Veteran Homer City Council member David Lewis will take another run for Homer City Mayor this election. In 2016, Lewis, then a council member, lost to Mayor Bryan Zak.
This time, with Zak not running for re-election, Lewis faces longtime citizen activist and volunteer Ken Castner.
Lewis, 64, served three full terms on the council starting in 2008. In June 2017, he and fellow council members Donna Aderhold and Catriona Reynolds survived a bitter recall campaign, winning in a near landslide of “no” votes. At the time, Lewis had said he was not running for re-election in October 2017. Reynolds also chose not to run for re-election, but Aderhold is running for a second term this year.
Raised in New York state, Lewis was born in Auburn. Lewis graduated with a bachelor of arts in special education and elementary education from the State University of New York Geneseo.
He came to Alaska in 1976 from New York to work as a teacher in rural Alaska. He taught in Golovin, Elim, White Mountain and St. George Island in the Pribilofs.
He met his wife, Lyn Maslow, also a teacher, in White Mountain. In 1989 they moved to Homer from Brevig Mission after Maslow got pregnant and they wanted to get on the road system. He and Maslow have two sons, Aaron and Robert.
In Homer, Lewis taught at Razdolna School, did a year of special education at Homer High School, then went back to Razdolna. He worked until his retirement as an intensive needs teacher at the old intermediate school — now called the Homer Education and Recreational Complex — and later at West Homer Elementary School. Lewis retired from his last job at Kachemak Bay Campus as coordinator for the youth training program. Lewis works a few hours a week for the Independent Living Center, but is mostly retired. He currently serves as a member of the Parks, Arts, Recreation and Culture Committee.
Lewis said he’s running again because people encouraged him.
“I was asked by some people to put my name in the ring,” he said in an interview Monday at the Homer News. “They’re people I respect. I decided ‘why not?’”
So far, the response from voters has been mixed, Lewis said.
“Some of it is not printable,” he said. “Some say, ‘great, go for it, good luck.’”
Castner has said that if he’s elected mayor, he won’t vote to break a tie. With six members on the council, it takes four votes to pass anything. If a full council votes 3-3, under city code the mayor may vote to break the tie.
Lewis said that’s the main difference between him and Castner.
“I would break a tie,” he said. “…If you don’t break the tie, the no vote wins. It’s not like you’re walking away from something and nobody wins.”
Another difference is his willingness to think outside the box, Lewis said. For example, he said he would try to work with Alaska’s Congressional delegation to get federal law changed so air taxis that provide transportation to view bears would pay sales taxes. Currently, federal law exempts airplane passengers from such taxes. Lewis wouldn’t tax flights to villages, but would tax flightseeing. The city loses about $250,000 a year, Lewis said.
“Whale watching on a boat — that is taxed,” he said.
Lewis also said he supports putting to the voters the question of a bed tax on tourist stays at hotels and lodging.
“I don’t think the bed tax will go away until the people of the borough are allowed to vote on it,” he said. “You have one industry and the assembly who are blocking that.”
In 2016 when he ran for mayor, Lewis had been on a visit to Teshio, Japan, Homer’s sister city. Lewis said he favors giving more support to the sister-city program.
“I saw how much they honor the sister-city relationship,” Lewis said of his visit to Teshio. “We should try and match them.”
A strong booster of hockey in general and the Homer Hockey Association, Lewis said he would like to see more promotion of year-round and winter tourism. He’d like to see Homer promote more the Lookout Mountain ski trails, SPARC and other programs.
His work with the Independent Living Center has made Lewis more aware of accessibility issues. That’s something Homer should try to improve, he said — making the city more universally accessible.
“You look at the age of the tourists, us old farts,” he said. “It’s sometimes hard to get around.”
Lewis also said he would be supportive of city employees. He noted that they’ve taken a double hit with paying higher health insurance premiums and not getting pay raises, in effect lowering their spendable income.
At a city candidate debate held last week, Caster mentioned the unfairness of the senior property tax exemption. Lewis said there’s not much the city can do to address that. The state mandates a $150,000 exemption, and all the city can do is address a $20,000 exemption it has added to that. If the city portion was eliminated, all it would do was raise $90,000 more for the city.
“The fairness of it for young people, there is the fairness issue,” Lewis said.
He also agreed that Homer has a shortage of affordable housing for young workers and lower- to middle-income families.
“It’s a problem,” Lewis said “But everybody that is going to do housing or is going to rent is going to get the maximum back for their place.”
When asked if he thought Homer had healed from the recall, Lewis said, “I think some people have. I know people who haven’t. I still won’t sing Kumbaya at the camp fire” — meaning, he’s not yet ready to forgive recall organizers.
In response to him, Aderhold and Reynolds sponsoring what some called an inclusivity resolution, Lewis said he wished opponents had taken him up on his promise to introduce resolutions brought to him by citizens.
“I should have been called out on a resolution or something in favor of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) or Trump,” he said. “… Nobody did it. They jumped to the recall that ended with Printworks making a bunch of money with signs printed up.”