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Not circumventing the people: Elected mayor/CEO offers a voice to all from top on down

Posted: Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Last Friday, I visited Jan Bobek's fifth grade class at Soldotna Elementary School where all her students recited "The Declaration of Independence" for me. These beautiful students' recitation reaffirmed the belief that the American people hold power, endowed by their Creator, to assure that "We, the People" are all treated as equals by our government. We demonstrate this by our right to elect our leaders and not have the government pick our leaders.

I have a special place in my heart for Soldotna Elementary because in 1961, when my family arrived in Sterling, with the oil services workers, I began fourth grade in preparation for going to Kenai Central High School, as we all did. I also appreciate Soldotna Elementary because of its outstanding, hard working educators such as Mrs. Bobek, who will never be appreciated or respected enough for what she does for our community and each child that enters or has entered her classroom over the decades she has been an educator.

I spoke to the class, after their recitation, about the American dream of being able to be elected to office if one works hard and if their community finds them worthy. I encouraged them to run for political office and be willing to be elected and serve when they get older. As a Soldotna Elementary student, I never imagined that I would one day be mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough but I was taught that in America we elect our top leaders so that government never forgets the people are the boss.

On Dec. 3, 1963, the people in Seward Election District No. 9 and Kenai-Cook Inlet Election District No. 10 voted to merge. They also chose to elect and not appoint, their Mayor-CEO by a 1,503 to 746 margin. To be the first Mayor-CEO for the borough's residents, five stood for election. Their names and vote totals were; David Newton Boyer, 10; Malcolm G. "Mal" Cole, 352; Harold E. Pomeroy, 1,324; Edwin George Rofkar, 82; and Robert A. "Bob" Ross, 307. The people elected Harold Pomeroy.

Since that election, the people of the borough have had the power to elect their mayor, who is the only individual that is elected by everyone. We have elected eight individuals so far, as last October when more than 64 percent of the borough's voters chose me as their eighth Mayor-CEO.

We elect our leaders in an effort to limit the inherent desire of government to grow bigger, tax and spend more, and become oppressive toward those without influence over them. We divide government authority and responsibility into the executive and legislative branches so each branch limits the potential of the other branch's quest for total domination over the people.

Constitutionally, each branch is to provide mutual oversight, checks and balances, and assure the laws are enforced properly and all people are treated equally and fairly. The legislative branch sets the tax rate and appropriates all money while the executive branch administers all programs and executes all services for which the taxes were raised. In an ideal situation, the two branches might even compete with each other to serve the people better and more efficiently.

The people of each district elect many members of the legislative branch -- the Borough Assembly -- each of whom represents his or her own district specifically but all are to be concerned for the good of the entire borough. The people of the entire borough elect one executive branch leader -- the mayor -- and that person is equally to care for those in every district, be responsible to everyone, and promote the good of the entire borough. A recent example demonstrates why the people need an elected Mayor-CEO.

On Monday, April 27, Shirley A. at 12:04 a.m. sent an e-mail to every assembly member, the mayor and the borough clerk. It was a long e-mail addressing the fact the central peninsula TOPS chapter (Taking Off Pounds Sensibly) had been denied access to the borough building after 40 plus years of use. Among the quotes: "We were hoping Milli would reconsider her decision to close the use of the Kenai Peninsula Borough building to the public who pay for the building, its employees and expenses for the assembly. Many of us have been in this group for years and as we get older it is nice to be able to come into a building from the parking lot that is close by and use the small space we need for our weigh in and meeting. It is like home to us. We take good care of the room and always leave it in as good of shape or better than we find it each week."

"I was told last Friday that the building is a government building and that the building cannot be used by the general public. That just isn't correct. It is the public's building and the government employees get to use the building for working in. We are your employer. I do not mean to sound mean. We need more time to find a place to meet. Please consider letting us use it at least for the month of May."

"I really had no idea that the Borough (Assembly) President had such complete power over our government. I am shocked to say the least along with a whole lot of other people.

On Wednesday, May 13 at 2 p.m. Shirley A. wrote:

"It has been a hardship on our TOPS Chapter but we have found a place to meet finally. By the way, I only received a response to my e-mail from you. I was surprised that no assembly person even commented."

The TOPS chapter was denied use of the people's building because the assembly president was not elected by anyone in their areas of Nikiski-Kenai-Soldotna-Sterling-Kalifornsky Beach-Kasilof. She knew it was unlikely she would ever see them and they could not hold her politically accountable. The other eight assembly members must make up their own answers for not responding to the TOPS women.

As the Mayor-CEO elected by the people of the entire borough, I could not let this problem pass. I have spent my entire 193 days since being sworn-in working and trying to serve everyone as fairly as God provides me wisdom. I have been to Seward (5), Moose Pass (2), Hope (2), Cooper Landing (3), Sterling (2), Ninilchik (3), Anchor Point (1), Homer (6), Nikiski (4), and Kenai and Soldotna more times than I can count. Listening to everyone and serving all the people is what an elected mayor does as compared to a manager who only needs to serve five assembly masters.

Since 1963, the people of the borough have elected Harold Pomeroy, George Navarre, Stan Thompson, Don Gilman, Mike Navarre, Dale Bagley, John Williams and Dave Carey. Even if you have not agreed with all of them on everything, it's still better to get to elect our borough mayor than to allow only five people to choose for the rest of us.

The children in Mrs. Bobek's classroom and in every classroom and home in the borough deserve no less of a birthright and responsibility.

David R. Carey is the Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor.



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