By Chris Story
Can you imagine what it was like to be in the room during the formation of our Declaration of Independence or the United States Constitution?
Put yourself in the corner, picture the low light by candle and oil lamp with pungent smells of pipe tobacco and stale ale.
You can imagine that there were harsh words and passionate debate back and forth. There is no way that this was an easy or smooth process.
Here in Homer we are faced with a similar opportunity to write our own destiny, set a path going forward for our community in the image of what we want – we the people.
You may have an interest in being a commissioner writing the charter or know someone who does. Either way, now is the time to pay close attention to the details. A balanced approach is required and a diligence for details. For in the detail can come many more problems than solutions.
It is our job as a citizenry to ensure that the new charter is not a solution in search of a problem, rather that it be a real solution to existing problems – and there are many.
For example, in recent correspondence with Mayor Wythe, the concept of strong mayor form of government has become glaringly obvious and crucial in my opinion.
My plea to the mayor was to take a stand on the Ken Halpin case; you remember, the time that Ken’s home along with two other homes were flooded with raw sewage. Ken Halpin revealed to us all on my radio show that in fact it was City Manager Walt Wrede who suggested to Ken that he sue the city for the damages caused to his home.
The mayor’s response to me was very telling, she said that I was “grossly misinformed” as to the authority of the mayor.
Truth be told, I am well aware that in our present form of government the mayor is not much more than a figurehead, who every now and then is called upon to break a tie vote; as happened recently regarding a $31,000 advertisement in an out-of-state publication that apparently the administration had already contracted with prior to the second public hearing and final vote of the council.
The reality is that we don’t need to change our form of government to allow for a mayor to act strong, and use the bully pulpit afforded to them by the vote of the public. But Home Rule with a strong mayor form of government is the best way to ensure that going forward regardless of who is mayor, you the people have an opportunity to reach out and touch the individual who is actually running the show.
Home Rule must contain a provision for strong mayor form of government here in Homer.
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 KPEN.
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