City candidates outline qualifications, priorities chamber forum

Candidates

Candidates

Getting to Tuesday’s Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center candidate forum at Wasabi’s on East End Road past Kachemak Drive could be a metaphor for politics itself.
Wasabi’s is in the construction zone, and like East Enders know, that means a long wait, trying to avoid getting splattered by mud and hoping the hard work leads to a better future.
The chamber invited all the city of Homer candidates and the only candidate for the District 8-Homer Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member seat, Kelly Cooper. With no opposition, Cooper will be elected to fill the seat being vacated by Bill Smith, who cannot run for re-election because of term limits.
Moderator Tom Stroozas asked the same three questions of all candidates:
• What are your qualifications?
• What are the biggest issues?
• If elected, what is your priority?
Four candidates are running for two, three-year Homer City Council seats. Incumbent David Lewis is running for another term. Also running are Justin Arnold, Corbin Arno and Catriona Lowe. Arnold and Arno both ran in the last council election, with Arno coming in third and Arnold fourth in another four-person election. Lowe is a political newcomer.
Running for another term as Mayor is Beth Wythe, a former 8-year council member, and Lindianne Sarno. Candidates had three minutes to speak on the questions, and spoke in alphabetical order, with the council candidates first.
Arnold cited his experience building a boat and a career as a commercial fisherman.
“I built my commercial fishing boat from a hull I bought when I was 18,” he said. “I think you can make things from what most people will throw away.”
That philosophy should be applied to city equipment and buildings, he said. Instead of buying new, buy used, or remodel a building.
“We should look at everything the city buys. Everyone of the voters pays taxes, have to pay their dollars and divide it down to this piece of equipment, this job,” he said.
The most important issue is the economy, Arnold said.
“Just being able to pay our bills, run our businesses and run our families the way we want,” he said. “If elected, my job is to get back to the basics — things we need versus things we want.”
Arno said he was born and raised in Homer and over his 33 years here has seen the town grow.
“I take care of my own house. I work within my budget. I don’t overspend,” he said.
He also spoke of the economy as an issue.
“My objective is to lower the cost of living here. It’s outrageous. You go to the grocery store and walk out with one bag, it’s $100,” he said.
Crime also is an issue, Arno said.
“I want to raise my kids here. I see Homer as not becoming a very good place to raise your kids. Crime’s going up. Drugs are getting out of control,” he said.
For his qualifications, Lewis spoke of the commitment in working on the council and other committees.
“I would say having time, having time for the meetings and everything else that pops up along the way,” he said.
Issues vary among voters, Lewis said, a point Lowe made earlier when they were talking before the meeting.
“One of the biggest issues facing the voter is who those individual are and what their concerns are,” he said.
Young people might want more recreational facilities while seniors might want more support for the senior center, he said.
As Arno noted, drugs also is an issue, Lewis said.
“We have a big homeless teen problem here,” he said. “Solving that is not going to be easy.”
As a priority, Lewis mentioned making the Homer port and harbor one of the best ports in the state.
“That in turn will bring in a fair amount of business which will help out the city and the jobs market,” he said.
Lowe cited a recent life change as a personal qualification. She noted her campaign signs say “Catriona.” That’s not because she wants to be like Prince or Madonna. Lowe recently married Derek Reynolds, owner of Cyclelogical, and is in the process of changing her last name. If she runs again for office, she might want to re-use those campaign signs.
“That’s one example of thinking ahead,” she said.
Lowe noted her work at Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic and her appointment to the Alaska Medical Advisory Committee as another qualification. A Homer resident since 1995, she owned a café, Katzenjammer’s, and also works with her husband’s business. She also served with KBBI and is a founding member of the Homer Cycling Club.
“I’m thankful to serve this incredible community,” Lowe said. “It was pretty easy to decide to run. I really believe in public service. I think its important.”
Business does not exist apart from a community, she said.
“Business is a crucial part of our community,” Lowe said. “Likewise, a thriving community is essential to sustain a business.”
As for issues, Lowe also mentioned drug use, particularly heroin. She also said she has concerns about the scope and process of the council. In talking to people, Lowe said they’ve said how they feel surprised about issues they didn’t know about.
“I plan to build on the concept of a citizens academy by building on tools like social media,” Lowe said. “My open-mindness and willingness to consider all sides of a discussion creates a way to reach consensus.”
In the mayor’s race, Sarno talked of her background as a musician and her education.
“I also have very strong civic principles and earned a history degree from Princeton University,” she said.
Sarno cited her work with the Kachemak Bay Wooden Boat Society — its office is in her music studio on Pioneer Avenue — and her service on the Economic Development Advisory Commission and the Kachemak Path Committee. Like Wythe, Sarno also is a candidate for the Home Rule Commission.
The economy also is an issue for Sarno, she said.
“It’s harder and harder to live,” she said. “It’s expensive to live in Homer.”
As an objective, Sarno said she wanted to explore new ways of funding things like after-school programs and safe walking and bike paths. She noted that because of the tight city budget, it’s hard to support such things.
“I think the answer lies in working closely with business, with nonprofits, to create a way to fund — bringing in donations, materials, bring in thousands and thousands of hours of volunteers,” she said.
Wythe noted her 10 years sitting at the council table, eight of them as a council member. Basics are a priority for her, she said: police, fire protection and road maintenance. One success on the council has been how the city approaches its capital improvement program planning, she said. With the port and harbor, for example, the council ranked projects together as a group. A similar approach could be taken with the Public Safety Building — one building rather than separate police and fire projects.
“I feel like we’re moving in a good direction,” Wythe said. “I want to keep moving in that direction.”
As for challenges, “If you talk to 10 people, you will come up with 20 challenges,” she said.
Wythe said she wants to move outside her normal work and social circles and reach out and listen to more people.
“I feel the council’s job is to represent everyone and not the people who voted for them,” she aid. “When you step up to the table, you have to be ready to set aside all your objectives.”
Cooper said she wished someone else had run against her for the borough assembly seat.
“It’s nice to know it’s going to end successfully, but it’s nice to have a dialogue,” she said.
A big supporter of the Homer Boys & Girls Club, Cooper said she felt bad the club had to close at its location in the Homer Education and Recreational Complex.
“It wasn’t sustainable,” she said. “It’s got to be sustainable.”
One thing Cooper said she’d like to do is increase the local bidder’s preference on borough projects.
“We should try to do more business locally,” she said.
When elected, Cooper said she sees her role as simple.
“My job is to bring issues to the table and open up a dialogue,” she said.
Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

Homer City Council Candidates
Justin Arnold:
Arnold cited his experience building a boat and a career as a commercial fisherman.
“I built my commercial fishing boat from a hull I bought when I was 18,” he said. “I think you can make things from what most people will throw away.”
That philosophy should be applied to city equipment and buildings, he said. Instead of buying new, buy used, or remodel a building.
“We should look at everything the city buys. Everyone of the voters pays taxes, have to pay their dollars and divide it down to this piece of equipment, this job,” he said.
The most important issue is the economy, Arnold said.
“Just being able to pay our bills, run our businesses and run our families the way we want,” he said. “If elected, my job is to get back to the basics — things we need versus things we want.”

Corbin Arno:
Arno said he was born and raised in Homer and over his 33 years here has seen the town grow.
“I take care of my own house. I work within my budget. I don’t overspend,” he said.
He also spoke of the economy as an issue.
“My objective is to lower the cost of living here. It’s outrageous. You go to the grocery store and walk out with one bag, it’s $100,” he said.
Crime also is an issue, Arno said.
“I want to raise my kids here. I see Homer as not becoming a very good place to raise your kids. Crime’s going up. Drugs are getting out of control,” he said.

David Lewis (incumbent):
For his qualifications, Lewis spoke of the commitment in working on the council and other committees.
“I would say having time, having time for the meetings and everything else that pops up along the way,” he said.
Issues vary among voters, Lewis said, a point Lowe made earlier when they were talking before the meeting.
“One of the biggest issues facing the voter is who those individuals are and what their concerns are,” he said.
Young people might want more recreational facilities while seniors might want more support for the senior center, he said.
As Arno noted, drugs also are an issue, Lewis said.
“We have a big homeless teen problem here,” he said. “Solving that is not going to be easy.”
As a priority, Lewis mentioned making the Homer port and harbor one of the best ports in the state.
“That in turn will bring in a fair amount of business which will help out the city and the job market,” he said.

Catriona Lowe:
Lowe cited a recent life change as a personal qualification. She noted her campaign signs say “Catriona.” That’s not because she wants to be like Prince or Madonna. Lowe recently married Derek Reynolds, owner of Cyclelogical, and is in the process of changing her last name. If she runs again for office, she might want to re-use those campaign signs.
“That’s one example of thinking ahead,” she said.
Lowe noted her work at Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic and her appointment to the Alaska Medical Advisory Committee as another qualification. A Homer resident since 1995, she owned a café, Katzenjammer’s, and also works with her husband’s business. She also served with KBBI and is a founding member of the Homer Cycling Club.
“I’m thankful to serve this incredible community,” Lowe said. “It was pretty easy to decide to run. I really believe in public service. I think it’s important.”
Business does not exist apart from a community, she said.
“Business is a crucial part of our community,” Lowe said. “Likewise, a thriving community is essential to sustain a business.”
As for issues, Lowe also mentioned drug use, particularly heroin. She also said she has concerns about the scope and process of the council. In talking to people, Lowe said they’ve said how they feel surprised about issues they didn’t know about.
“I plan to build on the concept of a citizens academy by building on tools like social media,” Lowe said. “My open-mindness and willingness to consider all sides of a discussion creates a way to reach consensus.”

Homer Mayoral Candidates
Lindianne Sarno:
In the mayor’s race, Sarno talked of her background as a musician and her education.
“I also have very strong civic principles and earned a history degree from Princeton University,” she said.
Sarno cited her work with the Kachemak Bay Wooden Boat Society — its office is in her music studio on Pioneer Avenue — and her service on the Economic Development Advisory Commission and the Kachemak Path Committee. Like Wythe, Sarno also is a candidate for the Home Rule Commission.
The economy also is an issue for Sarno, she said.
“It’s harder and harder to live,” she said. “It’s expensive to live in Homer.”
As an objective, Sarno said she wanted to explore new ways of funding things like after-school programs and safe walking and bike paths. She noted that because of the tight city budget, it’s hard to support such things.
“I think the answer lies in working closely with business, with nonprofits, to create a way to fund — bringing in donations, materials, bringing in thousands and thousands of hours of volunteers,” she said.

Beth Wythe (incumbent):
Wythe noted her 10 years sitting at the council table, eight of them as a council member. Basics are a priority for her, she said: police, fire protection and road maintenance. One success on the council has been how the city approaches its capital improvement program planning, she said. With the port and harbor, for example, the council ranked projects together as a group. A similar approach could be taken with the Public Safety Building.
“I feel like we’re moving in a good direction,” Wythe said. “I want to keep moving in that direction.”
As for challenges, “If you talk to 10 people, you will come up with 20 challenges,” she said.
Wythe said she wants to move outside her normal work and social circles and reach out and listen to more people.
“I feel the council’s job is to represent everyone and not the people who voted for them,” she said. “When you step up to the table, you have to be ready to set aside all your objectives.”

Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly Candidate Kelly Cooper:
Cooper said she wished someone else had run against her for the assembly seat.
“It’s nice to know it’s going to end successfully, but it’s nice to have a dialogue,” she said.
A big supporter of the Homer Boys & Girls Club, Cooper said she felt bad the club had to close at its location in the Homer Education and Recreational Complex.
“It wasn’t sustainable,” she said.
One thing Cooper said she’d like to do is increase the local bidder’s preference on borough projects.
“We should try to do more business locally,” she said.
When elected, Cooper said she sees her role as simple.
“My job is to bring issues to the table and open up a dialogue,” she said.

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