Thank you Homer citizens for reelecting me your mayor of our Cosmic Hamlet by the Sea. I will try and justify your faith in me over the next two years, keeping in mind our unique quality of life here in beautiful Homer.
Kudos to Mike Heimbuch and Kent Haina on their campaigns – it is always better to have competition for elective offices.
As I said during the campaign, the most important challenge will be to keep Homer on a firm financial foundation. This will not be an easy task. In Alaska, we have the strange situation of the state with billions in surplus from high oil prices on one side – and communities, businesses and individuals trying to find enough funds for basics. With the passage of the recent boroughwide initiative to remove groceries from the sales tax, and lower than expected sales tax revenues and increased costs, Homer is down at least one million in revenues. And we cannot ignore the hundreds of thousands wasted, in my view, on frivolous lawsuits, and, therefore, not available for needed projects and programs. I am working with the Alaska Municipal League to increase revenue sharing for communities and our local permanent fund committee has in place a structure to help struggling nonprofits. With the millions invested by the state in weatherization energy and climate change programs, local jobs should be on the increase. Homer is in the forefront in climate change planning and we are exploring major alternative energy projects (hydro, tidal, wind and maybe even geothermal, if we can persuade HEA to put a pipe in the ground!). Homer does not have a paid lobbyist and that falls to the mayor and council to present Homer’s needs.
However, as the city manager has advised the council, there are few, if any, funds for new projects in the coming year and the council will have to struggle to fund existing programs. These problems notwithstanding, Homer should continue to plan for the future and with our general and depreciation funds, we are better off than some other communities. In my view, an additional water source is essential as Homer has the only major good water source. Likewise, we need to continue to work for projects that would benefit the entire area. Expanding the deep water dock so freight can be unloaded in Homer, which would reduce the cost of living here and elsewhere by saving the high freight rates from Anchorage is one. We need to expand our boat harbor for the many vessels on the waiting list and to provide more security for our Coast Guard vessels. Projects like the dock and harbor expansion should bring needed year round, good paying jobs to add to our primary fishing and tourism industries. We should continue to expand as a research center from our University of Alaska branch, headquarters for the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, Kachemak Bay Reserve and the Kasitsna Bay facility as Kachemak Bay is a national and world treasure. After many years of effort there is now a response tug to help prevent oil spills in Cook Inlet, crewed by local folks.
We must address the continuing tragedy of alcohol and drug abuse.
I am hopeful the current world financial problems will be resolved, as we do not live in a vacuum in Alaska. (My dad lost his job in the 1950s recession and there have been at least four serious statewide Alaska ups and downs in my nearly 50-year relationship with Alaska).
In spite of problems, I foresee a productive and positive two years ahead. Come and work with the City Council and me for an even better future. Hopefully, Homer will continue to reflect the existing community, protecting our quality of life, pedestrian friendly, parks and green belts and views, many public restrooms, good year round jobs and a good place to live.
James Hornaday is the mayor of Homer.
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