By Naomi Klouda
Arnold: Let’s get away from ‘nanny’ form of government
Being a good public servant means asking challenging questions on just about every move made by small-town governments, said Homer City Council candidate Justin Arnold.
“What’s happened in Homer is that so many of the ordinances had far-reaching aspects and at least two unintended consequences for every problem that was trying to get solved,” he said. “The council wasn’t asking enough questions, wasn’t thinking through what could happen if they took an action.”
Arnold, a commercial fisherman and builder, came on the public scene last winter when he circulated a petition asking for the plastic bag ban to go on the October ballot. He successfully gathered enough signatures and now voters will decide the matter Oct. 1.
That was one example, he said, of an ordinance that resulted in unintended consequences.
“Safeway spent a lot of money for brown paper bags. Counting transportation, which is by weight, and the bags – it was expensive,” he said.
“Then they had to move in a container van so they would have a place to store them.”
Arnold, 28, said one of the first things he would do, if elected to office, would be to seek the repealing of certain laws “that have not worked.”
Arnold grew up in Homer and Anchor Point and graduated from Homer High in 2003. He was raised in a civic-minded family who tended to serve on boards and commissions. His grandmother, Snooks Moore, served as president of the Homer Electric Association board and other commissions. Lloyd Moore, his dad, was on the Planning and Zoning Commission.
“My grandmother especially taught me to stand up for what you believe in,” he said. “They all believe in doing what you can, but there is only so much time.”
Arnold calls Homer’s current political practices a “nanny form of government.” He says he respects the city council members and believes they have Homer’s best interests in mind. But there needs to be different questions asked.
“They shouldn’t be questioning who will pay for it, but they should question why get it in the first place,” he said. “It’s just as good to not do something at all sometimes.”
Arnold watchdogs laws and finds the nanny kind annoying. There’s a federal law that regulates how many gallons of water are allowed to pass through a shower head, for example, he said.
“The government doesn’t need to be regulating that,” he said.
Arnold’s experience as a builder causes him to question certain city expenses. For example, the $400,000 restrooms currently going up in town. Why so much? He also questioned projects where the design and engineering stage cost more than the construction, as in repairs at the Deep Water Dock this summer.
Homer’s building climate works against growth, he said. In Anchor Point, for example, a lot of building is going on because they do not have to apply for and pay for permits. They don’t pay as much for water and sewer. They don’t have as high property taxes and truck-hauled water costs less than water delivered by pipe.
“There’s got to be something wrong with that,” he said.
Arnold lives in the city of Homer in a triplex he built himself. He said he can clearly see the added expenses involved with living in Homer.
“The City impacts everyone with these large decisions. They impact people hugely,” he said. “I don’t think the city is anti-business. I think the ordinances they enact have impacted businesses negatively.”
Though he hasn’t sought office before, Arnold feels like now is a good time to get involved in city government.
“I am running for city council because I don’t believe we need the government dictating every aspect of our daily lives, like telling us what kind of grocery bags we must use, or wasting time and resources to create laws enforcing the amount the water your showerhead can use,” he said.
VanDyke: Running a city shouldn’t be a hobby
Gus VanDyke doesn’t consider himself a politician, but if elected to the Homer City Council, he wants to lend his real world experience to run city government “more like a business than a hobby.”
VanDyke refers to Homer as his town, a place where he’s alarmed by the heavy toll of property and sales tax on small businesses. He feels the concept of taxing more to raise funds for more city functions has escalated to the point that the town is “on a destruction course.”
“I finally got to the point where I said I need to help do something with this,” he said. “I’ve never run for any office before, nor did I desire it. I saw a progression of problems where people said, ‘this isn’t right and this isn’t right,’ who can see the course the city is running is not a healthy one.”
Scruggs Auto Repair, owned and operated by VanDyke, sits on six lots of land, each of which were assessed $3,300 for the gasline distribution assessment. Only one building on the lots means he will need one hook-up for gas, but has to pay $19,000 for all the lots assessed.
“It’s that kind of thinking that I find really troubling,” he said.
VanDyke grew up on a farm in Forest Grove, Ore., where he graduated from high school in 1971. His parents kept cattle and planted field crops. From a young age, VanDyke worked, learning how to fix engines, tend crops and anything in need of doing.
In 1992, he and his wife vacationed in Alaska.
“When we went back, we walked into our jobs and quit and went home and packed up,” he said. In Anchorage, he worked for Mark Air in a variety of positions until he “saw the writing on the wall” in terms of the airline’s impending bankruptcy back then.
“We were in exploration of the state and when we came down Baycrest Hill we said we didn’t know how we were going to do it, but we knew where we were going to live,” he said.
In Homer in 1996, he went to work for Mike Scruggs, owner of Scruggs Auto Repair, as his shop manager. Ten years later, in 2006, he bought the business and has run it since.
Along the way, VanDyke immersed himself in the Homer community, joining the Lions Club, where he chairs the vision committee and the scholarship committee. He also serves on the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Advisory Board.
VanDyke figures his experience helps him see government spending and expenses in a more business-minded approach. When money is needed, for example, there are a number of right and wrong approaches to raising it.
“When you own a business, you run it lean and mean in order save money for what you want to do, rather than raising your rates or cutting wages,” he said. “You can’t look at raising rates because you have to think of your customers. You can’t cut wages, because if you want good employees, you have to be able to pay them well – but you also can’t go overboard.”
VanDyke is part of the newly-sprouted group, Homer Voices for Business. This banding came together out of mutual concern for how the City of Homer and the city council carry out public business.
“It wasn’t just one issue, like the water and sewer rates. It was a whole progression of things,” he said.
On the issue of the plastic grocery bag ban, for example, he believes whether you like the bags or not isn’t the point.
“The city council reached beyond their scope. I am against the bag ban because the council exceeded their authority,” he said. “Now littering and fining people for that, that is within their scope.”
He also believes the sales tax holiday from October to June is a good idea and that any sales tax on food is a bad idea – period.
“There’s got to be a better way (to fund city government) than taxing people more,” he said. “I want to see what the city budgets are. If there is money being stuffed away for a rainy day, why can’t we use some of it to fix problems like water-sewer? It’s a rainy day right now.”
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