizen’s satisfaction with regards to how well the city council is representing the community’s needs, and overall what issues the citizens consider top priorities, even a wish-list of sorts would be interesting. A proactive approach to listening to citizens is easily achieved today through the use of technology, and what only a few years ago would have been cost-prohibitive is now reasonably inexpensive and easy to implement. I would then like to see these satisfaction levels measured, addressed, trends reviewed and actions taken to improve our performance.
3. The city will be taking on some new costs, such as paying water fees for fire hydrants, under the new water-sewer rates. How will the city fund those costs in its budget? What are your top three budget priorities? If you had to cut the city budget, what’s the first place you would cut?
Corbin Arno: As far as water and sewer rates go I believe that the costs are too high. Tighten your belt and start cutting costs. Spend our money wisely.
Justin T. Arnold: First off, I am sick of the ‘shell game’ mentality that rolls the ever-increasing city expenditures from one person to the next. How about we find a way to cut some of the costs and not just figure out new ways for taxpayers to pay for them?
Gus VanDyke: I don’t have access to that information as yet. But I assume that the government-thinking council will raise rates or find another avenue to tax the over-taxed to pay for their wish list.
Bryan Zak: Under the new water and sewer budget, adding additional infrastructure costs such as fire hydrants will come from the water and sewer reserves. Why I voted against the current water and sewer rates is that in Homer we have an expensive system with limited users and the system is currently operating at one third of capacity. That is why I did not feel it was reasonable to burden high capacity users with the high costs. Likewise it is not reasonable to burden the low capacity users with the high costs. Until the infrastructure is built out and cost reducing measures are implemented, the high costs need to be paid for by supplemental infusion to the water and sewer-operating budget. The issue with adding more users to the current system is the high cost of adding infrastructure. The build out of the system along Kachemak Drive is a current and real example of why the current local improvement district process is broken and preventing a realistic build out of the system. For me the solution is prioritizing the build out of water and sewer as a capital improvement project.
4. Some people have criticized the city of Homer as being anti-business. Do you think this is true or not? Why? In any case, what can the city of Homer do to help business and promote economic development?
Corbin Arno: The city of Homer is business unfriendly. Forcing people to build bigger parking lots, pave their parking lots and the ridiculous sign ordinances, all of these bring the cost of business up and make it unaffordable. We should be looking for ways to bring the cost of business down. More businesses equal more jobs.
Justin T. Arnold: I don’t believe Homer is anti-business. I do believe that the city council has passed quite a few overbearing city ordinances over the years with little consideration to how their decisions will affect the people and businesses of this town. In fact, it seems they are voting according to their personal beliefs and pandering to small groups that share their beliefs. And that, in turn, is what has hurt business in Homer.
We can address the misperception of Homer as an anti-business city by removing anti-business laws that interfere with personal freedoms. If a citizen in Homer wishes to start a business they should be able to with a minimum of interference; the excessive paperwork and ridiculous rules that form the red tape that holds them back must be removed before we can expect the average person with bills, limited funds and realistic time constraints to be able to contribute to Homer’s economic growth.
Gus VanDyke: The city of Homer IS anti-business. It talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk. Examples would be the newly revamped sign ordinance. If potential customers cannot see you are open for business, then the business dies. The new bag ban — one business’s expenses have increased $40,000 per year as a direct result. Who pays for that? $40,000 per year is a solid loss of at least one employee. The new water/sewer rate WILL increase most businesses’ costs. Who will have to ultimately pay for this? This is only the tip of the anti-business climate in this city.
Bryan Zak: Yes, it is true that some people have criticized the city of Homer as being anti-business; I however do not feel it is the intention of the city of Homer to be anti-business. My perspective as a five-year city councilman is the city of Homer is very pro-business. I see many major improvements by the city of Homer that reduce businesses' operating costs and strengthen their property values. The city of Homer encourages new business and business growth. We recognize the value of new jobs and the impact of keeping families intact and growth in our community.
The key to what the city of Homer can do to help business and promote economic development is to sustain an environment that allows businesses to operate and flourish. Making this happen requires careful planning, management and implementation, as well as a public process that listens to the public’s input.
5. How will you vote on the plastic bag ban repeal? Why?
Corbin Arno: I will be voting in favor of plastic bags. It is not the government’s job to tell us what bags we can and can’t use. It should be an individual’s right to use whatever bag you want. If you don’t like plastic buy your reusable bags, but don’t tell me what kind of bag I have to use.
Justin T. Arnold: As the concerned citizen who created the petition in the first place, and the person who spearheaded the push to get this issue on the ballot, I will definitely be voting in favor of the repeal. Bags are not the issue, as I have stated before. I firmly believe that no level of government should be telling you what bag to use, how much water your shower head can use or banning you from using more than 5 percent of the land you own. We don’t need a city government that acts like our nanny!
Gus VanDyke: I WILL vote a resounding APPEAL IT, if elected, strictly because it is a blatant misuse of the council’s power. The council has a responsibility to improve the economic conditions of the city. How can increasing the costs to local businesses, which must pass the increase along to the consumer, comply with that responsibility?
Bryan Zak: Truthfully, I really had to listen to the pros and cons before making a decision (as all votes should be). After careful consideration, I felt it was the sign of the times and a message from local government that raises the awareness that as a society we must do more to protect the future of our natural resources, let’s try it. So I will vote “not” to repeal the plastic bag ban. Individually, I can do more and this small action by the city council has increased my awareness and made me think of additional ways I can individually contribute. Change is always difficult, but I think the businesses have done a great job at providing recycled, reusable bag alternatives at a very low cost.