Homer Alaska - Elections

Story last updated at 5:49 PM on Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mike Heimbuch

What do the candidates think?

The assignment: Candidates for Homer City Council were invited to submit a 500-word guest column. Candidates were given free rein to write about what they thought was most important.

Candidate for Homer City Council, 2 to be elected


Mike Heimbuch

It is a fortunate side effect of aging that many of life's battles lose their luster. We find out late that it takes more energy to lick your wounds and repair relationships than it does to keep your mouth shut. But the simple passing of time does not eliminate many issues which divide us. Nor does it relieve the obligation of elected officials to engage in vigorous public debate.

When it comes to politics, people in general are very good at telling you what is right and wrong. There is a strong tendency to see themselves as open minded and fair. They often see those who disagree with them as selfish and misguided. Too many times I have seen people of culture and class reduced to snarling animals when they don't get their way. It takes lots of confidence to believe that American democracy is up to the task of governing a people with such diverse world views.

Some citizens believe that political compromise on divisive issues is best — and that it is always possible if we are reasonable. Others just prefer that someone loses — someone else that is. On something like a city budget, where there are competing requests for a limited pot of money, there is by nature some give and take. All city departments are important and they must be treated fairly over time. But there are other issues like zoning, large projects, fee structures and fiscal reserve policy, which are not always best to compromise on. Sometimes it's great fun to do verbal battle and take no prisoners.

But I believe that winning and losing are both important in government. It teaches humility, that the pendulum swings both ways, and it builds confidence that we can handle disappointment. It is also healthy to give the opposition a chance to demonstrate if they are right or wrong about things. We can always change course.

The most important chores for the city council are deliberation of the budget and consideration of zoning issues. Budgets affect citizen views on tax policy and zoning affects private property rights. Both are critical to society. But people get tired of constantly hearing about 'budget shortfalls'. Our city infrastructure is built to service Homer during its peak population in June through August. That summertime swell of people must assume more responsibility for those costs if we face a shortfall in the treasury. We don't need to balance budgets by raising sales taxes on the backs of lower wage earners who live here year around. And there are lots of them.

A city's greatest pride cannot be how it treats its visitors, but how it treats the people who sustain it through the winter. Our tax policies and our zoning codes must place the greatest emphasis on the needs of young people who would become the next generation of year-round residents.