South Peninsula residents were invited to discuss politics and voting recently at a community forum. Dozens gathered in Homer on Oct. 20 at Islands and Ocean Visitor Center.
Not every family likes to sit around the dinner table and discuss politics, same goes for communities. However, in Homer, residents are usually up for a friendly debate. But instead of sitting around a dinner table, dozens of South Peninsula residents sat in a circle of chairs at Islands and Oceans Visitor Center, where they talked politics for two hours.
It was the first time residents of Homer have engaged in a community-wide political discussion. Homer resident Alex Koplin helped organize the event.
“We’re providing an opportunity for the community members to come and speak, listen, and learn. But more than that we want people to get energized and enthusiastic about the process of voting because we just don’t have enough people involved," Koplin said.
The conversations that took place ranged from gridlock and gerrymandering to figuring out ways to encourage more people to vote. Along with conversation, participants shared pizza provided by organizers.
Homer City Council member, Catriona Reynolds and local resident Zachary Casey delved into a talk about gridlock in the national government.
“I think Americans like that. I mean, we inherently go for a gridlock government. If you look at the results, we always vote against the sitting president in the midterm election. It’s been going on for 75 years," Casey said.
“I agree with you, but I would qualify gridlocked as more bound. There’s an ebb and flow and things lean one way a little bit and then they lean the other way. So gridlock sounds like checkmate," Reynolds said.
A major part of the community forum focused on figuring out new ways to encourage people to vote. Louie Flora is a part of a coalition of groups pushing Proposition 1 on the State Ballot.
“Prop 1 is on the ballot in November, and that would put you on the voter roll when you apply for your permanent fund dividend. And so that’s anticipated to put 70,000 new voters on the roll who aren’t on there now," Flora said.
High school student Denver Waclawski spoke about the importance of staying engaged in politics beyond the election.
"In creating a representative government is not only people paying attention to who they elect, but paying attention while those official are in office. And I believe that communicating with the people in charge is important. To try and foster a culture that embraces this constant awareness of this government and who is representing us," Waclawski said.
That was a point that even organizer, Alex Koplin- who stated that there were to be no public reactions such as cheering or booing- couldn’t resist applauding.
Koplin says he feels the event was a success, and he hopes it will be a springboard for more community engagement in local, state and national politics.