Sprague: Home rule an important discussion for city

  • By Pete Sprague
  • Sunday, October 5, 2014 6:33pm
  • Opinion

It has been, and continues to be, an honor and a privilege to serve the people of Soldotna. I believe that Soldotna is a vibrant and growing community with lots of potential. It is exciting to be a part of the process to help realize that potential as we move forward.

I believe that one of the biggest issues before the people of Soldotna, and one in our immediate future, will be the discussion about becoming a home rule municipality. The City of Soldotna is currently classified as a first class city by state statute, with certain duties and responsibilities prescribed by law. In short, we are a general law city.

According to the booklet “ Local Government in Alaska” prepared by the Local Boundary Commission staff updated March 2004, “While general law local governments in Alaska have broad powers, home-rule governments have even greater powers….Adoption of a home-rule charter promotes maximum local self-government to the greatest extent possible….Home rule was held to be the vehicle for strengthening both state and local governments by permitting the people to deal with local problems at the local level.” In short, a home rule municipality would have more control than a general law city over its own destiny.

This past summer, two taxation issues, a borough-wide bed tax and a court ruling on the non-prepared food tax exemption, came to the forefront once again. As a general law city, Soldotna is required to follow the lead of the Kenai Peninsula Borough. Whether or not you support a bed tax or a holiday on taxation of non-prepared food items isn’t the issue at this time; what I believe IS at issue is whether or not Soldotna should be able to set its own taxation policies without interference from another entity. In short, should we be able to control our own destiny.

The process to make a transition from general law to home rule city will a long one, with a final decision to be made next October if a draft charter can be created in a timely manner. There will be lots of work to be done between now and then. The key to the process will be public involvement, so I am asking you all for your help. Please consider serving on the charter commission when it is established, please participate as the process moves forward, and most importantly, please vote if and when a charter is presented for final approval.

Your consideration is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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