Homer Alaska - Elections

Story last updated at 6:24 PM on Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Borough mayoral candidates try to break away from pack

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer

With six names on the ballot of Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor — including former mayors Dale Bagley and Mike Navarre — candidates have started to distinguish themselves from the pack.

In their second appearance at a Homer forum, Bagley, Navarre, Debbie Brown, Gary Superman and Fred Sturman sought to show how they're different from the rest. About a dozen people listened last week at Wasabi's Restaurant at a discussion sponsored by the Homer Chamber of Commerce and moderated by KBBI News Director Aaron Selbig.

Superman, for example, noted he's not an establishment candidate.

"In a lot of quarters I'm being typified as being outside," the former borough assembly member said. "They've been doing a good job of sucking the air out of the room for the rest of us," Superman said, looking at Bagley and Navarre.

As before, Brown pitched her former Homer experience. She's also made an issue of natural gas, saying Homer needs cheaper energy to grow its economy.

"We need to demand and insist we get natural gas, unrestricted gas from the North Slope," Brown said. "We need the large volume, all-Alaska natural gas pipeline."

A longtime critic of borough tax policies, Sturman also has made an issue of garbage collection, calling solid waste one of the biggest budget items. He advocates exploring burning garbage to generate electricity.

On a question of what the administrative structure should be for the two borough-owned hospitals, Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna and South Peninsula Hospital in Homer, and what changes should be made, discussion got heated when Brown said some former mayors had been interested in selling or changing the structure of CPH.

"I have no idea what Ms. Brown is talking about," Bagley said in response. "I support local ownership of both hospitals."

"I'm also in favor of locally controlled and owned hospitals," Navarre said.

Superman said the hospitals need to prepare for changes coming when more of the U.S. Affordable Care Act, sometimes called Obamacare after President Barack Obama, takes effect. Reductions in Medicare and Medicaid payments could hurt the hospitals, Superman said.

"We need to gird ourselves for those changes," he said.

"I actually advocate Obamacare be made unconstitutional so we don't see dramatic changes," Brown said.

Sturman said the hospitals could get through possible future difficult times by paying down debts.

Most of the candidates said they support extending a natural gas line from Anchor Point to Homer. Sturman pointed out there are other costs with the line, such as distribution systems. He also questioned where more gas would come from.

"You guys might consider letting them drill here and getting some gas closer," Sturman said.

In his closing comment as to why voters should select him, Superman said, "Lots of times I've gone against the grain ... I've always stuck to the principle of trying to make the best decision for the borough as a whole. I'm going to tell you the way it is."

"I've put my politics on my sleeve," Brown said. "It's like the good old boys against Debbie Brown."

"We need to take care of the money problems," Sturman said. "That is the biggest problem we've got right here on the Kenai Peninsula."

Bagley cited his experience as mayor.

"The most important thing is listening to the people and being responsive to them," he said. "I'm proud of my record."

"I believe in open and honest government," Navarre said for why voters should select him. "I pledge if you elect me mayor after three years you'll have more confidence in government."

Candidate Tim O'Brien did not attend last week's forum.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.