Working together makes sense for cities, businesses

Posted: Sunday, March 17, 2002

The theme of "partnerships" cropped up last week is some subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

At the Kenai Chamber of Commerce weekly meeting, Kenai Mayor John Williams and city council member Duane Bannock pitched the idea of the city and the chamber working more closely together for the betterment of all.

As Mr. Bannock pointed out, a close working relationship between the two makes sense for many reasons -- not the least of which is almost half of the city's budget comes from sales tax. How that money is spent should be of interest to Kenai businesses. Other things, including the city's comprehensive plan, also should be of interest to the business community. Businesses should want to be involved in that planning process -- after all, it affects them.

At the Soldotna City Council meeting later that same day, council members approved giving $250 to help sponsor a major art exhibit at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center.

The dollar value may be small, but the donation nevertheless represents a huge symbolic gesture, maybe even a step toward a more formal partnership between Soldotna and Kenai.

As council member Lisa Parker noted: "I believe there are many activities -- from the pool in Nikiski to the cultural center in Kenai to the sports center in Soldotna -- that tie our communities together. The more we can work together, the better off we will be."

She's right, of course.

A redistricting plan that pairs Kenai and Soldotna in a legislative district is likely to provide further impetus for a good working relationship between the cities. The Supreme Court is to rule on the state's entire redistricting plan by April 1.

It's been said before, but it bears repeating: The boundaries that create the communities of Soldotna and Kenai are artificial limits for residents. It's common for residents to live in one city and work in another. They shop in both communities. They play in both communities. What one community doesn't have, the other does.

A House district that combines Kenai and Soldotna will help erase the phony barriers that exist now. Rather than making it more difficult for a legislator to get things done, more will be accomplished by Soldotna and Kenai working together. A single legislator serving both communities will be a powerful tool in helping put people above politics.

Rather than competition for dollars and projects, a combined Kenai-Soldotna legislative district will promote cooperation that will best meet the needs of the people of the central peninsula.

Over the past decade or so, Kenai and Soldotna have made great strides in working together -- so much so that rumors of the rivalry and feuding between the communities now seem greatly exaggerated. Being united in a single House district will help cement the relationship.

Meanwhile, we're encouraged by the little things -- a $250 donation from the city of Soldotna for an art exhibit happening in Kenai; a $12,000 donation (OK, not so little) from Unocal for a joint cleanup effort between the Kenai and Soldotna chambers of commerce; an invitation from Kenai officials for the business community to be more involved in the city's business.

It just makes sense.

There is strength in numbers. Partnerships between central peninsula communities and partnerships between businesses and government will mean more can be accomplished for the good of all.

A new day may be dawning on the central peninsula; a day that gives everyone a stronger voice because we've chosen to stand and work together.

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