Going to a home rule form of city governance carries several hurdles of “if’s” to cross before Homer will see change – if any is at all to come – to its way of doing things. First, a majority of voters would need to say “yes” on the ballot to the question: “Shall a charter commission be elected to prepare a proposed charter?”
Called Prop 1 on the ballot slated for Oct. 7, the first step is voter approval of essentially a two part question. Implied is this: Do you want to look at a home rule form of government? That’s not outright asked, but it’s there.
If a majority of Homer’s city voters who turn out – that’s of the 4,337 possible voters who are registered – affirm the vote, the seven charter commission members will go to work deciding on a charter. The seven are: Mayor Beth Wythe, Ken Castner, Doug Stark, Paul Hueper, Marilyn Hueper, Lindianne Sarno and Jon Faulkner.
When the charter commissioners sets to work, they will come up with preferences that spell out how the city will conduct its business. These have to be done in accordance with state statutes – a list of 62 subject areas listed under Title 29. For example:
• The new commission can’t decide to overthrow the present city council. State law spells out that the present city council would still be in office until their terms are complete.
• City sales tax can’t be raised unless voters agree to this. It can be lowered without a vote of the people.
• The charter can’t put a limit on how much the administration can spend on a public project. That’s because state law prohibits voters from deciding appropriation issues – which is in the authority of government to decide.
Citizens will be able to give input at public hearings as each issue is opened for discussion. And the draft charter will be available for public review once it is complete. Voters will then be asked to vote on the charter within 30-90 days after the charter is published for the public to read. Once that work is finished, voters will be asked whether they want to live by this particular city charter for home rule. At this point, though, they are answering a question more about the charter than if they want to live by home rule. A ‘no’ ballot vote essentially means that specific charter is what’s being rejected.
Here’s another key thing about home rule: the commission gets a second shot at writing a charter if voters reject the first. They can go back to work and tinker at it more, to be submitted to voters within one year of the first charter election.
The final “if” deals, at that point, with whether voters approve a charter. If they do, Homer becomes home rule, effective on the date the election results are radified. If not, all stays the same in Homer as a first class city.
The question of shall we develop a charter commission is an interesting one. On these pages, we’ll try to give as much information as we can to round a learning curve. What’s the difference between home rule and first class city status?
Let’s find out.
This weekend marks the bookend on the other side of spring. Homer’s tourism stretches beyond the “summer” that runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day, yet this is a helpful marker for a season’s busiest efforts. More than that, however, is the original intent of commemorating a holiday that honors workers.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate those in the service industries such as hospitals and emergency responders who save untold lives each year. Let’s appreciate those in dangerous jobs, such as the commercial fishermen and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Let’s remember the street sweepers, the snowplowers, the retail clerks, the telephone receptionists, too, for the many ways they silently keep things going.
Let’s honor the waitress, the coffee barista, the dockhand workers, the plumbers and electricians.
It takes each of us to keep a town going.
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