Homer Alaska - Elections

Story last updated at 7:09 PM on Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Candidates for Homer City Council


1. What tops your city to-do list? And Why?

Mike Heimbuch: To keep the city from going bankrupt with good intentions. Why? Because the city's wish list often seems disconnected from the size and capacity of our local economy.

Barbara Howard: A. Make Homer an economically well-balanced, sustainable community. To do this we need to increase the number of viable businesses in Homer that pay year-round living wages. Jobs, jobs and more jobs. We need to make Homer "easy to do business with" by giving developers and business-owners a centralized location to meet all their permitting and licensing needs: one-stop shopping. We need to lower cost of living by putting more folks on water and sewer lines and bringing the natural gas line to Homer.

B. Bring the Natural Gas Line to Homer. Extending the Natural Gas Line to Homer and lowering our energy costs should be everyone's priority. Lowering our cost of living is part of giving Homer a sustainable economy.

C. Identify new revenues. Are we doing the best we can with the resources we have? We need a review of all assets and services, looking at effectiveness and efficiency, to close the loop on income leakage.

D. Fight for our fair share of state and federal funding. I am concerned with our infrastructure: our port and harbor, parks, and roads. Steep ramps, deteriorating pilings, unfit harbor offices, lack of water and power on floats, coastal erosion. All of these projects qualify for state and federal financial aid or grants. We need to be persistent and persuasive. Having our port and harbor ice free and on the road system is a significant advantage. We should begin by promoting these facts.

David Lewis: Keep the Boys and Girls Club open. Why? We have many parents, both single and married who work and can't afford after school child care. If we lose the club, many parents would have to choose between allowing their children to become latch-key kids, or limiting work options so that they are home when school lets out. Families may leave town in order to find affordable after-school care, which in turn affects schools, businesses and city revenues. Having a place for kids to go that is safe and supervised after school helps the kids, and helps attract young families.

Raise revenue. For the past three years the city has had to deal with budget cuts, Homer is on the way to being a bare bones city and not the community that has brought many people here. How do we raise revenues? I don't have a definitive answer, but I believe every option needs to be examined if people want Homer to be a community and not just a city that provides only basic operations.


Mike Heimbuch


Barbara Howard


David Lewis

2. What are the three most important projects the city needs state and or federal help with and why?

Mike Heimbuch: We tend to forget that the state and feds work constantly to help us with our roads, subsidize our water/sewer projects, help provide for policing, and spend enormous amounts of money on programs that benefit us locally like Medicare, Medicaid, and social security. One of our biggest hurdles both here and across the nation- is to begin weeding people out of the system who still think it's a fine idea to constantly petition the federal government for more money.

Barbara Howard: Projects related to upgrading our Sewer Treatment Plant and finding an alternative water supply are generally supported by State and Federal funds. So, while they continue to be high priorities for me, and both projects I feel we should keep working toward completing, my concern now is for our Port and Harbor, recreational facilities, and our intersection improvements.

Without a harbor and port that meets the demands of the maritime industry, business will dry up. Making Homer a city that's easy to navigate will also help keep Homer an enjoyable destination and a safe place to live. Improving our recreational facilities improves our quality of life, and improves local economy by bringing in more visitors.

We can't do it all by ourselves, but we can be good contenders in the competition for these limited funds.

David Lewis: 1. Gas Line from Anchor Point to Homer: Why? Long term cost for customers. The gas line will lower energy bills for all major users [schools, government buildings and businesses].

2. Port and Harbor improvements: Why? One is the cost, two is that the port serves not just the public, but is also the home port to both State and Federal vessels. The Port and Harbor is one of the main economic engines that drive the city and is one area that will show growth in business as it is improved and more options are made available to vessel owners.

3. Dredging of the Fishing Hole: The fishing hole brings many people to Homer or it did. It is one of the few places in the state where people can fish for salmon easily.

3. What, if anything, should city government do to boost economic development?

Mike Heimbuch: I think that if the local population was reduced to one person — then perhaps there would be some agreement on economic development. In case you haven't noticed, this is an extremely divisive issue here. I think a more appropriate question would be "Why do we need to boost economic development?" If the answer is so that more people will come live here and fight over limited natural resources — then development has a dark side. If economic development means more spit condos — then development is the dark side. But if it means maintaining a viable marine infrastructure to support waterborne commerce and recreation in lower cook inlet, then the city should do everything possible to keep it attractive and happening.

Barbara Howard: The city has an obligation to meet the business owner/developer needs by simplifying the rules and regulations; keeping the fees to a minimum and providing one stop shopping. Cities that take on this opportunity are rewarded with quality business owners wanting to do business in their city because it is easy, efficient and fair. These same business owners step up to the plate and give back to the community by being good corporate citizens.

David Lewis: 1. Complete the port and harbor improvements so that we can be the port of choice for repairs on larger vessels, and actively go after government contracts for the berthing of more federal vessels [Coast Guard and research vessels].

2. Sell Homer as a great place to live by touting our schools [we have some of the best in the state], non-profits, our trails both summer and winter, sports, both school & youth leagues, the bay, and our small town atmosphere. All of these make Homer an attractive place to live and do business

4. What are your top three budget priorities / If you had to cut the budget, where's the first place you would cut?

Mike Heimbuch: I don't have 3 priorities and "cutting" is really only another way to say you are denying one of the city manager's budget requests. If I had to cut anything the first thing I would want is to take back some responsibility from the city manager to make the initial determination on how the city's budget should be allocated. 95% of the people probably don't know this — but because of how parliamentary procedure works, it gives the manager a tremendous political advantage. And with the relatively short window of budget review time, it is almost impossible for the council to make substantial changes to the manager's budget — especially on an item-by-item basis. I believe the council should be given a bare bones budget to deliberate. It would contain only the current year salaries and debt payments. All the remaining unallocated funds would be parceled out by the council by considering the city manager's and department heads' suggestions, as well as public input.

Barbara Howard: Public Safety, Public Works, Port and Harbor

When the city manager sends a budget of the barest of necessities to operate the city, leaving a percentage of the projected revenues for the city council to use for non-essentials, then "cutting the budget" turns into "adding into the budget," and that is more positive work. With less money and more overall cost the opportunity to fund the non-essentials dwindles and that is unfortunate. However, Homer is doing well thanks to the conservative attitude of the council, administration and employees. The employees get their jobs done in spite of the lack of good equipment or sufficient staff.

David Lewis: 1. Essential services — public works, water and sewer, police and fire.

2. All non-essential services.

3. Groups outside that are non-city departments that have helped Homer economically; then Chamber, the Pratt, and KBA.

5. What is the city of Homer's major weakness and what would you do to improve it?

Mike Heimbuch: Our biggest obstacle as a city is very simple. We have an city infrastructure built up around the maximum population densities that occur for 3 months in the summer. Police, fire, water, sewer, harbor — they are all expensive and perhaps unsustainable given our winter time population. If we have revenue deficiencies because we struggle to support this infrastructure, then we need to stop being afraid of asking that booming summertime population to pay a little more. And it's not just the land based visitor industry. All users of the harbor and ice dock should be ready to pay a little more if they want substantial improvements and maintenance at that end of town.

Barbara Howard: Our major weakness is our greatest strength. We are devoted to our hometown, and have strong vision for what it is and can be. Though we don't all agree on how to accomplish that vision, I think we can emphasize the strengths we do have:

• Caring citizens with a sense of community

• A community appreciative of the natural beauty surrounding us

• Good work ethic amongst the work force

• Passionate opinions on many matters, yet a respect for others

• An attitude of independence rather than entitlement

David Lewis: I would say one weakness is explaining the consequences of zoning changes in plain language. When notices go out, most of us don't understand what can and can't happen when there are possible zoning change to our area. The city needs to send out an explanation as to how this change will affect you as a home owner or business.