Kelly Cooper looks ahead to next term, service after assembly

Homer’s Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member Kelly Cooper will have smooth sailing into her next term, as she’s running unopposed to keep her seat.

Cooper, a resident of Alaska for 15 years, fills the assembly seat for District 8 and represents Homer. The owner of Glacier View Cabins and Coop’s Coffee has served on the assembly since 2014 and as assembly president since 2016.

During her time with the assembly, Cooper has served on the Borough’s Health Care Task Force, co-chaired a subcommittee creating the emergency services highway corridor service area in the Hope/Cooper Landing/Moose Pass district, served on the work group getting the Watermelon Trail rerouted and completed and made the Homer Annex available for telephonic testimony.

The biggest issue Cooper sees the assembly dealing with during her upcoming 3-year term is the budget.

“Our priorities will be to continue to look for revenue,” she said. “The misconception during this election cycle has been that we are spending more, which causes us to need more revenue, and the opposite is true. With the cost shifting from the state, we’ve lost revenue there. We continue to have an increasing growth of seniors which, I love seniors, but that’s less property taxes because that exemption that we tried to do on the stepped program failed.”

Cooper said the borough has kept the budget spending down in terms of administration costs. She sees Proposition 3, the proposition raising the sales tax cap, on the Oct. 3 election ballot as a reasonable request to make of borough residents to help offset the borough’s fiscal decline. Part of working on the budget, Cooper said, will include working closer and earlier with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District on the portion that is designated for education — about two thirds.

Going forward, Cooper said she’ll continue to work to protect the borough’s ordinance regarding anadromous streams, which she said is met with efforts nearly every year to have certain areas removed from it.

“The anadromous streams, if there’s something wrong with one of those, we can amend and have it removed from the map,” she said. “You don’t have to throw the whole baby out with the bath water.”

She also wants to get rid of the borough’s invocation policy, which has proved controversial over the last year and is the subject of a lawsuit brought by plaintiffs represented by the American Civil Liberties Union. Cooper described the current policy’s stipulation that those giving invocations be part of a group with an established presence on the peninsula as “a huge barrier,” and would be more in favor of a moment of silence or a policy that is all-inclusive.

“Those are the only two options I’m OK with,” she said. “… If it’s important to all of our constituents that we maintain that invocation, then it has to be open to everyone.”

Cooper said she hopes that with the new incoming assembly members, they’ll have the votes to replace the invocation.

This is Cooper’s last term in office before she is termed out. She said she’s not sure what her public service will look like following this term, but that she’ll definitely be staying involved.

“A lot of people do gardening and flowers and cooking and quilting for hobbies,” she said. “My hobby’s politics. I love politics. So, no, I won’t be done. I would continue my service somewhere, somehow. … It’s where I’m needed.”

Cooper hasn’t ruled out trying to head to the Alaska House of Representatives in Juneau, though she said she won’t run for office as long as Rep. Paul Seaton is still serving.

“I am so supportive of Paul Seaton, so I would never have considered that as long as he was running because I really, really like the work that he does,” she said.

“For me it’s just a matter of being open to all of our constituents, being reasonable, not being so tied to our party lines that we cut our nose off to spite our face, and having our assembly be functional,” she said. “You know, when we’re unbalanced, we’re not functional. We just aren’t.”

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@homernews.com.

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