comment on Homer City Councilman Beau Burgess’s words at the Oct. 27 council meeting. At this meeting, the council voted to take from the Homer community the property at Sterling Highway and Pioneer Avenue to build a public safety building and jail.
Council member Burgess said, just before he voted for the taking, “We’re the head of the family here. If your kid wants something in the candy store aisle and you have a limited budget, you’re never going to make a decision that’s popular with everyone.”
Burgess was critical of complaints that “didn’t offer viable solutions. … I think it’s important if you come up here and say you don’t like this, then what would you like to do instead?”
Council member Burgess’ paternalist attitude seems to say, we (city council members) know better than you (the public).
Burgess would be accurate if he said, “We have advanced information.”
In the case of the HERC building, city government has planned this taking for years. The community was squeezed out of the gym and off the property in 2012, when the city closed the Boys and Girls Club. Community education organizations who applied to lease space in the building were refused (lease income could have supported the Boys and Girls Club). Now Community Recreation uses the gym on pain of eviction when the city so decides.
This proposed public safety building didn’t languish on the capital improvement project, or CIP, list for years, as do most projects. “Public safety building” first appeared to citizen commissioners during the 2013 CIP process. The public safety building is being fast-tracked through commissions and committees.
Historians may mine rich veins of information by researching agreements, secret and public, between the Department of Homeland Security and cities across America who are receiving these proposed palaces of surveillance, incarceration and interrogation.
What agreement is negotiated between a tiny seaport municipality of 5,000 souls and the big dog of Homeland Security to obtain the $25 million Mayor Beth Wythe speaks of so confidently?
So, Beau Burgess, I grant you may have advanced information, compared to the public.
But to call yourself our father? What are your ethics, what is your moral foundation to assume such a role? Beau Burgess, you are not my father. You are a fellow citizen and elected representative. You compared community speakers to kids who want candy. Did you intend such disrespect to the elders of Kachemak Bay?
We, the elders of our community (say, age 50 and up) are active, experienced citizens who choose to live here on Kachemak Bay. As a group we have deep life experience and wisdom. We operate businesses and schools, we vote, we accomplish civic projects, we coordinate volunteers, we design and build boats and buildings, we pay taxes to support city and borough. We fish, cultivate, hunt, gather, harvest, process and cook. We throw great parties. We make great music. We are the elders of the agriculture, fishing, culture, arts, recreation and education community of Kachemak Bay.
Ken Castner said on behalf of the public safety building committee, “We need a site designated so we can go ahead with funding grants.”
That powerful argument was the core of the matter. With the exception of Gus Van Dyke, who was absent, the council voted unanimously: take the property from the community and designate the site for a public safety building.
The city of Homer now owes a huge moral, ethical and karmic debt to the community of Kachemak Bay. To discharge this debt, and balance the taking with a giving, the city should give several acres of city land to the community, preferably land in the town center.
We need land to develop the culture, arts, recreation and education offerings of Homer. We have an economic formula to enact: agriculture, culture, arts, recreation, all cooperating to educate our youth, prevent their going to jail, and nurture public health. Ultimately, to encourage a farm-forest-fishery green belt around Homer. To make of Kachemak Bay a showplace of the natural and human resource based economy that will, in time, replace the petroleum-based economy of Alaska.
That’s our plan, Councilman Burgess.
Mayor Wythe informed us that she will work toward a solution for recreational building needs. “I don’t have any problem saying if we need $5 million to build a community recreation center, we live in a community that can make that happen.”
Thank you, Mayor Wythe. The first step is to designate a site so we, too, can obtain funding grants.
Lindianne Sarno teaches, writes and performs in Homer. Among other things, she is active with the Homer Economic Development Advisory Commission, the Kachemak Drive Path Commission and the Kachemak Bay Wooden Boat Society.