One of the candidates for Homer’s mayor isn’t running on any policy. Candidate Ken Castner says as mayor, he wants to help the Homer City Council come to their own conscious.
Castner is the owner of Tonsina, an architecture consulting business, and he’s served on multiple committees, task forces and boards in town. He says there’s a distinct feeling when you lose a decision by a slim margin.
“Think about getting up from a meeting where something was closely decided and jammed down your throat,” he said. “It’s a really uncomfortable, unsettling sort of thing.”
That’s why he’s not going to break any ties on the city council. Castner said acting solely as a moderator will foster cooperation on a divided council.
“What needs to be done, will always get done,” he said. “So we’ll find a way to get the things that have to be done done.”
Castner says his position on policy also extends to mayoral proclamations, which he says he’ll avoid.
“I can’t really discern between something that’s innocuous and something that’s pointed,” he said. “To me, proclamations take up a lot of council time because it’s not only reading the proclamation but then somebody usually comes in to receive the proclamation and then they will take five minutes to speak.”
However, Castner says he will have a hand in the city’s budget. The mayor has the ability to veto items in the budget and he says he may use that.
“I'm not saying it as a threat or something, but I'm really making it clear if there's something in the budget that doesn’t have a direct tie in to policy, I don't think it belongs in the budget and so I'm just stating that's a power that the mayor has,” he said.
He considers the Homer Accelerated Roads and Trails or HART fund, a .75-percent tax dedicated to road and trail construction as an example of budgeting first without a policy. He believes money should not be earmarked for a specific purpose.
“I don't really believe in dedicated funds," he said. “I believe in funding for roads and trails, but I don't believe that that fund needed to be dedicated. That fund just accumulated money and accumulated money and we had all of these needs in the town, and we had no money to pay for them.”
City Manager Katie Koester says the unappropriated fund balance is now nearly $6 million. Homer residents did vote three years ago to temporarily allow the city to use HART money for other purposes, which is set to expire this year. Castner thinks that should be a permanent move.
As for revenue, he says it’s a goal to decrease the senior tax exemption but slowly and over time. He acknowledges that the council passed a resolution a couple years ago asking the Legislature to eliminate its mandate for senior tax exemptions and it didn’t change anything. But he says, it’s worth pursuing again.
“ They just have to keep banging the drum. I think they have to bang the drum at AML [the Alaska Municipal League] and keep it right on the top of the list of things that have to get done.”
Castner said whatever happens, it’s critical to have the public engaged with the city council.
“I think the city is moving in the right direction there,” he said. “The HERC taskforce is a good example, they've got people on there that are really, really busy people that are really qualified and really smart and they're doing an excellent, excellent job. So I love including more members of the public in boards, and commissions and ad-hoc committees that need to attack problems.”
If elected, Castner says he will work to bring more young people into the process.
The election is Oct. 2.