Nikiski explores 'home rule'

Posted: Thursday, September 06, 2001

What is a home rule community? And do unorganized peninsula communities fit the definition?

That's the topic of discussion at a meeting in Nikiski this evening.

"I know that other communities have expressed an interest in this, like Cooper Landing and Anchor Point, so anyone in the borough is invited to attend," said Jack Brown, director of the Kenai Peninsula Borough's Community and Economic Development Division.

Brown, a former borough assembly member representing Nikiski, described a home rule community as "right in between having an incorporated area and having a municipality. It offers some of the benefits without so many risks."

He said, "There are a lot of very positive things a home rule community can do without the downside of forming a city."

Scheduled to attend is Rep. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River, who introduced legislation in February that would allow second-class cities or unincorporated areas to organize as home rule communities.

"The city or area would be allowed, through the charter system, to flexibly define its scope of governing powers and services to meet specific area needs," Dyson wrote in his sponsor's statement. "For instance, a community charter may be drafted to provide for police or fire protection services while leaving transportation issues in the state purview. Under the provision of their charter, a local government may assume any of a wide range of powers, from alcohol and animal control to airport and public works management."

The legislation, House Bill 16, passed the House and has been referred to the Senate Finance committee. Dyson said yesterday that the reason behind the legislation is to make it easier for small and rural communities to organize under state law.

"There are just an awful lot of disincentives to organize under state law because you have to jump through so many state hoops," he said. "This takes those away. They can write their own constitution, pick and choose the responsibilities that they want to pick up or feel capable of picking up at this time. Part of the magic we tried to put into this thing is that a city or home rule community could literally form the kind of government they want.

Brown said tonight's meeting is a "very unique opportunity for anyone that comes, because we have an opportunity to sit down with the author of that legislation and say what we think should be changed, how it could be strengthened.

"We have a chance to help write the law. I would encourage people on either side (of the issue) to attend."

The meeting begins at 5 p.m. at the Nikiski Senior Center.

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