It’s not too early to meet candidates, study up on issues

Mark you calendar now: Oct. 1 is the date for the municipal election. 

If you aren’t registered to vote, you have until Sept. 1, 30 days prior to the election, to do so.

All elections are important, and this one is no exception. In addition to filling two seats on the Homer City Council (there are four candidates running), voters on the southern Kenai Peninsula also will fill a school board seat and several borough service area seats. Candidates for those seats are running unopposed.

Voters also will decide some hot-topic propositions on Oct. 1:

• Homer voters will decide whether they want to repeal or keep in place the ban on some plastic shopping bags.

• Boroughwide, voters will decide if they want to increase the allowable residential property tax exemption for qualifying taxpayers from $20,000 to $50,000.

• Borough voters also will decide if they want to borrow nearly $23 million for a variety of school capital improvement projects, including a new field at Homer High School and roof replacements at 10 schools.

• And, once again, borough voters will let the assembly know what they think of term limits in two questions that are on the ballot. One question asks if the term limits now in place should be repealed. The second question asks if term limits should be increased from two to three consecutive full terms.

All of the ballot propositions provide plenty of grist for a healthy community discussion on what the proper role of government is, how local governments pay for the services they provide, what are good uses of taxpayer money, and how long is long enough for someone to serve on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly.

Our hope is that community members can vigorously discuss the issues without the discussion turning rude and personal. One way to do that is to frame the discussions in the bigger context of questions like: What do we want our communities to look like in the future — not just five years from now, but 50 years from now? How does a “yes” or “no” vote on any of the ballot propositions help the community at large, or does it? What does a bigger property tax exemption mean for borough and city governments? Will taxes be increased elsewhere? Will services be reduced? What happens if the bond issue doesn’t pass — do we just delay the inevitable and pay more at a later date?

While the assembly should have left well enough alone with term limits, as long as the two questions are on the ballot let’s talk about if term limits improve borough government, and if they do, how they do it. At least part of this discussion should include some ideas on attracting more people — and younger people — to participate in the government process.

Instead of trying to convince others to our way of thinking, we wonder what would happen if we would buttonhole others with opposite viewpoints and listen, just listen, to how they arrived at their opinions. 

Your vote does matter. Being well informed about the issues does matter. The Homer News will provide extensive coverage on the candidates and the ballot propositions beginning Sept. 12. We hope you’ll read and weigh in with your vote on Oct. 1.