Voters reject attempt to write new charter

Almost a year after it began, a move to redefine Homer as a home-rule city was voted down by voters in Tuesday’s election. Proposition 1, asking city voters if a charter commission should be elected to prepare a proposed home-rule charter for the city of Homer, received 503 no votes, or 54 percent of the vote, and 429 yes votes, 46 percent.

In November 2013, Ken Castner and Ginny Espenshade announced at a city council meeting their intent to gather support to create a seven-member voter-approved commission to draft a new charter for the city that would then be voted on by residents.

“What ‘home rule’ means is that we can write our own constitution, establish how we operate as a city, how our government operates, how we cooperate with nongovernment 

operations,” Castner said at the time. “I’m not a big believer that government is designed to do everything, but that government should act in a cooperative manner. A constitution would open up new pathways for the citizenry to feel more enfranchised with government.”

Espenshade, an attorney who serves as the executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Youth Court, said she was attracted to the process because it offered “a way for Homer to decide if we have common core values, can we develop guiding principles for the long-term, a guiding document.”

“This process won’t be easy,” Espenshade said at the time of the shift from first class to home rule. Creating a constitution would require “a diverse group, a group ready to roll its sleeves up, but what a great work for the community. That’s why it has my support.”

Castner said he didn’t know quite what to make of Tuesday’s election results.

“It was kind of like a peaceful revolution sort of thing. I was hoping the voters would get behind it, but it never ignited all the way through. It never really caught fire,” he said. “I don’t have any take-away. I saw the results and it was close, but that’s where it is.”

He noted “fear mongering” had gone on prior to the election.

“People were saying what if it does this or does that, then kind of built a campaign against these not being the right people to entrust something as serious as a constitution with,” said Castner.

Tuesday’s ballot included candidates for the seven-member commission: Castner; Beth Wythe, the newly re-elected mayor of Homer; Lindianne Sarno, who ran against Wythe; Doug Stark, a former city council member; Jonathan Faulkner, owner of Land’s End Resort; and husband and wife Paul and Marilyn Hueper, owners of Homer Inn and Spa.

Reflecting on the election results, Espenshade said she had “gratitude for those willing to step up.” However, Espenshade said she was “not convinced that a charter commission would have led to the type of community building I originally envisioned.”

This is not the first time Homer has explored the possibility of becoming a home-rule city. In 1975, it began a similar effort.

“Homer will have ever increasing numbers of problems that are unique to its location and economic base,” then-city attorney A. Robert Hahn wrote in a memo to the city council. “The change to a home-rule city will add flexibility and authority to the handling of these situations.”

A commission-drafted constitution was voted down by voters a year later. Following state law, the commission prepared a second draft, but voters defeated it in August 1977.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.

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