I like my political leaders to be one-quarter aspirational and three-quarters grounded in reality. Mayors, like business leaders, need to look out for good opportunities, adapt to changing environments and set the course with long-range planning. Mostly we ask them to be predictable, conservative in a sense and follow reasonable plans.
I personally don’t appreciate city council members or mayors who willfully disregard court orders and cost the city indefensible legal costs — for example, the headline in the Feb. 19 Homer News “Judge orders city to explain why it’s not following condo decisions.”
In the Homer News article about building a new public safety building Oct. 29, 2014, Mayor Beth Wythe, is quoted as saying, “I do believe in miracles.”
Believing in miracles is inspiring if you are a hockey coach, but it is not a business strategy for a small town mayor.
A decade ago every American seemed to be able to afford (on borrowed money) a McMansion with a four-car garage full of toys. Times changed. What seemed miraculous became a fallacy. The city wants to build an $18 million-$28 million public safety building.
This is a worthy goal, but is it based in reality or aspirational?
The state is cancelling all of its mega-projects. But the city is going to carry on? The mayor certainly has read the capital budgets and noticed the lack of state funding for projects such as this. How long is it going to take to change course? How much money does the city have saved or committed to the new public safety building — anything — even 10 percent?
Every day that goes by more and more city funding goes to engineering and planning for a project that is not going to happen.
In 2008 the city foisted a similar but far less costly project on Homer residents for a mega-city hall and town square project. Remember that was a $12-million dollar project with an $8 million dollar bond. Hundreds of thousands of planning dollars spent and two out of three voters said “nyet.”
City Hall got remodeled, the university stayed put, and beautiful, functional and more affordable alternatives were built.
I am ready for the city to put forward the one or two million dollar proposal for future public safety buildings. It should include remodeling and using the existing site of the police, fire and borough maintenance buildings.
Has anyone noticed that Homer is not growing, but the city wants a vastly expanded and costly public safety complex?
My recommendations to the city: Spend your time and our money on building recreation programs for people who live here in the winter, on being an attractive town for families with kids who might want to move here and on economic development by being an easier place to build and to do business.
Buck Laukitis is a Homer business owner, a commercial fisherman and a sustainable fishery management advocate. He resides just outside the city limits.