Home-rule signature gathering begins

An effort to gather enough signatures to put before votes the choice of making Homer a home-rule city is underway. According to Melissa Jacobsen, deputy city clerk, nine petition packets have been distributed.

“Right now my book has only one signature, my own,” said Ken Castner, who, along with Ginny Espinshade, is leading the effort.

Currently, Homer is a first-class city. As a home-rule city, it would write its own charter, or constitution, as Castner calls it. That task would be done by an elected charter commission. 

“Basically, it’s a constitutional sort of thing,” said Castner. “It’s provided for by the state constitution. It says you can either get together and figure out what government you want and write a constitution or we’ll tell you. The ‘or we’ll tell you’ is where we are. Getting together and writing a constitution is a lot of work, but that’s basically the difference.” 

The petition effort needs 185 signatures or 15 percent of the voters in the Oct. 1 election in order to put the question before voters, “Shall a charter commission be formed?”

“I don’t want to be the guy that gathers 185 signatures,” said Castner. “Other people are going to have to get involved in it.”

Wayne Aderhold is one of those getting involved by picking up a petition packet.

“I don’t have strong feelings either way yet,” said Aderhold. “I picked up a copy of the petition in deference to the efforts of those who initiated the idea…and plan to gather signatures from people I know, mainly for the purpose of giving the home rule idea its time in the spotlight, if the interest seems to be there.”

Gary Mandzik also has picked up a petition packet, but travel out of town will keep him for focusing on the signature-gathering until he returns.

“Actually, a couple of folks that want to sign are still out of town, too, so I probably won’t really get started for another week or two weeks,” said Mandzik.

There is a 90-day time limit for gathering the signatures, which means the petitions must be submitted to the clerk’s office by Jan. 27.

The petition drive may be slow to get started, but Castner said home rule is becoming a hot topic.

“There are lots and lots of conversations. Many people have called me with questions,” he said. “(Espinshade) and I are working on a frequently-asked-questions sheet.”

Castner said he also has spoken with several individuals interested in being charter commissioners.

“The word is spreading,” he said. 

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.