By Chris Story
As he tumbled over the cliff, he fell head over heels screaming and hollering all the way down. Austin Powers raced to integrate the enemy combatant. “Who are and who sent you?” he said.
The character played by Will Ferrell would not answer until the third time Austin asked him the question. Then he said, “I have to answer honestly if you ask me a question three times.”
Nothing like a good Mike Myers film to make you laugh, and yet there seems to be some nugget of life imitating art here in our little cosmic hamlet by the sea.
The question that you are being asked is not so funny. “Would you like to pay more for your bread, milk, salt and other staples of life here in Homer Alaska year round?”
Now you’ve answered “No!” at least twice before. And yet the question keeps coming back, reoccurring this time at the Jan. 14 Homer City Council meeting in the form of two ordinances that would reinstate the year round non-prepared foods sales tax.
It’s as though the entire $25,000,000 budget and future of our way of life is 100 percent dependent upon you spending more year round on your basic necessities.
If Councilman Burgess’s ordinance is passed, Homer residents will have an opportunity to once again answer this question. But this time with a twist, a carrot hanging off the end of the stick in the form of a percent of the new tax dollars to be dedicated to a recreation fund.
Interesting word, dedication. Webster defines as “devote to a particular task or purpose.” Devote, that’s an interesting word, to “give all of one’s time or resources to a cause.”
Be advised, the Homer city attorney has told the council and administration that these sales tax dollars can be “dedicated” today for a recreation fund, and then in the future can be “devoted” elsewhere. In the con business this is referred to as a “bait and switch.”
There is a very good chance this tactic will work, if enough people believe that these monies will be put into a recreational program for Homer in perpetuity. Then we might well vote for the return of year round sales tax on non-prepared foods. Just remember what the city attorney said, “Any dedication of sales tax revenue for a particular purpose, with or without voter ratification, will not restrict the legislative power of future councils to determine the purposes for which sales tax revenue may be spent.”
Rather than spend an inordinate amount of time debating a regressive tax that burdens the year round residents of Homer, some of whom are already struggling even with the food tax holiday in place, let’s discuss options for growing opportunities in Homer.
What if we “dedicate” ourselves to solving problems that have heretofore hampered economic growth? A great place to start is the arbitrary and destructive ordinance passed in 2003 known as the Bridge Creek Watershed Protection District. The lifting of this ordinance alone would unleash huge economic opportunities, and yes, you can still protect the Bridge Creek from over siltation without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. (The BCWPD is only one example but many exist).
It’s time that we set aside the discussion of increasing your cost of living, and pick up the mantle of opportunity. Let’s come together, not to dig deeper into each other’s pockets, but to use our creativity for community minded solutions.
Chris Story is a lifelong Alaskan, as well as 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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