As a recent graduate of Homer’s first Citizen’s Academy, I herewith present my report:
Ten to 12 citizens participated in the six weekly presentations, along with several city staff, Councilwoman Barbara Howard (who initially proposed the academy), and the city manager, Walt Wrede. A minimum of two-and-a-half hours each week were dedicated to a specific department, with the presentation made by that department’s head.
Typically, a classroom presentation came first, during which a basic meal from local vendors was provided. (My favorite was the outstanding clam chowder provided for the Port and Harbor night). That was followed by a field trip to tour their facility. My overall impression is that operating the city infrastructure is a more involved and demanding process than I had expected, even considering my previous understanding of city functions. Apparently, there is no broad-based cheap alternative to providing basic city services.
Yes, it’s true that Homer overbuilt water and sewer capacity, anticipating continual significant growth. But all departments are apparently struggling with meeting the demands placed upon them by the citizens, and equally important, complying with state and federal rules and regulations. Clearly proper city job performance requires educated, trained and motivated personnel. I admit to being very favorably impressed by the high caliber and dedication of many city employees.
There was, however, no discussion about employee pay and benefits, so I’m not prepared to state unequivocally that some fat doesn’t exist in compensation provided.
During the presentation, the attitude and demeanor of each department head was very open and forthright, accepting and responding to all questions. I didn’t detect any resentment or unwarranted evasion to any question — legitimate or otherwise. For the most part, I believe that sense of openness reflected their general sense of propriety, as well as reflecting the will of City Manager Walt Wrede.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that henceforth, your individual efforts to interact with city government won’t seem perverse and frustrating. It is, after all, a bureaucracy, dedicated to performing a specific function. And it doesn’t necessarily guarantee it’ll play well with individual citizens, or, for that matter, other city departments.
So, was it worth it? When staff preparation time is factored in, I expect that the academy will cost – this first time, anyway – significantly more than the allotted $4,000. And, of course, my seemingly free supper of delicious clam chowder was paid for by you, the taxpayer. But, in my opinion, it was well worth the expense, if several of the citizen participants should be motivated to bring their new-found knowledge and understanding of city operations to bear by rendering enlightened decisions while serving on city commissions, task-forces or advisory-boards.
Otherwise, the benefit is more subtle: Less tendency to throw obstructing stones into the path of proposed city policies, and more support for basic infrastructure needs just to keep the city’s head above water. Simply put, the academy made it evident that you get what you pay for regarding required infrastructure such as roads, water/sewer, library and port and harbor, as well as basic services demanded, as in police, fire protection, land-use planning and administration.
Even humans stop growing at some point. Let me be clear, I don’t live in Homer. I live a few miles out East End Road. Having said that, you can understand when I say a lot of what happens in Homer affects me. I use the grocery stores, the library, the hospital, the hardware stores and I am impacted by the traffic. You get the idea.
So I was appalled when I read that the city council voted to spend $31,000 to bring more people to Homer , i.e. grow. I think some members of the city council will not be happy until Homer has a strip “maul” on every street and stop lights at every corner.
All we seem to ever hear is growth, growth, growth. What is wrong with leaving well enough alone and polishing what we have.
The powers that be want to expand the boat harbor, for example. Why not improve what we have. Instead, we could have electricity and water at every slip. I hear complaints about the traffic, so what is the solution? Does bringing in more tourists, more business and more buildings make any sense? Then we will need more policemen, as we have more crime. We will need more firemen, as we have more buildings to burn.
I chalk a lot of this up to greed. I know it’s the American way: “more is better.” But, I think we have a great community here and we should stop encouraging more people, more building — more of everything. I think we should appreciate what we have and simply work at improving it.
Louis J. Dupree
I would like to extend a very warm thank you to the Homer Foundation, the Choices for Teens Fund and the KLEPS Fund.
Over the past few weeks, HoWL staff have been able to present to all the fourth, fifth and sixth-grade students at McNeil Canyon Elementary and West Homer Elementary. Our presentations covered important issues relevant to Alaska youth.
HoWL staff members presented three key topics over two days. First, we talked with youth about “The 10 Essentials” of wilderness survival and adventure. Through this, we encouraged students to make their own survival kits containing items advantageous to surviving in the wild and remote places of Alaska.
Next, HoWL staff presented youth with the concept of environmental stewardship, challenging them to take strides to be stewards in their communities and to “Leave No Trace” when traveling into the backcountry.
Staff members introduced to them HoWL’s DiRtBaG program, allowing them to earn scholarships for upcoming HoWL trips by picking up litter around their community.
To conclude, HoWL staff enlightened students with knowledge on bear safety. We introduced students to HoWL’s bear game, tasking them to act fast when presented with different types of bear encounters. None of this would have been possible without the generous support of the Homer Foundation, the Choices for Teens Fund and the KLEPS Fund.
Next week, HoWL staff will be presenting at Chapman School and Fireweed Academy. We hope to be present in schools around Homer for years to come. Thank you Homer, for supporting the work we do in this community!
HoWL Outreach Coordinator
Kachemak Bay Equestrian Association wants to express our gratitude to all the individuals and businesses who helped make our 7th-annual “Cowboy Cabaret” fundraiser a success. We are so lucky to live in wonderful Homer, where supporting each others’ passions is a given. KBEA’s passion is horses and people of all ages who love these beautiful animals; but we are geared especially to our youth.
The purchase of Cottonwood Horse Park at Mile 1.8 East End Road has been our goal, and as of 6-1-14, this dream will be “corralled.” Yippee!
Back to the Cowboy Cabaret, we give a huge shout-out thank you to the following:
Tim Quinn, for making this his annual priority and “lassoing” all of it together; Mark Marette, our emcee extraordinaire, who rides in from the head of the Bay and “rounds up” our talented poets and musicians; the Elks for hosting our annual “chuck wagon” event with great “vittles;” the fabulous businesses for donating to one more “stagecoach hold-up” for our auction; the cowboys and cowgirls who donated their “loot” and treasures found in barns and who knows where else.
Thank you to Renee Eidem, Jackie Eisenberg, Jeanie and Libby Fabich, Sara Roberts, Sandy Arndt and Sue Drover for “doing their chores right proper and keeping the herd from stampeding;” the Ukulele Society, for bringing the songs from “the Old West” alive; Sunrise Sjoeberg, Cindy McKenna and Cathy Stingley for beautiful songs around the campfire; the wonderful poets who, like Riders in the Sky, carried us across rushing rivers and green, flowered meadows to heaven and back; making us laugh and cry; Tim Quinn and Dave Gerard for “singing us out and closing the gate” to the evening.
This “thank you pardner” wouldn’t be complete without a “hoot and a yip to all the cowboys and cowgirls who rode in from the range to make the round-up complete.”
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