Homer, Seward city races set

Posted: Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Editor's note: The following is the third in a series of stories focusing on the upcoming municipal elections Oct. 4. Candidate columns and answers to a Clarion questionnaire can be found on pages A-4 and A-5 in today's paper. Wednesday's coverage will focus on the race for the Soldotna school board seat.

Homer voters will choose from among three candidates to fill two seats on the Homer City Council when they get to the polls Oct. 4.

Meanwhile, across the Kenai Peninsula, Seward city voters will elect a new mayor and fill three positions on the city council.

In Homer, planning issues such as the city's comprehensive plan, the zoning code and how best to market a soon-to-be expanded deep-water dock are among the topics candidates are discussing.

Mike Heimbuch is an incumbent appointed earlier this year to complete the term of Rose Beck, who resigned. He has served on the Homer Port and Harbor Commission, the Alaska Fish and Game Advisory Board, the city's library advisory board and other community organizations. He has lived in Homer for 30 years.

Michael Yourkowski is an incumbent who has served on the council for seven years, as well as having served on the Homer Advisory Planning Commission, the Town Square Committee and the Kachemak Heritage Land Trust. He's lived in Homer for 20 years.

Matt Shadle is the only nonincumbent in the race. He has served as chair of Alaskans for a Fishing Future and as a fishing lobbyist. He is a member of the Homer Chamber of Commerce, the Homer Council on the Arts and the Pratt Museum.

Heimbuch has pointed to the city's recent real estate boom as one reason the council needs to keep its ears attuned to public opinion. He said now may not be the time to try lowering taxes and said the city should continue pressuring the Legislature to reinstate some form of municipal revenue sharing.

Yourkowski points to his experience on the council and to several projects that came to fruition during that time, including the recent voter approval of a sales tax increase. Now he said he hopes to give property owners a bit of relief and has proposed an ordinance that would exempt the first $20,000 of residential value from the city property tax levy.

Both Heimbuch and Yourkowski said the city needs to update its comprehensive plan and zoning ordinances.

Shadle wants to see the city's port and harbor upgraded so it becomes more attractive to freight companies. He said expansion of the harbor should be a top priority.

Only one candidate is on the ballot for mayor of Seward. Vanta Shafer has lived in Alaska 14 years. She served as a Seward City Council member from 1998 to 2004, when she was elected mayor.

She cited several city improvement projects accomplished in the time she has served in public office and said future projects include improving Hoben Park and rebuilding the Adams Street Pavilion.

Four candidates are vying for three two-year terms on the council. Among the issues they noted were Seward's need for improved infrastructure, the need to stimulate business, the need for open government and also for residents to be as self-sufficient as possible.

Kevin Clark has been a member of the city council since 2003. He is a member of the Bear Creek Fire Department and has lived in Alaska eight years.

Steven Schafer is a current member of the Seward Planning and Zoning Commission and a board member of the Seward Bear Creek Flood Service Area. He has lived in Alaska 51 years.

Robert Thomas spent 24 years in the U.S. Coast Guard. He served briefly on the Homer Parks and Recreation Commission in the late 1980s. He has lived in Alaska since 1986.

Bob Valdatta has been a member of the Seward City Council since 2003. He has lived in Alaska 32 years.

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