Q & A with Candidates for Homer Mayor & City Council

1. What is your vision for Homer?

Mayoral candidate David Lewis: First, I envision Homer as a Four Season Destination for recreation that includes eco tourism, outdoor activities and the arts. Second, we should strive to become the main destination for large vessel haul out and repairs, Third, if we get the East boat Harbor funded and built we may become home port for many new vessels.

Mayoral candidate Bryan Zak: Vision: Improving our quality of life, while living within our means. As we look towards the future, we need someone with experience in serving the community. Having committed my time on City Planning, City Council and non-profit boards, I have that record. I truly love this city and the people who make it such a special place. For these reasons, it would be my honor to serve as your Mayor. Key Result Areas: City Finance Stabilization; Working against cost shifting from the state to the city; beautification through private and public engagement; improving efficiency; improving public safety by moving forward with a public safety building; local economic growth focused private public partnerships; healthy Homer initiative; continued focus on our culture and arts. 

Council candidate Shelly Erickson: My family has lived in Homer for five generations. I want to see Homer a healthy, prosperous place physically, emotionally and spiritually for many years to come. Where people can work and live year round in a safe place in a world that is rapidly changing. Life isn’t just about one line of thought, it’s all of us putting together ideas, looking at all sides of the issues and finding the place where we can enjoy and respect each other and our community.

Council candidate Kimberly Ketter: My vision for Homer is to see focus shift more onto the people and our needs and hardships. I want to strengthen our community. Together we can collaborate our ideas and develop solutions to both prevent issues from occurring as well as resolve current issues within the community.

Council candidate Tom Stroozas: Provide more opportunity for young families to grow and sustain lifelong residency. As retiree demographics grow, the broadening of additional health care options can make Homer a health and wellness destination, thereby adding to our economic vitality. A comprehensive community vision for an efficient, effective and transparent government that ensures the health, safety and welfare for all citizens. Expanding our port and harbor to better accommodate larger vessels will support increased maritime activities and foster additional economic growth and further develop our tourism industry. All while maintaining our community diversity, spirit and environment.

2. How would you balance the city’s budget?

Lewis: That is a tough question. We have two options: No. 1 — Cut. No. 2— Find new sources of revenue. I prefer option 2. The last thing I want to do is to be part of laying people off from work. The council, along with staff and residents of Homer need to decide where the new revenue will come from. We have had the Town Hall meetings, and ideas have sprung from those. We have two years before the HART funds go away. During those two years we will have to come up with the answer to the budget problems.

Zak: As your mayor, I will not increase taxes. Instead, I will continue to advocate for economic development that will result in increased existing tax revenue and local jobs. As a city, our biggest threat to our operating budget is the potential cost shifting from the state to the municipal level. I will work with Representative Seaton and other legislators through active participation in the Alaska Municipal League to advocate against cost shifting. The city does have an existing PERS liability payment that is currently capped at 22 percent and we need to not let the state increase this cap.  

Erickson: In our personal lives and businesses if we don’t have the money, we make difficult choices with ramifications short and long term.Now is the time that the city of Homer must do the same. Where is the income coming from? Determine what is essential for health and safety. Should private sector fund specific projects? What ideas or plans do we need to reconsider or postpone? Do we need to change the way we spend our money? The options are painful. The city must live within its means. When there is no money, projects need to be tabled until there is. 

Ketter: The budget is a difficult question because somehow, somewhere a group or population of people will be affected. I would adjust the budget and have more funds focused on the people’s needs and community needs. There are a lot of wonderful things about Homer, not just our tourism season.

Stroozas: By reviewing the varying processes of city government to maximize efficiencies thereby reducing costs where necessary and appropriate. In doing so, we can best determine if city provided services and programs are appropriate to the mission of city government. The city council must continue to look at ways to reduce expenses to ensure a sustainable budget. We need to make sure that all beneficiaries of city services are paying their fair share; non-residents, visitors, transients, etc. Non-residents may become a resource to help pay for use of city services, i.e. library, animal shelter, etc.

3. Will you support the $12 million bond proposal and seasonal sales tax increase for the new Homer Police Station? Why? Why not?

Lewis: Yes. The police need a new home. The old one just doesn’t cut it anymore. Now it is in the hands of the voters to decide if it is needed and whether they are willing to pay for it. We have now reached a time where if we want something, we have to pay for it out of our own pocket and not the state’s.

Zak: It is my hope the voters in the October 4th election approve a $12 million general obligation bond to finance the planning, design, and construction of a police station and related capital improvements.  As your mayor, I will stand behind their decision and will work hard to keep the project within the budget or under budget. I will also advocate for using in-state and local contractors.

Erickson: I believe that the property owners within the city of Homer have been hit hard with assessments and that they need to be given time to recover their asset and losses. To burden them again is not healthy to our economic situation. It is part of why people want to move outside the city limits. We need to wait until the economy changes and the other user groups have committed their funds, before we look at any more taxes or assessments to the residents within the city of Homer. 

 Ketter: No, I do not support the $12 million bond proposal and seasonal sales tax increase for the new Homer Police Station. We cannot afford it. I feel if we were going to spend that kind of money it should go towards solving and preventing community problems and concerns. We could perhaps reopen the Boys and Girls Club of Homer that was part of the Boys and Girls Club of the Kenai Peninsula. Although the sales tax increase will generate monies during the season tourists are here, it will also hit the pockets of us who live here. 

 Stroozas: No. Although the case has been made for building a new Public Safety Building, and I fully agree that one is needed, I still question the $12-million price tag and would work toward constructing a new facility by supporting the project at a much lower cost to the taxpayers. 

4. In February, the Homer City Council considered ordinances to ban commercial cannabis in Homer and to put that question to the voters? If you had been on the council, or were on the council, how would you or did you vote?

Lewis: I voted not to ban cannabis. Who knows how this new industry will work but if it brings more revenue to the city, GREAT.

Zak: I was on the council and I voted to allow the voters to consider banning commercial cannabis. The ordinance failed, and therefore within the city limits of Homer the commercial growing and selling of cannabis is allowed with a license. Below is the link to the website for the State of Alaska Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office where you can find information about licensing requirements, as well as the status of including a map of where applications have been submitted from: Amco.localgovernmentonly@alaska.gov

Erickson: I was on the planning commission and dealt with the issue of commercial cannabis. We came up with a very reasonable solution — commercial cannabis activities needed to happen within the commercial district. For some people this was not a good enough solution to the new state law. We had public testimony, and people who were against the cannabis felt threatened by those who were for it. People that I talked to didn’t want commercial cannabis in their neighborhoods. People were afraid to sign the petitions. Consequently, I would have voted for it to go to a public vote so people would have the freedom to voice their opinion without being threatened either way. 

Ketter: I would not have encouraged any ordinances to ban cannabis in Homer if I were on the council at the time. However, if I were outvoted, I would definitely put the questions to the voters.

5. Have you ever been in trouble with the law?

Lewis: No.

 Zak: No.

Erickson: Not really (a speeding ticket in 1985. They had changed the speed limit and had a trap going. Still a little ticked about it.)

Ketter: Yes, I have been in trouble with the law. I have a couple DUIs from about 7-8 years ago and recently picked up alcohol and got another one here in Homer. My past criminal record is no secret to the people. I have nothing to hide.