Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Municipal Election is Tuesday, October 5. A Few Words About Voting, Candidates and Issues

Voting is a responsibility not enough people take seriously.
There's an old saying - "ALL politics are local.."  And they are.

Well, there's a local election on October 5th, and your participation will help to determine what future course our local governments will take.

In the 2009 municipal elections, the voter turnout was 19.16%. Less than 1 in 5 registered voters bothered.

Now, even if you don't feel civic-minded, think about this: If you don't take part, a small minority will decide for you who represents you on local government bodies, and what ballot propositions may affect you looking out for your own interests coincides with executing your civic responsibility.

If you don't care, stay home.

I'll be happy to let my vote make your decisions for you.

With that in mind, I'm making a few candidate and ballot proposition recommendations... and hoping it doesn't jinx who and what I support.  When it comes to candidates, I'll be sticking to Kenai, since I live there.

Kenai Mayor:  Two candidates vying for a 3-year term.

Mike Boyle.  As a 5-year veteran of the Kenai City Council, Mike has demonstrated solid judgment.  His 2+ decades as a vocational education instructor and participating member of KPEA lend him a perspective that's more encompassing and reality-based than the "whatever is good for the Chamber of Commerce is good for Kenai" view that incumbent Mayor Pat Porter seems to hold.

Kenai City Council:  Four candidates, two seats available.  3-year term.

Hal Smalley:  Without question, Mr. Smalley should be re-elected.  Hal has a long and distinguished history of service, from the Kenai City Council to the Alaska Legislature to the Borough Assembly.  The various capacities in which he's served - Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District, the Alaska Municipal League - give him a solid grasp of good long term public policy that few others have. That alone makes him a valuable member of any governing body.

Terry Bookey:  Mr. Bookey was born here, and his family has been active in both political and civic activities since the 1960's.  They helped bring about many of the good things you see in Kenai today.  Steeped in that family spirit, Bookey demonstrates a similar dedication and caring.  Terry will bring an energetic, progressive voice to the council, moderated by his knowledge of Kenai's history and his genuine concern for its future.

Borough Ballot Propositions:

Proposition No. 1:  Education Capital Improvement BondsShall the Kenai Peninsula Borough borrow up to $16,866,500 through the issuance of general obligation bonds?

Vote "Yes." 
This is sort of a no-brainer.  The Kenai Peninsula Borough schools are a valuable investment, and frankly, many of the structures are getting old.  Over the years, roofs have been diligently maintained, and the Assembly has appropriated funds for limited replacement, but that funding has not matched the need.   There simply comes a time when maintenance is not enough, and major replacement is required to prevent failure and loss of the building and its contents.

Since bonding for each roof project will not occur unless steps are taken to ensure that the project qualifies for 70% debt reimbursement from the state, there is strong reason to believe the Borough indebtedness will be reimbursed if the Alaska Legislature makes funds available.

Under that scenario, the property taxpayer's cost to retire the debt is $5.78 per $100,000 of assessed real or personal property value (in my case, about $8.67) per year.

What happens if the Alaska legislature DOESN'T come through, and the Borough picks up the whole tab to retire the debt?  Then it will cost the property taxpayer $19.28 per $100,000 of assessed property value (in my case, about $28.92) per year.

Realistically, it's a pretty small price to pay to protect Borough educational facilities worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Proposition No 2: Adopting A Manager Plan Of Government To Be Effective After The 2011 Regular Election.  Shall the Kenai Peninsula Borough adopt a manager plan of government, effective upon certification of the regular October 2011 election, where the chief administrative officer is a manager appointed by the assembly instead of the current form where the elected mayor runs the borough administration?

I could easily argue either side of this issue.

Over the years, the Kenai Peninsula Borough has been pretty lucky in that the mayors we've elected have either been pretty damned good municipal managers, or they've been smart enough to hire and/or retain smart, capable people who kept everything running on a pretty even keel.

Unfortunately, the ability to win an election is completely unrelated to the ability to serve.

Bluntly, the fact that this is even on the ballot says more about the management ability (or lack thereof) of the current Borough Mayor than it says about the pros and cons of a Manager vs strong Mayor form of municipal government.

Voting "Yes" will replace the Mayor as the day-to-day manager of the Borough with a professional hired by the Borough Assembly.  A professional manager will be, logically, more responsive to the Assembly than he/she will be to the public at large.

Voting "No" will retain the current system, wherein the Borough is managed by an elected Mayor, who is, logically, responsive to the general public, but who can often be be at odds with the Assembly.

I'm conflicted on this one.
As readers of this blog know, I have no confidence in the current administration. 
On the other hand, I also feel that this is sort of a drastic,  long-term solution to a temporary situation.  
The current mayor has not said whether he's running again, but if he does, based on his performance, I find it impossible to believe he would win re-election.

So frankly, I'm not sure how I will vote on this issue on Tuesday.
Just like you, I'm still thinking it over.

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