Letters to the editor

There are better options to bed tax

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly is currently evaluating an 8 percent bed tax. In lieu of this I believe there are several better options.

A simple raising of the cap from $500 to $1,000 would generate similar revenue. It has been at $500 since the tax was emplaced in 1965 when my mother in Moose Pass campaigned for it. She said it would keep property taxes down and Anchorage could help pay for their playground.

Another option is a 1 percent wide based “Tourism Tax” which South Dakota has had for 15 years. The advantages are that it is broad based, spreading the tax burden over all tourism businesses and it is almost invisible to our guests, who see it as a sales tax (visitors feel gouged when hit with a large bed tax). It has been designed and proven in South Dakota and we can easily copy their system.

A bed tax, on the other hand, is a less appealing option because it puts greater burden on peninsula residents in their local travels (recreation, shopping, school activities, sports and business) and it singles out a very small percentage of business involved in tourism who is already more than paying their way. Within the tourism industry, lodging already pays the highest percentage of borough taxes in the form of property taxes. My Hotel, The Ocean Shores, assessed at $1.7 million has an annual property tax bill of close to $20,000. On the the other hand, due to the borough’s flat tax program on vessels and aircraft, a corporate owned $2.5 million dollar fjord tour boat pays a maximum of $1,000 in property tax. I understand and agree with this program which is in place to keep the boats and planes on the peninsula. However this does vividly demonstrate that lodging businesses are paying their way and other businesses could contribute more.

Lodging owners in general are not against new taxes. We are, however, opposed to the targeted “bed tax” but support a more equitable solution such as raising the tax cap or a tax evenly distributed across all tourism businesses.

Mike Warburton

Chainsaw protest

People may wonder why I will be intermittently disturbing kayakers on Yukon Island by running my chainsaw near their landing area.

It is in protest to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (F&WS) for violations of the archaeological reserve, their own regulations and normal expectations of government agencies leasing public land.

It is because the True North Kayak Adventures (TNKA) “base camp” was once part of our homestead, which we relinquished under great public pressure so it would be put in the Yukon Island Archaeological Reserve and National Historic Landmark. The public, especially Pratt Museum precursors, passionately thought it should not be private or commercial.

Later it was also added to the Maritime Refuge System and F&WS named the managing agency (Park Service requested the initial withdrawal and designation). F&WS has consistently failed to meet their obligations to the Archaeology Reserve. They treat the island as just the same as the other 3.4 million acres they manage. The permit is renewed and revised behind closed doors without public notice. They say they are tied to very low per-person rates, so the permit costs more to administer than it earns. The permit is a huge subsidy to TNKA. TNKA enjoys such an advantage over kayak operations that they simply dominate Yukon Island business.

F&WS says “The refuge was established to conserve wildlife and marine resources.” The kayak operation displaces wildlife. Endangered eiders used to nest there. The operation is an eyesore and damages the refuge experience for the tour boats which slow down along that shore of the island.

I recently sent a letter and met with F&WS officials where I asked only that before they renew the permit they have an open public review and hearing, a credible finding of a need for the concession, and to show the liability insurance policy. They would not agree to those modest suggestions.

The officials say that there is a public value in the permit because it facilitates wildlife observation. That is nonsense. There are numerous places available on Hesketh Island and Eldred Passage to easily access Yukon Island. There is no need for this doubly reserved public land to be made commercial. After 20 years of being polite and writing letters I’ve run out of patience. People will know that there is a dispute.

Findlay Abbott

Save Title X funding

I would like to address the devastating impact the elimination of Title X funding would have on patients, providers and the health system on the southern Kenai Peninsula.

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have once again proposed eliminating federal funding for Title X, a move that would deny crucial and lifesaving care for millions of Americans.

Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic, a Title X-funded health center, is vitally important to Homer’s most vulnerable populations. If people cannot visit publicly funded family-planning providers they know and trust for confidential, comprehensive and high-quality care, they go without that care. This often results in unintended pregnancies, untreated illnesses and undetected cancers.

Having worked at KBFPC for 14 years, I can safely say that the elimination of Title X would have devastating consequences and reverse major public health gains we’ve made in recent years.

Eliminating Title X is out-of-touch with the majority of Americans, including Republicans. According to a 2017 report (“Survey Says: Birth Control Support,” The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy), a clear majority (more than 80 percent) of Americans support broad access to contraception; seventy-five percent favor continuing Title X, including 66 percent of Republicans.

The Title X program’s mission is to help people both achieve and prevent pregnancy, while also offering cancer and sexually transmitted disease screenings, services that hundreds of women and men in our area rely on every year. If this funding is eliminated, our community will suffer. We all deserve access to affordable care that fits our individual needs.

Catriona Reynolds, Executive Director

Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic

Report fledgling cranes

Sandhill Crane colts are practicing their flying skills in preparation for full flight. It takes 60-70 days from hatching to fledging. Some may have already fledged if the pair started nesting earlier than usual.

Please report any crane colts that are now fully flying to Kachemak Crane Watch. Let us know where and when the colts were able to fly off with the adults. Include your specific location. Any other information you care to share is most welcome.

If the colts you have been watching have disappeared or died, please let us know as well. If you know how they died, please include that information too. I will be compiling the information to see how nesting success this year compares to other years. Call or email reports to 235-6262 reports@cranewatch.org.

This has been a good summer for nesting birds. Enjoy the summer and the cranes!

Nina Faust and Edgar Bailey

Co-founders, Kachemak Crane Watch