It's been an interesting year on the Kenai Peninsula as we've faced crises both natural and man-made.
A wicked cold snap to start the year, the eruption of Mount Redoubt and a wildfire caused by a lightning strike, drew plenty of concern over the course of the year.
Meanwhile, our local governing bodies took actions that inspired more citizen involvement than we've seen in a number of years.
At the borough level, Mayor Dave Carey and the assembly struggled through a difficult, and sometimes contentious budget process. Later, Carey reveals -- after the fact -- substantial salaries he was paying to his newly appointed top managers, catching the assembly off-guard. In October, borough voters reaffirmed their oversight of the assembly, passing a term limit initiative for the second time.
Residents in Kenai and Soldotna found they didn't need term limits to fight city hall. In Kenai, a grassroots effort led to the repeal of a city council zoning decision. In Soldotna, voters took the unique opportunity to elect four new council members with the political will to select the West Redoubt parcel for a cemetery -- something lacking from past councils for the better part of a decade.
So, what did we learn in 2009, and how will it help us in 2010? The coming year is filled with uncertainty. Mount Redoubt's recent rumblings remind us just how unpredictable nature can be. A number of decisions will have long-term effects on the peninsula and its economy. For example, TransCanada and Denali natural gas pipeline projects will have open seasons, when producers commit to shipping gas, in the coming year. Will producers commit to shipping gas, and to which project will they commit?
The best advice we can give is something we harped on throughout 2009: Whatever the potential crisis may be, be prepared. Fire, flood, cold, earthquake, volcano -- make sure you're prepared an emergency kit and can get by for a few days.
Likewise, be prepared for whatever happens with the economy. Reduce your debt, put some money in savings and stick to your budget.
And when it comes to our government, the same advice applies. Keep an eye on what the assembly, city councils and service area boards are up to. If something just isn't right, don't wait for someone else to fix it. Taking action and making your voice heard is in everybody's best interest.
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