Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 5:27 PM on Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Vote 'yes'


With the drama surrounding the race for one of Alaska's U.S. Senate seats, it's possible voters might not even know they will be deciding the fate of two bonding propositions and a ballot measure when they go to the polls Nov. 2, not to mention choosing a governor.

Bonding Proposition A: This measure asks voters to approve $600 million of state guaranteed bonds to be issued by the Alaska Housing Finance Corp. for the purchase of mortgage loans to qualifying veterans.

Vote yes.

The last time veterans bonds were on the general election ballot was 2002, according to the AHFC. The bonds were approved by more than 70 percent of voters. AHFC has estimated it could run out of bond authorization for the veterans loan program sometime next year, and that's the reason for getting the issue to the ballot this year.

The reason voters should say "yes" is simple: The nation's veterans deserve every benefit it's possible to give them. A cheaper interest rate on a mortgage is one small way to express our gratitude for their service.

Bonding Proposition B: This measure asks voters to approve $397.2 million in general obligation bonds for the design and construction of library, education and educational research facilities throughout the state.

Vote yes.

Among the 13 projects listed are two near and dear to the hearts of Kenai Peninsula residents: student housing for the Kenai River Campus of Kenai Peninsula College and a career and technical education center at the Kenai River Campus.

Student housing at the smaller campuses of the University of Alaska Anchorage is critical to attracting and keeping students from the state's rural communities. It opens opportunities for prospective students unwilling or unable to attend the large, urban campuses.

It's not being billed as such, but the student housing in Soldotna really serves as a pilot project for all the small campuses of the UA system. We predict it will be filled immediately with a waiting list, possibly opening the door for similar projects at other campuses, including the Kachemak Bay Campus.

And the career and tech center is a definite must. The center will allow KPC to train 30 percent more students for high-demand jobs in Alaska, which means Alaska students can get the education they need for jobs in the state. It's the proverbial win-win for students, industry and the state.

The bond proposition is, indeed, an investment in Alaska's future, preparing Alaskans for Alaska jobs, boosting the economy in the near term with 6,400 construction jobs and attracting new money to the state for research.

Ballot Measure 1: This measure would amend the Alaska Constitution to increase the number of state legislators from 60 to 66. The number of Senate members would grow from 20 to 22 and the number of House members would grow from 40 to 44. Two new Senate districts and four new House districts would be added. The changes would apply to redistricting based on the 2010 Census.

Vote yes.

The goal of the measure is to give Alaskans the best representation possible. The state Constitution says: "Each house district shall be formed of contiguous and compact territory containing as nearly as practicable a relatively integrated socio-economic area. … Each senate district shall be composed as near as practicable of two contiguous house districts."

Without the change, the shift in population to more urban areas means rural districts are likely to be even larger than they are now and to be more dissimilar in character.

Yes, adding more legislators will cost more. But having legislators serve large districts is expensive and can be inefficient as well.

Alaska currently has the smallest legislature in the nation, followed by Delaware, which has 41 House seats and 21 Senate seats. On the other end of the spectrum is New Hampshire with 400 House seats and 24 Senate seats, followed by Pennsylvania with 203 House seats and 50 Senate seats.

The change being sought is not onerous and likely will stave off legal challenges to the redistricting plan.