Despite one member expressing “buyer’s remorse,” the Homer City Council narrowly approved spending $31,000 on an advertisement at its meeting Monday night. The eight-page advertisement will appear in “North to the Future,” a coffee table book published by Wyndham Publications in Kirkland, Washington.
The fifth edition of the book is being put together now and once it’s finished, it will be distributed to members of the Alaska State Legislature, the state Congressional delegation and various other traveling state dignitaries.
The fourth edition came out in 2010 and is 321 pages long. It features large, glossy photos of various facets of Alaska life and sections written by prominent Alaskans, like Senator Lisa Murkowski. It has sections on Alaska Native culture, early Alaska history and the economics of present-day Alaska.
One section focuses on various communities in Alaska. In the past, both Seward and Kenai have paid to have their cities featured. For the new edition, the publishers wanted to focus on just one Alaskan community. And for the price of $31,000, it looks like the City of Homer will get the honor.
Although Homer City Council members discussed the advertisement at their March 10th meeting and appeared to give the green light to City Manager Walt Wrede to proceed, some members balked when the official ordinance came up Monday night.
"I'm experiencing buyer's remorse on this project," said council member Bryan Zak. "Having been able to put a little more thought into it, I'm not going to vote in favor of this."
That’s council member Bryan Zak. Council members Francie Roberts and Gus Van Dyke also expressed reservations about spending the money. Van Dyke wondered if maybe that money might be better spent doing some local advertising.
Jim Lavrakas is executive director of the Homer Chamber of Commerce. He said that in his years as a photographer for the Anchorage Daily News, he thought it “unusual” that a publication would ask for payment from the subject of a story.
Lavrakas also wondered about the distribution of the book, noting that staffers in both Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich's office told him that they had never seen the publication before.
Mayor Beth Wythe reminded council members that they had already given an unofficial go-ahead on the project last month. She said she recognizes that the money is going toward a paid advertisement, as opposed to a newspaper or magazine article.
"It's a different level of advertisement than anything we're going to get locally," she said. "It can be distributed locally, nationally and internationally (and) it gives us an outreach that we just don't have access to right now."
Wythe ended up having the final say in the matter. After the official vote ended in a 3-to-3 tie, Wythe cast the final and decisive “yes” vote.
No decision has been made on what exactly the content of the ad will be. Last month, Wrede said there would be graphics and text and city staff would likely design it themselves, with help from the book’s publisher.