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David Lewis makes second run for Homer mayor

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Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI News
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Former Homer City Council member David Lewis is attempting to become Homer’s mayor for the second time. Lewis lost to current Homer Mayor Bryan Zak in 2016. This election cycle, Lewis has his eye on finding ways to shore up the city’s budget without new taxes while simultaneously pushing the city’s capital projects across the finish line.

Lewis left the council last year after three terms on the panel. Lewis has also sat on other city boards during his time on and off the council.

Now, he wants to take on the role of city mayor, and he said he would like to find more revenue for the city.

While on KBBI’s Coffee Table, he said the city can’t afford any more budget cuts, but also noted that residents are tapped out when it comes to new taxes.

Particularly, Lewis wants to find a way to tax bear viewing operators, which are exempt from the local sales tax due to a Federal Aviation Administration rule.

“That’s leaving $300,000 to $400,000 lying on the table that we don’t collect,” he said.

However, Lewis does want the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly find a way to tax tourists.

“In the past they keep bringing up the bed tax, but that keeps getting voted down through heavy lobbying by the lodging industry,” he said. “I feel the people of the borough should be able to vote on that or it’s going to keep coming up.”

Lewis called for a grassroots effort to push assembly members to put the question to voters.

However, new sources of revenue are unlikely to be found or approved before City Manager Katie Koester and the council take on the 2019 budget later this year, likely leading to some cuts.

It’s unclear exactly how large of a budget gap the city will face. The fiscal shortfall was estimated to be $1.2 in 2015.

That’s when city residents approved deferring a .75-percent sales tax dedicated to road and trail construction in order to pay for other city services. That measure is set to expire this year.  Voters also allowed that fund to expand to maintenance last year, which freed up some general funds.

Aside from new revenue sources, Lewis also wants to promote Homer as a four-season destination.

“Just trying to bring people down here for during all of the seasons instead of just having the spit end on Labor Day,” he added.

Lewis said promoting the ski trails in the area and other winter activities such as hockey and indoor soccer could help bring in more sales tax revenue during the offseason.

Lewis said advocating for a new large vessel harbor in Homer would also be among his top priorities as mayor. The city is currently working the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to examine the feasibility of the project.

What to do with old buildings has also been a topic of discussion in the race for mayor. Lewis hasn’t given a direct opinion on what the city should do with the current police station, which will be vacant next year.

Lewis did say that funding is always a major constraint on a building’s future potential. He did note that the city should work to maintain current uses of the Homer Education and Recreation Complex.

“That’s a great gym that they have in that building. Losing that gym would be a crying shame,” Lewis said.

Election Day is Tuesday.

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