Today, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Soldotna voters have the opportunity to vote on whether a charter commission shall be elected. The election will determine if Soldotna takes one of the first steps toward becoming a home rule law city.
Voting takes place at Soldotna City Hall.
While voters are not explicitly voting on whether Soldotna becomes home rule, if the “No” vote prevails in Tuesday’s election, it would essentially kill the home rule debate for the foreseeable future.
Should the “Yes” votes win, a charter commission consisting of seven members will be elected to draft a charter. There are only seven charter commission candidates on the ballot, but it is possible to write-in other names.
The seven candidates vying for a spot on the commission are Jerry L. Farrington, Keith D. Baxter, Dale Bagley, Peggy Mullen, Pete Sprague, Patrick S. Cowan and Dan Nelson.
Farrington said he wanted to play an active role in the community.
“I didn’t want to complain,” Farrington said. “I wanted to do something about it.”
The seven charter commissioners would have one year to draft a charter that would be put up for a vote at a later time. The charter would give the city of Soldotna more autonomy when determining issues that are currently limited or determined by the Kenai Peninsula Borough.
Bagley said the impetus for wanting home rule stemmed from an initiative that would eliminate a tax on non-prepared foods during the winter months.
“The biggest burning issue is the food tax,” Bagley said.
Bagley said that if there were a grocery tax exemption, the city would probably increase the property tax to negate the loss of tax revenue.
Another option would be to cut city programs, but Bagley said he didn’t know of any that could realistically be cut.
“I don’t know where the big chunk of fat is in the city of Soldotna,” Bagley said.
The charter commission election has been a topic of controversy. Many around the community, such as Soldotna resident Daniel Lynch, have claimed the city hasn’t done enough to educate the public.
“My biggest concern is that people are uninformed that there is an election, what the election is about, and voting on commissioners who are already elected because they were the only seven that applied,” Lynch said.
Many people, including Sprague, expect a low voter turnout of less than 500 people.
Regardless of the outcome, people including Lynch hope the voter turnout is strong.
“What would make me happy is if 75 percent of the voters on the roll show up, because the rolls haven’t been purged in quite a while, and that would be about 100 percent,” Lynch said.
Reach Ian Foley at firstname.lastname@example.org.