Columns from Homer Charter Commission candidates

Castner: People get to vote on charter

Homer is a wonderful community; people pray together, play together, fish, farm, support their youth, and enjoy the talents of its chefs and artists. While diverse in political view, community values of fairness and non-discrimination generally prevail.

Is that what we find in our government? Policy decisions are not made with regard as to what is right, but, rather, what is legally defensible. The Legislature, through Title 29, gives governing bodies all the power and authority found in the executive and legislative branches of government, and most judicial authority as well. It is a lot of discretionary power vested in the hands of six people, and that power can either be treated with deference and respect, or abused. 

My experience with the Homer City Council is totally unsatisfactory. Three minute shots of comments without reactions, questions without answers, testimony without effect. Council members seem to believe the opportunity to speak constitutes public participation. They complain it is the same 15 people that attend council meetings. I must ask: Why is it that those of us that occasionally do, even bother? People seldom leave that chamber satisfied.

A representative government is a two-way street. There is a duty to include the citizenry in developing policy, especially when policies hold economic consequences. An election is not an assignment of our civic interest; it is a trust which is revocable.

I want a constitution for the following reasons:

It should be clear that ours is a government by and for the people;

Many policy matters are derived either administratively, or by agreement in work or committee sessions. All policy matters should have a public hearing;

Policy resolutions are proposed and disposed (passed) at the same meeting and there is no showing of any particular public support. There should never be a need to change the course of the city in one week;

Due process is not something that is reserved to the state and federal judiciaries. The right to a fair and meaningful hearing is inherent; and

Some issues really need to be run past the citizenry. Binding the taxpayers to a significant fiscal obligation should require some demonstration of public support.

I’d like to address a few of the objections I have heard about even seating a charter commission:

“It is going to cost a lot of money to have all these special elections.” What special elections? If there is a spending proposal that might require a vote, it would take place at the next general election, just like a bond proposition.

“The commissioners all represent the same segment of the community.”

There are three women and four men that cared to gather signatures to run. Anyone can run as a write-in candidate. Not represented? Run.

“What if they write a terrible charter?”

This is the best part: YOU GET TO VOTE ON IT.

Democracy is the worst system in the world, except all others.

Ken Castner, and his partner Nancy Lord, moved to Homer in May 1973. He has been involved in many community activities over the last 41 years. He is a coach, a philanthropist, an impresario and civic volunteer. He has served on the parks and recreation commission, the community schools advisory board, the water and sewer rate review committee (twice), the city manager selection committee, and the permanent fund committee. 

Faulkner: Process invites participation

Just yesterday, two of my sons e-mailed me on separate subjects: one was on Thomas Paine, the Declaration of Independence, and the promise of liberty. The other was in reaction to a congressional proposal to lower the credit ratings required by lenders to underwrite federally backed mortgages, which prompted my son to ask: “Doesn’t history teach us anything?”

This relates directly to the subject of Home Rule, and my interest in serving on the commission — for three reasons. First, we must defend our liberties if we are to be worthy of them. And we do this for each other and for future generations.

Secondly, government derives from the governed, and our needs evolve over time. We should all be active participants in a periodic assessment of what is working and what requires reform, and we should welcome a process that facilitates such a review.

 Finally, history should guide us in this process. If we are not conscious of our shortcomings, we are prone to perpetuate and grow them — sometimes with serious consequence. 

Equally compelling is the old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” We must therefore exercise restraint with respect to changing a system of governance that everyone may not always agree with, but which works over time. And Homer has much to celebrate in this regard.

Home Rule, at its core, simply affords the opportunity for local residents to exercise more control over their government. Home Rule is not derived from a municipal “template” that is controlled by statute, as we are now under our First Class status, but rather is a process that affords voters the opportunity to assert greater control in many areas. 

These decision-making capabilities do not carry over into the daily functioning of government, but lay out in a charter, unique to Homer, two primary spheres of control: 1) How we elect or appoint individuals to carry out the daily management of our city, and what powers those individuals and bodies have; and 2) What direct role citizens have over matters of consequence, usually taxation. Some of these powers can affect or limit borough jurisdiction, which now overlaps with the city of Homer’s in the areas of taxation, emergency response, refuse and a few other area-wide matters. 

Homer is a well informed and active populace. We are capable of exercising greater control over our collective destiny, and it’s worth a look into how this might take shape. 

If a commission is formed, which I encourage, voters will decide on the wisdom and efficacy of the charter and all the proposed changes within it. The process is open, constructive, and above all a necessary part of our growth — and Homer has grown over 50 years. We should all be thankful we have the freedoms that we do to exercise this right, and we should embrace a process that invites your participation. 

Jon Faulkner, 53, was born and raised in Anchorage and has lived in Homer since 1990. He and his wife, Sara, have been married for 30 years and have five adult children. He owns Land’s End Resort in Homer, the Van Gilder Hotel in Seward and Kenai Landing in Kenai. He is a founding board member of the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Council, Paul Harris Fellow (Rotary Club). He has been active in state politics, running for the state House of Representatives in 2012. 

Sarno: Charter should reflect residents’ values

I support Proposition 1, the proposal to write a city charter to make Homer a Home Rule city if the voters approve the charter.  

A good city charter is understandable and, compared to the city code, brief. In a charter, citizens declare the principles they hold dear and authorize their own  government to operate under charter principles.  The general principle of home rule is: City government derives its authority from the consent of the governed.  

After we become a Home Rule city, our city code shall be amended to conform to our charter. Our charter shall provide peaceable means to correct city government should it violate charter principles. Under a charter, curbs may be placed to assure citizen involvement in the city council’s authority to tax, and special assessments may require public support. Under a charter the citizenry may vote to dedicate funds for a purpose.  (Homer’s current City Council declines to allocate trail funds for building materials for the sorely needed Kachemak Drive non-motorized trail.  Trail funds sit unused while yet one more season went by with no trail.)  

I support a city manager/council form of government because this form promotes administrative continuity.   

As a potential charter commissioner, I bring my knowledge of constitutional law and my passion for clear language. This charter is a great opportunity for civic education. As we charter commissioners research and write our city charter, I will be out among the people of Kachemak Bay, young and old, asking questions.  Our charter should embody the values of the people of this region, for whom Homer is a hub. Our charter should embody the concerns of the young who will inherit the self-governing city of Homer.  

People ask if I’m liberal or conservative. Here are my civic principles, you decide for yourself: Respect is the foundation of civic life. Our children are our treasure, to be loved and educated. Our kids and elders should be able to recreate, walk or bike safely anywhere in Homer. I strive to represent all people of this region, whether or not you vote in Homer. My motto is Safety First. Public safety includes food security and wellbeing for all. Our waters shall be so clean our shellfish can be eaten. No one shall hunger in Homer. Our fisheries generate fish “waste.” This valuable protein resource shall be composted and invested in fertile soil. With soil fertility Alaskans can grow more food, reduce high grocery bills, and increase public health. Our landscapes and buildings shall be fire wise. Police shall protect the citizenry while acting within the bounds of the Bill of Rights. Our energy infrastructure shall increasingly use wind, tide, wave, earth and sun to heat and light our dwellings. Our forests and lands shall be managed according to principles of sustainable agri-forestry. With Kachemak Bay’s abundant natural resources, we can generate full employment. With this future Homer in mind, I will dedicate myself to writing a city charter both fair and wise.

Lindianne Sarno is the eldest daughter of John E. Sarno, MD, well-known physician-author who teaches people to heal pain using insight into their own anger and frustration. Inspired by her dad’s musical Italian family, Lindianne spent her youth playing classical and folk music.  Lindianne earned a degree in history from Princeton University and half a law education from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, and became a constitutionalist.  In 1980 Lindianne left her hometown New York City for the Pacific Northwest.  She has lived in Homer 4.5 years.

Stark: Title 29 change would make city more responsive

In my 25 years in Homer, I was chairman of the anti-annexation committee, elected to five years on the Homer City Council, and elected by the Kenai Peninsula Borough cities to the board of the Alaska Municipal League.

My local activities include election as vice commander of Homer’s American Legion Post, chairman of the Building Committee to expand Homer Food Pantry facilities, and supporter of the Homer Foundation, Pratt Museum, Homer Hockey Association, and Friends of the Homer Library.

On the Homer Home Rule Charter Commission, I intend to hold hearings to gather input and carefully review existing home rule charters for Kenai and Seward and interview their council members on the effectiveness of their charters.

I intend to only modify State Statute Title 29, which we now use, where we can make it more transparent and responsive to Homer citizens.

Doug Stark has worked as a city engineer for three cities, director of administration for the Anchorage Borough, State District Engineer for Western Alaska, Director of Planning and Technical Services for the State of Alaska, Statewide Director of Search and Rescue for the Civil Air Patrol and Kenai Peninsula Commander for the Alaska State Defense Force, a branch of the Alaska National Guard,