Propositions will reveal attitudes about government

Propositions on the Oct. 1 ballot will give voters plenty of opportunity to show what they really think about government. Friend or foe? Those who think government has become a big, unwieldy, unthinking machine likely will show that by:

•Voting “yes” to repeal Homer’s plastic bag ban.

•Voting “yes” to increase the borough’s residential property tax exemption from $20,000 to $50,000. 

•Voting “no” on the school bond issue.

•Voting “no” to repeal term limits.

•Voting against an increase in assembly term limits from two to three consecutive full terms.

Let’s not reduce discussion on the ballot issues to clichés about big government forgetting about “the people.” The ballot propositions represent real issues  that deserve a thorough discussion. Here are some thoughts on the ballot propositions as we prepare to go to the polls Oct. 1:

Homer Referendum No. 1: Shall Homer City Code Chapter 5.42 prohibiting sellers from providing customers with disposable shopping bags be repealed? 

This question isn’t about plastic bags. It’s about government’s reach. Some think the ban is progressive; others think just the opposite. What would really be progressive is citizens doing what they should be doing without government prodding them along. There are several things we like about having this question on the ballot, including people are talking about what kind of government they want. It’s also prompted some younger people to get involved. Both are good things.

Reducing our use of plastic also is a good thing. Who in Homer doesn’t care about the environment?

So, what’s the best course of action?

Vote yes to repeal the ban, BUT continue to use reusable bags and ditch the plastic voluntarily. Carting our own bags to the grocery store really isn’t an inconvenience. And businesses don’t have to reorder any more of the banned bags. We all know we can get along without them.

Borough Proposition 1: Shall Kenai Peninsula Borough Initiative Ordinance 2013-02, Section 1, be ratified? Initiative Ordinance 2013-02, Section 1, would increase the allowable residential property tax exemption for qualifying taxpayers from $20,000 to $50,000.

Vote no. It’s always popular to want to reduce taxes, but do we want a corresponding reduction in services? Kenai Peninsula residents don’t have exorbitant tax bills, and they enjoy a quality of life that’s incomparable to most places. At least part of that quality of life is a result of good government management, which costs something. While there’s a fine line between too much government and not enough, the Kenai Peninsula Borough has struck a good balance. 

Proposition 2: Shall the Kenai Peninsula Borough borrow up to $22,987,000 through the issuance of general obligation bonds?

Vote yes. The bond proceeds would pay for planning, designing, site preparation, construction, acquiring, renovating, installing and equipping of 10 school roofs costing a total of $20.9 million and installing a $2 million turf field at Homer High School. The bond issue is about maintaining our schools — it really is our responsibility, but we’ll get a lot of help (70 percent reimbursement) from the state. That also goes for the new turf field at the high school. There’s no doubt the high school needs a new field and this is a good way to get it.

Proposition 3A: Shall Ordinance 2013-20 (Smith) Substitute, Section 1, which repeals term limits for assembly members, be enacted?

Proposition 3B: Shall Ordinance 2013-20 (Smith) Substitute, providing for an increase in assembly term limits from two to three consecutive full terms with a required 180-day break in service before further service is allowed, be ratified?

Vote no on both these propositions. There is no evidence that term limits have hurt the borough or its citizens or that giving assembly members another term will help it. If these propositions had come from voters, it would be one thing, but they didn’t. They came from the assembly. Term limits, however, did come from citizens. If nothing else, let’s let this vote — whatever the outcome — be the final say on term limits.