By Chris Story
Councilmen Dave Lewis said at the close of Tuesday night’s City Council meeting that it’s expensive to live in Homer and you need to have a good job to live here. Sorry, but that’s the way it is and the council isn’t going to make it better or easier. That’s just the way it is.
My response is: Wrong. The Council and City can do a great deal to make it more affordable to live in Homer and to help grow the economy. Part of what the Council ought to do is improve the economic well being of Homer and the opportunity of its citizenry.
What follows is my recipe for the City Council to make it more affordable to live in Homer.
GET out of our WAY.
• Reduce Planning Staff by half: Keep Julie Engebretsen and a director of Planning and Zoning. Remove the Code Enforcement position.
• Repeal the Bridge Creek Watershed protection district. Let the citizens develop their property. At a minimum for properties that do slope toward creek, allow them to use 25 percent of their land.
• Repeal the Bag Ban and stop monkeying around with business and micro managing our bags.
• Council: apologize for the two ordinances that would have repealed the nonprepared foods tax holiday (one would have reinstated it and the other put an onerous burden on business to measure sugar content of juice and code as prepared versus non, etc.)
• Remove Homer from ICLEI.
• Repeal and Discard: Homer Climate Action Plan and never bring it up again. Be good stewards of your energy consumption and eliminate redundancy wherever you can.
• Homer City Council: when the Kenai Peninsula Borough hands you a lot, foreclosed on for nonpayment of property tax, sell it. Let it go back to private sector and be taxed. A lot was received by the City of Homer a few years ago on Kachemak Drive and the City decided to keep it off the tax rolls. Why?
• Don’t spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on plans for a city hall that was not approved by voters.
• Don’t spend $5,000 marketing against a peoples initiative to not have to pay sales tax on bread in the winter.
• Don’t spend $18,000 on I-pads (with replacement language built right in), but remember this was in alignment with our climate action plan.
• Don’t spend $22,000 on art work for public restrooms (oh, but we must because of 1 percent for arts, stop it, and I’m an artist saying this).
• Don’t spend good money after bad on law suits when you (we) fill private homes with sewage. Take care of the people and then go after the insurance company, if you can, but don’t force the citizens to lawyer up and then spend a fortune with our city attorney on top of it.
• In fact, pretend you don’t have an unlimited budget with the city attorney, pretend that you’re not able to spend $25,000 suing a citizen for $1.86 million in zoning violations.
• Don’t spend $125,000 on private consultants from Anchorage to work on our comp plan; that is something you have experts on right here in town and on staff.
• Don’t spend another $100k on a Homer Spit comp plan update; again, the experts are here.
• Don’t force out Pier 1 Theatre and the Wooden Boat Society, and blame Zoning, when just down the street on City owned land you have leased to a former councilman with permission to violate the very same zone.
• Don’t spend a fortune remodeling City Hall; expanding City Manager’s office to include a large ante room with leather couches, while at the same time you’re telling city employees, ‘can’t give you that cost of living allowance, and by the way, your health care coverage is going down and your cost up.’
Whew! I’m tired and yet, this is the tip of the ice berg.
Bottom line; never forget, you serve at the pleasure of the people.
And, yes, it is your job to improve the economic conditions of our community and if you don’t understand that; kindly tender your resignation, today.
Chris Story is a lifelong Alaskan, and broker and owner of Story Real Estate. He is also host of “Alaska Matters Radio,” heard Tuesdays from 12:30-1:30 p.m. on KGTL.
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