Gentleness can go a long way

Dear Homerites,

Whatever our individual convictions, beliefs and intentions, PLEASE, let’s be gentle with each other.

Kate Finn

Your ‘kindness’ is showing

Through this entire recall process one thing has been very apparent: kindness, tolerance and inclusivity are fickle words thrown out on a whim.

On May 13, Heartbeat of Homer held a community wide “Patriotic Picnic” at WKFL Park. We had people of all ages attend, eat, share stories and enjoy the company and entertainment in the rain. A couple of the kids requested the honor of waving the American and Trump flags in support of our nation. I am proud to be the father of one of these two brave children. These kids learned valuable lessons in “kindness, tolerance and inclusivity” that day as we had several vehicles driving by flipping off and saying “F@#k Trump and F@#k You” among other things to them. A couple of the vehicles were reported to the police that day.

On June 1, a person holding a “You’re Fired” banner, peacefully protesting, at WKFL Park was approached, verbally assaulted, had cigarette smoke blown directly in his face, and attempted to be intimidated for simply voicing his opinion. Again, police were called and the man fled the park.

A friend asked me to share their story anonymously for fear of reprisal. Upon entering a local store, they were confronted by the owner, whom they’ve known for years, regarding their signing of the recall petition. He was flabbergasted that they would put their name toward it, began ranting about how evil and heartless they were, and would not give a second to listen as to the reason why. They simply paid for their goods, replied with “I’m sorry you feel that way,” and left his establishment.

We are all neighbors in this wonderful town of ours. Even though we may not agree on current political dealings, we are still neighbors and should remain respectful and civil towards each other. This will blow over, the vote will happen, and whatever the outcome, your actions during this time will carry on into the future. So be mindful of your words and behavior.

To the anti-recall people, your kindness, tolerance and inclusivity are showing.

Mike Etzwiler

Freedom of speech is for everyone

Hello, my name is Aspen Etzwiler, and I just finished eighth grade at Homer Middle School. I attended a patriotic picnic the weekend of May 13 with my family and friends. I was the 14-year-old girl that volunteered to stand and hold the Trump flag. While holding that flag, there were people driving by and flipping me off, verbally harassing, and shouting expletives at me in a threatening manner, for simply showing support for our current President. To me, that was very hurtful and rude.

This also happened to two of my other friends, who are 12 and 14. It made me feel sad for them for being so hateful to someone so young. It also concerned me that these people were shouting this in front of my 7-year-old brother, as well as the other children there, one who is only 2.

According to the First Amendment, I thought that everyone has freedom of speech/opinion but having those people say that to me made me feel like I wasn’t able to express my opinion. It also hurt because I thought that the citizens of our town marched for me as a woman to have a voice, but by getting cussed at, it made me feel like I couldn’t express my voice. I simply was just showing support for our President. I would have never in my right mind as a young person thought to do that to someone else.

So I would like the people of our community to stop and think before you cuss someone out and flip them off for supporting something or someone that they like.

Aspen Etzwiler

Tourist industry seeing decline

The plotting of the three city council members has had a significantly detrimental effect on this community. These three individuals put forth a resolution that has torn this city apart, and they, and their supporters, appear to have little regard for the consequences of their actions. These three brought forth this resolution, but I don’t recall hearing that they did anything to assess the opinions of their constituency prior to bringing it forward. Some of their supporters are hurling objectionable phrases at pro-recall citizens exercising their freedom of speech, and some of the targets are children. Some people say, “So, what’s the big deal? The motion failed, so let’s move on.”

I remember hearing about this resolution initially on the radio, in the newspaper, and on the TV news (even national news). I also know that some Alaskans, and probably others who heard of this on the news, decided to alter plans to visit Homer this summer. I listened to their calls on the radio call-in programs, and they specifically gave the reason that “sanctuary city” status was being proposed. But I don’t remember as much press being given to the victory of the city over these three caballeros and the ACLU. I can verify that those of us in the tourist industry are seeing a decrease in reservations this year. So why should you care if you don’t have a business that relies on tourists?

Well, you see, fewer tourists mean that those of us who cater to the tourist industry will be down in revenue. That means that tourist businesses will not be collecting as much sales tax this year, and that includes Safeway and other businesses that don’t necessarily cater to the tourists, but they certainly benefit from them. This in turn means that the city and borough will be seeking other ways to make up the shortfall. The borough is already making an issue over taxing Homerites for their “view”; that’s something that California does, but I don’t know why we want to be anything like California. Essentially, the borough and city may raise the property taxes on us all in order to cover that shortfall. So you see, this IS everyone’s concern.

Government never seems to be able to “cut” programs, and, when they try (as in the case of requesting a 10 percent reduction in the library — not a shutdown) they get lambasted for attacking a “sacred cow.”

Though some of us don’t live in Homer, the actions of the city council affect us as well. Ask yourself the following questions: Were these three respectful of your opinion? Did they even make an attempt to assess it?

If you answered no to those two questions, then please answer yes to: Should we show them the door?

Sharron Cotogno

Recall energy could be better spent

As in the case of most controversies, it is advisable to consider the proverb “no piece of paper is so thin it does not have two sides” to form an objective opinion.

Among the main concerns articulated that have prompted the recall are the perceived loss of income from council action, public safety of the community, and extending support to an environmental cause in another state.

The assertion that the City will suffer irreparable financial harm because of the council’s action and will drive away visitors is very subjective. While that accusation is hard to quantify, it could probably be confirmed or refuted by the number of cars and people observed in town lately. An unscientific observation, in town and on the Spit, is that there are as many or more visitors than we normally see.

My perspective is that when I first visited Homer in 1976 I knew this where I wanted to live. I was living in the Mat-Su Valley and saw that in Palmer the very best farm land in Alaska was being converted to subdivisions. Wasilla, with no obvious zoning regulations, was already abandoning the first generation of strip malls to pawn shops and used clothing outlets. Homer was different and remains different today because of previous thoughtful and diverse city councils that responded to the desires of the community to put quality of life, before or equal to, accumulation of wealth. We can thank the perseverance of the local commercial fishing community for the healthy marine environment and economy we have today. My take is that there may be some people who boycott Homer because of the recall controversy, but that twice as many may come here because of the inclusivity attitude. The weather probably has a greater influence on the number of visitors than our local politics.

I have great respect for our local law enforcement and their ability to deal with any increase of population that may have been the result of the inclusivity resolution. Given the chronic complaint that there are no jobs available in Homer it is very doubtful that there would ever be a great influx of job seekers, especially with no affordable housing available. Homer is not immune to physical violence and homicides. There has been a long history of altercations here involving long-time residents as well as new comers.

If one judges the resolution of support for the Lakota tribes as “offensive” (Resolution 16-121) we should envision a similar scenario in our community. What if … an oil company had struck oil on Crossman Ridge above the Bridge Creek reservoir? To economically develop the oil well they would need to place an oil pipeline under the reservoir, which is the only source of drinking water for most of Homer. It would be a devastating blow to Homer and the outlying areas that rely on that water if it were contaminated by oil. Would we appreciate and welcome outside support to protect our water, just as the Lacota tribes did? Of course, we would! Previous city councils have reached out to form international bridges and articulate positions of support, including sister city arrangements with Japan and Russia, and declaring Homer to be a nuclear-free zone. These were symbolic gestures of friendship, goodwill, and peace. I don’t believe any of those councils were accused of political activism. I want the city council to have a broad perspective and look beyond the city limits and political boundaries for direction.

It has been said many times that America is the wealthiest, most powerful nation ever to exist. Yet there seems to be an insatiable quest for ever more wealth at the expense of the environment and plain old civility. Some of our newer residents may not be aware that lease tracts in Kachemak Bay had been auctioned off for oil and gas drilling in the 1970’s. It was the fortuitous event of the drilling rig George Ferris getting stuck in the mud in 1976, and the perseverance of the local commercial fishing community, that are responsible for the healthy marine environment we have today. (Google search “oil leases in Kachemak Bay”) One can imagine the debate today that might rage between those that would favor a bay full of drilling platforms and the new jobs they would create vs the fishing industry and eco-tourism as an economic engine. If significant quantities of oil had been discovered, Homer could have easily been a refinery town.

Words and actions matter. Many people found it particularly offensive to see the “You’re Fired” sign at the recall headquarters. Our society stigmatizes actions such as firing, recall, arrest, court martial, and impeachment to name a few. No one wants a label like that on their resume. I am particularly concerned that this is an attack on city council members who are community volunteers. These individuals devote an innumerable number of hours to serve the community without any compensation. It is reprehensible that they are being attacked for listening and responding to their constituents.

There are hundreds of volunteers contributing thousands of hours to this city/area each year. I have volunteered for the past 26 years at the Fire Department. Many volunteers have contributed much more to the community. Are we willing to accept a new normal where anyone with a differing ideology is subject to attack and ridicule? We need to return to a more respectful civil discourse or few people will volunteer for the city council.

The sense of civility and Christianity I was raised with does not at all resemble the hateful rhetoric broadcast from the national level to the local level that we now hear daily. While this type of language might make for popular television it is not conducive to good governance. It is particularly troubling that the recall issue has brought this behavior to the Homer area, a place that we all love.

Imagine if the energies expended by both sides of this controversy were directed to achieving something more productive like maintaining the quality of our clean air and water. The EPA, signed into law in 1970 by President Nixon (R) is slated to be gutted under the present administration. If the waters of Kachemak Bay become polluted, that would constitute devastating irreparable financial harm to the City of Homer and surrounding area.

Please vote NO on the recall.

Doug Van Patten

Retired soil scientist,

U.S. Navy veteran

Let’s agree to disagree

My grandfather was an FDR Democrat, my father a Goldwater Republican. They were the leaders of their respective factions at all family gatherings. Initially, I watched from the sidelines as a family full of intense, educated, opinionated and often argumentative people went at it. Aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, cousins and even an unfortunate, or maybe amused friend or visitor, aligned themselves with one side or the other. It didn’t matter if it was Thanksgiving or Christmas, politics was going to emerge as a “discussion,” despite my mother’s endless pleas for civility. Afterwards everybody played card games, board games or, in the case of the younger set, outside games. The intensity and desire to “win” remained at the same level even as the alliances transformed. Suddenly my brother, a fierce dinner conversation foe, was the key receiver in our “must-win” football game against the cousins.

When the games, discussions and arguments were over, if not ever settled, we drank, laughed, told jokes and stories and stood around the grand piano as my professional musician aunt led everybody in song. We interacted as if nothing had ever happened. Our commonality and care for each other always transcended our differences. We worked on projects, again with my grandfather and father leading the charge, working side by side without a trace of the passionate tension that had so recently consumed their attention. Nobody carried any baggage forward. We never considered disliking or carrying anger towards another forward because of their political slant, anymore than we would if we battled them in cribbage, Risk or football.

One of the things I love about Homer is that in many respects, it reminds me of my family. People don’t pull punches, they aren’t afraid to say what they think. We may vehemently disagree with each other but it doesn’t diminish our respect and love for each other as we work, play and come together side by side in countless community worthy endeavors.

Indeed, as far as I’m concerned I’m more concerned about who you are than what you think. There are people who see eye to eye with me with whom I want nothing to do with when the chips are down, and something really needs to be accomplished. Conversely, there are some with whom I have fierce disagreements with politically who would be my first choice in when someone or something needs our collective help.

Homer is full of great people who have different ideas, but share the same general vision of making a better and stronger community. They are willing to put their energy, their time and their money towards that end. Do we really want to ban people from the dinner table for disagreeing with us? We don’t need to storm out of the meal because we’re angry that others don’t see things the same way. I can say unequivocally that if everybody in my family took every political argument to the extreme, our family would have disintegrated in short order.

I fear that Homer is heading down that path with what I can’t help but see as an overreaction. I know Catriona Reynolds, David Lewis and Donna Alderhold personally and they are good people who care about Homer as much or more than most of us. If you claim otherwise, I’m guessing that you don’t actually know them. Booting them from our collective table in a hostile and divisive action for what amounts to just being politicians is only going to make our “family” more divided and angry.

How about if we agree to disagree and get back to sitting down beside one another and/or working together?

Jim Stearns

Thank you

I want to say thanks to the generous and helpful community members, clubs, and businesses that continue to support West Homer Elementary/Fireweed Academy staff and students throughout the school year. Some of the shout outs are:

West Homer Elementary PTO — continual support of our students and staff. We are fortunate to have such an amazing and dedicated group of people involved.

Community Schools — Mike Illg — continued support and generous donation of community rec passes for students and staff for our Healthy Futures program;

Alaska Training Room (ATR) — Mary Jo Campbell Cambridge — generous donation of monthly passes to ATR for staff in support of our Healthy Futures program;

Kachemak Bay Running Club — Purchasing and supplying the Mileage Club Marathon t-shirts in support our spring Mileage Club program. The t-shirts are worn proudly by the kids who make the marathon level.

SVT Dental Clinic — Jennifer Hayes and Monica Anderson took time out of their busy day and enthusiastically taught our third graders oral hygiene. Lots of beautiful smiles all around.

Kachemak Bay Lion’s Club — the unflappable Kari Youngblood and her wonderful assistants Virginia and Esther — providing vision screens to our students with their photo-screener. Not an easy task and they agreed to come back next school year.

And thanks to our many wonderful parent volunteers who help make things happen. I’d like to say a special thanks to Claire Hrenchir for giving up her day to help me do heights and weights for all our students.

We appreciate all that you do for our schools.

Laura Peek, RN, school nurse

West Homer Elementary

Fireweed Academy 3rd-6th