Respond to harbor increases
Homer Harbor rates are being increased across the board. Everything from crane and ice to slip fees and demurrage is going up. Of particular note to the water taxi industry is a new passenger head tax. Every person that crosses the dock will have to pay an additional $2 on top of the sales tax they already pay. Every time the Danny J loads 40 passengers for Halibut Cove, the Harbor expects another $80 as a head tax on top of the $90 the City of Homer receives, and the $60 the Kenai Peninsula Borough receives in sales taxes. For the Danny J, this is a 53 percent tax increase in total tax, and a whopping 89 percent increase in City take. The charter fish industry shakes out a little differently. With half day and whole day charters, it is hard to know the average cost. Using $250 as an average and the estimated 52,000 charter days, the City share of sales tax revenue is $585,000. The increased tax to the charter industry is $104,000 or a tax increase of 18 percent. This does not just affect harbor users. You have to pay to move bulk fuel over the dock, and that tax is going up exactly 100 percent. Every time you fill your car, or heat your house, the harbor will be getting its cut. All together, rates are increasing $400,000 per year.
The harbor is an enterprise fund, just like water and sewer. The problem is that none of the commercial fish taxes or sales taxes generated in the harbor is returned to the harbor. They are general fund revenue to the City of Homer. One hundred percent of the fee increases are taxable, so harbor users will pay another $30,000 in sales taxes to the City and Borough. The City charges an administrative fee of 15 percent off the top of enterprise funds to help fund City government. The 15 percent administrative fee on the $400,000 increase will drain another $60,000 from the harbor into the general fund.
In an enterprise fund, it is perfectly legal to rob from Peter to pay Paul. An extreme example is the $1.1 million robbed from the harbor depreciation reserve, to buy the land for the fishing hole and the land under Pier One Theatre. The City has never paid the harbor back a single penny and continues to rent Pier One for $1 per year. Another extreme example is the City charges Icicle Seafood $15 per hour to use a crane. All other users pay $88 per hour. Other examples abound.
Because the money is being raised for a revenue bond, no vote of the people is required. If you are a harbor user, you get one chance to protest. The Port and Harbor Commission will be holding a public hearing on these rate increases Wednesday, April 25 at 5 p.m. at the City Council chambers. I have a previous commitment and will not be able to attend. If you are concerned about $400,000 in harbor rate increases to fund another Taj Mahal city office building, then you need to be there. If you are concerned about spreading costs where they are accrued, and not robbing Peter to pay Paul, then you need to be there. If you are a six pack charter fisherman charging $300 per head, you already pay $81 in sales taxes per day to the City. The $12 head tax represents a 15 percent increase in City taxes with all your other fees are going up, too, so you need to be there. If you are running $100 half day charters the City take of $4.50 per passenger will rise to $6.50, an increase of 44 percent. You need to be there at the city council chambres Wednesday, April 25, at 5 p.m.
On establishing a justice commission
Recently, we wrote letters to the editor about police abuses. Many people came forward to tell us of their experiences. We heard numerous serious allegations.
We propose that the Homer City Council establish a Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission. The Commission’s first task would be to listen to citizens who have experienced police perjury, harassment, unfair/unconstitutional treatment at the hands of the justice system, police discretion applied unfairly, unethical/illegal prosecutorial behavior, arrest/incarceration when no crime was committed, police intimidating and/or disrespectful behavior, ineffective public defender counsel, unreasonable fines, police behavior causing shame and degradation in the course of arrest/incarceration, and cultural discrimination. The Commission would make recommendations to police, local courts and the city. The overall goal of the Commission would be to air and repair serious matters currently the subject of rumor, conjecture and public anger.
At this time in America when the Supreme Court has decreed that police can strip search anyone stopped for any reason, Homer needs open public discourse on relations between police and citizenry. Homer is a great community. Homer deserves a principled, respectful, protective police and justice system, not the current predatory system. In the spirit of Brother Asaiah, Homer needs a protective venue where folks can tell the truth about these matters without being punished.
The Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission could include a Homer police officer, a representative from Homer’s city administration, a city council member, three members of the general public, and a wise spiritual counselor.
Bumppo Bremicker and Lindianne Sarno
Where’s free speech?
I am struggling hard to understand the logic of those individuals trying to get Rush Limbaugh dropped from local airing. Whatever happened to free speech? If you don’t agree or like what someone says, change the dial (or the channel). Stifling free speech, due to your definition of appropriateness, is nothing more than violation of free speech.
Max J. Lowe
Harbor fees ruin king tournament
I recently participated in the Homer Winter King Salmon derby with four friends from Anchorage and Kodiak. The Homer Chamber and the people of Homer do a wonderful job with prizes and food and everything. It is a real showcase for Homer. In order to keep 200 people from trying to launch their boats simultaneously Saturday morning, the harbor provides free boat launch and a free night in the harbor the day before the derby. Friday night we launched our boat, prepped our gear, salted our bait and dreamed of big fish. The Chamber called a weather delay on Saturday. I am not sure why. It was actually pretty nice. We all decided to stay another day and fished the tournament hard on Sunday. Alas, no fish for us but a great time was had by all. When I got back to Anchorage I received a $29 bill from the Homer Harbor for my 24-ft. boat spending Saturday night in the harbor. I could hardly believe it. I guess the weather delay did not extend to the free night in the harbor. After participating in this wonderful event, the Homer harbor destroyed all the goodwill generated by the Chamber.
I don’t know who runs the harbor but they are seriously out of touch with reality. I have to spend $4 per gallon gas and haul my boat right by the Whittier and Seward harbors to come to Homer. Boat owners willing to haul their boats to Homer in March spend tens of thousands of dollars to participate in this tournament. More than any other group on the planet, we are the people you want to market your harbor to. You will get your $29, but I will not be driving by the Seward cutoff any time soon.
How to trust Pebble permitting
Can we trust the Pebble permitting process?
I attended the public presentation given by Pebble Partnership March 28 in Homer. I asked Mike Heatwole, vice president of public affairs, how much public land would be off-limits to hunting, if Pebble is approved. He said this will be “negotiated” with the Department of Natural Resources.
This gets to the heart of what’s wrong with the State’s permitting process. Instead of meeting definitive criteria established a priori, important aspects of permitting will be negotiated; in essence being a politically-based call.
This raises serious concern. Despite all the rhetoric about rigorous permitting, the statutory requirements for DNR’s water rights permit (vital for Pebble) are based on “the commissioner shall consider.” The statute does list several generic concerns, but never defines “consider;” hence, requiring nothing that is technically defensible.
Apparently, reading a report could qualify. In short, the statute gives the commissioner wide discretion, leaving the door open for lots of private negotiation and judgment about what data suffices, verification, resource tradeoffs, etc. Is this comforting? Not to me.
Support a campaign for kids
National Boys and Girls Club Week, April 16 -20, is the time each year when some 4,000 communities across the nation, including our communities here on the Kenai Peninsula, celebrate the important work of their local Boys and Girls Clubs – saving and changing young lives, every day, every week – all year long.
It’s even more significant this year, as our local Clubs undertake a campaign with a special emphasis on increasing support from individual donors in our community. Given the important role of the Clubs, there’s no reason why every caring citizen shouldn’t add his or her name to the honor role of supporters.
When it comes to our kids, we usually think of the home, with a solid family life and parental guidance, as the answer to nurturing and protecting them. But, for too many children in America, including our community, there’s a gap. Research indicates the hours of 3-8 p.m. are the most dangerous time of day for young people – when crime involving youth doubles – as they leave school and return to empty households or neighborhood streets, idle and unsupervised.
The answer, according to experts, is to provide after-school programs in every community. In neighborhoods with effective programs, most youth-related problems are minimized. Children are safe, they’re involved in life-enhancing experiences with caring adults and meaningful challenges, and they can better deal with the larger threats and fears affecting our nation and our world.
The folks at Boys and Girls Clubs believe every child and teen should be involved in a safe, structured, supervised after-school program, every day. As we prepare to celebrate National Boys & Girls Club Week with our Club here in Homer, may all parents, educators, caregivers and community leaders stop to consider what more can be done to make this idea a reality.
One tangible step is to support the Clubs’ annual fundraising campaign. It’s an investment in our community’s most precious resource – our children.
Natasha Ala, executive director,
Boys and Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula
Rotary helped Battle of the Books
West Homer Elementary would like to extend a thank you to the Homer Kachemak Bay Rotary Club as one of the participants that makes it possible for the Battle of the Books program to continue in our school.
A national program, Battle of the Books serves all levels of participating readers from elementary through high school. At West Homer, students in grades 3-4 and 5-6 read a list of fiction and nonfiction books, such as mystery, historical fiction, and science. They meet with volunteer teachers at lunch or after school to discuss facts in each book. Eventually, a team of three students represents each combined grade level to “battle” the facts with other area schools. Winners eventually square off at the State level. Audio-conference equipment allows students to battle from their school sites. When we finish with the competitions, the books become part of our school’s library collection, where they continue to be read by other students.
The above sponsor recognizes that a child who can read well has the best chance for success in life. Children not only learn to understand written information, but they apply what they learn to new situations every day.
This year’s West Homer Elementary 5-6 grade team placed second in the District and the 3-4 grade team placed first, which enabled them to participate in the State Battle of the Books.
Shirlie Gribble), Lyn Maslow, Lisa Whip
West Homer Elementary
Helpers counted greatly with Math Meet
The seventh annual Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Middle School Math Meet, a joint effort between the Kachemak Bay Campus of the Kenai Peninsula College and Homer Middle School, offered a challenging math experience April 13 to 77 students from 10 district schools. Deep gratitude goes to our prize donors, Homer Electric Association, Sundog Consultants, and Coble Geophysics.
A huge thanks to judges Beth Graber, Karen Weston, Duncan Wanamaker, Eric Fenger, Caroline Venuti; proctors Jay Boyer, Stephanie Carroll, Melody Ramsey, Julianne Super, Ellirene Miller; volunteers Elyse Boyer, Susan Bunting, and school board member Liz Downing; Homer Middle principal David Larson. A big thank you also to the students who helped set up, take down, and participate in the meet.
Jerek Bynagle, Sara Reinert, Suzanne Haines
KPBSD Middle School Math Meet
Support appointment in Service Areas
There are many learning moments when serving on the Kenai Borough Assembly. But, I think the vocal public reaction to Ordinance 2012-07, Service Area Boards from Elected to Appointed, is unfortunate. Yes, anyone who is willing to step up and serve on the Borough Assembly had better have a thick skin, because there will be those who insult you and attack you. It is called, being in the line of fire.
I do support this ordinance. Over the nine years I served on the Assembly, I struggled to find folks willing to serve on the boards year after year. Throughout the borough, there were always positions open, to be filled, by appointment, after the election. And the cost in time and materials to the borough clerk, a.k.a. taxpayers, in gathering election information and printing is huge.
Voter pamphlets that must go to all in the general population, regardless that only 20 percent vote, are much larger than they would be, because of the Service Area Seats up for election. It had been my intent to bring this issue forward some years ago because of that cost, however, I simply ran out of time. So, I welcomed this ordinance.
Sometimes we tend to overlook history. Back in the 1980s, when the Four-Roads Service Areas were formed in the borough, those roads’ boards consisted of elected positions. In 1991, three of the four elected service area boards, asked the Borough to form one unified road service area, for efficiency. Ordinance 1991-18, passed by the assembly in August, 1991, did exactly that. It also went from elected boards to one board, all members appointed by the mayor, and those appointments confirmed by the Assembly.
Alaska Statute 29.35.450 allows for the “establishment, operation, alteration or abolition of service area boards, by the Assembly,” which is what was cited in the Ordinance. That Alaska Statute also gives the Assembly the authority now to act, if that is in the best interest of the public. Considering the public’s often voiced concern about Borough expenses, you would think it would make sense.
The Planning Commission has always been appointed, again by the mayor, with confirmation by the elected Assembly.
I have not always agreed with the decisions of the various mayors, regarding appointments to the Roads Board and the Planning Commission. And in reality, when the mayor decided to make some changes, I was concerned. But I have found the appointments recommended and confirmed by the Assembly to be effective. Remember, the elected Assembly, has the final decision. Service area boards are advisory to the Assembly in all matters. They may be elected, but it is the Assembly with the final word.
With the amendment that Ms. Murphy proposed, the sitting service area board would also be given the choice of weighing in on recommendations to the mayor, for consideration. I believe that gives them more say of who serves than they have under the current process.
In closing, I sincerely apologize to Ms. Murphy for not being there to voice my opinion sooner. I am so sorry for that. She deserves a heck of a lot better than what she has gotten, and I commend her for bringing this forward.
Energy efficient help from Lentfers
The City of Homer’s Port and Harbor department would like to express its appreciation to Jack and Mary Lentfer for their generous donation to the Homer Foundation in support of the City of Homer’s Climate Action Plan. We applied for a grant from the Homer Foundation late 2011 for the purpose of making energy efficiency upgrades to the doors and windows at the Harbormaster’s office on the Homer Spit. The project was completed in March of 2012.
These upgrades will help to lower operating costs at the harbor office, which benefits the Harbor Enterprise. Lowering energy consumption benefits the environment, and keeping the drafts outside where they belong benefits the staff. That’s a win-win-win if you ask me.
Let’s spruce up Ben Walters Park
The Homer Kachemak Bay Rotary Club, in the Rotary International tradition of “Service Above Self”, is adopting the Ben Walters Park and will be spending hours there this weekend cleaning, painting and generally working to improve the experience of park users. If you have some time, and would like to help, please come by Ben Walters Park any time on Saturday or Sunday! Community is what makes Homer such a special place, come and help us add to it!
Too many rights chipped off
What about the ‘no fly’ list? No trial no jury, don’t know how you got on the list or how to get off it. No notification. Don’t even know you are on it until you have purchased your nonrefundable ticket and about to get on the plane. This turns our natural right to travel into a privilege. It could revoke your passport because you owe the IRS (Federal Reserves debt collecting agency for foreign banks and Goldman Sachs). This is co-joined with the ‘No buy” list, no trial no jury, no notification when going to buy a fire arm. What’s next? An implanted chip, that may be shut off if you are politically incorrect. Turn it into a ‘no job’ or ‘no money’ list. We have already accepted the total government spy grid. How would grandma have felt if it was accepted/allowed for government to open her personal letters? Oh, you’ve got nothing to hide? Me thinks our country is in trouble.
Rev. Richard Olson
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