I am so proud of the flexible, creative ways Homer businesses rose to the challenge of COVID-19. I saw a strong on- line presence, I noted changes in hours of operation, curb side service became a buzz word and owners encouraged masks by providing them to all customers. Hand sanitizer was at the front door. I was pleased that Pioneer Avenue became the graduation stage for the class of 2020. The Peony Festival brought visitors to admire the beautiful blossoms; many of them were right on Pioneer Avenue.
When I ran for office in 2017, I offered my point of view that it was time to revitalize downtown Homer. Here we are three years later, and certain things have improved in that direction. Thanks to the great state of Alaska, not only has Pioneer Avenue been re-paved (remember the potholes?), we now have a stoplight at the intersection on Main Street and the Sterling Highway. The city has also extended Greatland Street along with sidewalks connecting Sterling Highway with Pioneer Avenue. The council has upgraded the sign ordinance to be fair and more inclusive for properties with more than one business sited thereon. The city council also has passed an ordinance appropriating funding for the purpose of developing a Wayfinding-Streetscape Plan for our city. Additionally, more focus has been placed on improving handicap accessibility on trails, parks, and other city facilities. A good example of this is the cooperative efforts of volunteers along with city funding in the project to improve the Poopdeck Trail, which is a well-used north-south route for pedestrians.
It is obvious that some positive energy is being focused toward that revitalization goal, but there is much that could still be done. The options for downtown visitor parking are lacking. It would be ideal if a property could be developed to provide fee-parking for motor homes and the cars of those visitors who would enjoy getting out of their vehicles and walking along Pioneer Avenue. With an increase in pedestrian traffic, the City of Homer would see the need for more cross walks and provide more benches for just-plain sitting and enjoying the view. It is easy to become complacent with Homer’s status-quo, but I am all for thinking outside of the box. I moved to Homer 35 years ago and remember how things once were. We, as a community, have come a long way.
When I consider the future of this wonderful cosmic hamlet, I know we are on the right course to become a more user-friendly, vibrant, and attractive city.
I have found that the most effective city council member is one who listens. Hopefully, you agree with the goals I present here. If you have positive suggestions on how we can do better as a city/community, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Caroline Venuti is a lifelong Alaskan with a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in education and school administration. She is the coordinator of the Learning Resource Center at Kachemak Bay Campus. She is a member of the city council running for reelection.