By Chris Story
“Art, we will deposit the money you need into your account this afternoon. Come in next week, and you can sign the documents.”
This was the tail end of a conversation my grandfather, Art Kolar, had with Mr. Cuddy at his bank office. The days of handshake agreements between banking institutions and individuals are a thing of the past – but what of honor? What about integrity? Have they too gone the way of the horse-drawn carriage and handshake agreements?
My father taught me that a man is only as good as his word. If you make a commitment, honor it; stand by your word. In life, you tend to attract people of similar value systems and character. So, it was no surprise that one of my father’s best friends should provide me a real-life example of what honor and integrity look like.
His name was Nat Perry. Nat and his wife Janice lived in a classic log home nestled in the Fritz Creek Valley. The creek was so close, you could hear it rushing at night from the cracked window in the bedroom. This was five acres of Alaska paradise; paradise you had to walk a quarter mile into – but paradise nonetheless.
After a short time on the market, Nat’s home brought an offer. He liked the offer and accepted it; subject to the buyer selling his home. This contingency allowed Nat to accept other offers and force the hand of the first-place buyer.
As time went on, I showed the house to many more buyers, walking each in and showing them the splendor of the real Alaska. One of these buyers said the magic words, “I’ll take it.”
The full-price, no-contingency cash offer was 20 percent higher than the contingent offer on the table, and would have closed inside of 10 days. All Nat had to do was sign it. There was no way the first-place buyer could perform in time, and the deal would have been complete in less than two weeks with a higher profit.
Upon hearing this news, Nat said, “Chris, I gave the other guy my word. I’m sorry you have been showing it all these times, but my word stands. I’m not selling it out from under him.”
I smiled so wide I could have eaten a banana sideways. This was a welcome answer, and a lesson I will never forget. For Nat, his word was worth far more than the extra money on a guaranteed timeline.
In 1983, Tony Neal gave the city a piece of property. It was a couple of acres on Beluga Lake. What did he ask in return? That a park be created for the community, only the trees necessary to create the park be cleared, that the wetlands at the lake’s edge not be filled, and that a skating area be maintained in the winter time.
For some time, the City of Homer honored its commitment to Mr. Neal. In fact, you can drive down to the Ben Walters Park today and swing with your children, use the restroom or feed the ducks.
But what of the commitment of maintaining a skating area? No. That commitment is no longer honored. Why you ask? No one really knows, or seems to care — except Mr. Neal. In fact, he approached the city manager and asked him to honor that commitment as it had been in the past. He was told no; the city council does not wish to.
Your city went off to court to defend the indefensible. To not honor this simple commitment cost you, the people of Homer, more than $32,000 in attorney fees. On a technicality, the city manager and council were able to wiggle out from under their commitment.
The real cost is far greater than what the attorneys took back to Anchorage with them. The actual cost is one of integrity and honor.
The reason my grandfather was able to walk out of the bank without signing any paperwork was not only a matter of the time in which he lived, but also one of honor. He was known to be an honorable man who followed through on his commitments.
What can be said of the City of Homer with a shameful act such as this? Please speak out and let your mayor and city council know you still value honor and integrity.
It’s time to take back our town.
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.
Comments are closed