I was recently reading an essay “Solitude and Leadership” by William Dersiewiez. He had delivered a speech to a plebe class at the United States Military Academy at West Point in October 2009.
In analyzing his thoughts on “leadership” he said, “I realized that this is a national problem. We have a crisis of leadership in this country, in every institution. Not just in government. Look at what happened to American corporations in recent decades, as all the old dinosaurs like General Motors or TWA or U.S. Steel fell apart. Look at what happened to Wall Street in just the last couple years … We have a crisis of leadership in America because our overwhelming power and wealth, earned under earlier generations of leaders, made us complacent, and for too long we have been training leaders who only know how to keep the routine going. Who can answer questions, but don’t know how to ask them …”
Homer is in the process of selecting the city council that will deliberate and decide the direction of our community. As these decisions are made, right or wrong, we will live with the results of them. Homer is at a juncture where it will raise new revenue or cut services. The revenue and services are those which we have collectively agreed upon in the recent history.
The services range from public safety to not-for-profit providers. The revenues are taxes and fees we pay to have these benefits provided to the public – us. Most of the revenue and services are begrudgingly accepted. As we contemplate taking on new debt to provide improved services we need to seriously think of the cost.
I will speak to one item, the use of the “old” elementary and high school property located at the intersection of Pioneer Avenue and the Sterling Highway for the purpose of building a new public safety complex. This property now is being utilized for a number of activities and is available for public use in the future. I do not disagree that this space is a good location for a public safety complex, but, are there other spaces that are just as desirable?
I think of the “Town Center” property on Main Street, or the old library property. I know there are a number of locations which could be used, but argument says this is the best location.
There is a belief that both the police and fire departments would be best served if they were built together. I don’t share this idea. The present location at Heath and Pioneer would serve either of the departments. If we are then considering the relocation of the other the “joint use portion” could be a part of the new facility, or added to the remaining and “remodeling of the other” when those funds are appropriated. The cost of doing a split project is expected to cost more. This may be so, but once again those costs can be addressed separately and on separate time schedules.
The next question is “Why not use the old school location?”
Finding space for needed administrative or departmental use will usually be shouldered and agreed to by the public. Finding open space for public use is a different story. Taxpayers do not like taking taxable property off the rolls to make open space. So, where will we find four and a half acres in the middle of town for “open space”?
Next, how will we replace the gymnasium, now being used for a variety of activities? Or, where will the Skate Board Park be located? The old “West Campus” of the college was remodeled by the university for its use a couple years ago.
The space in that building would make great space for summer programs, offices, classroom space, etc…
We know that the heating system is bad. Once again there is nothing that would keep us from installing individual gas unit heaters in each space.
Then there is the asbestos. Well, as long as it isn’t disturbed it can remain without harm. It occurs to me that some of the not-for-profit providers could use cheap rental space.
As our new council takes its seats, I would like them to first think. We have not placed you there to follow some predetermined map into the future. We want you to think and deliberate and offer up creative ideas for us to support or reject.
Thank you all for your time and serious consideration of our future.
John Fenske is a longtime Homer resident.