Homer, Seward ballots offer many choices

Posted: Friday, October 01, 2004

As voters head to the polls Tuesday to elect assembly candidates and determine the fate of borough propositions, those in the cities of Homer and Seward also will decide local elections.

With Homer Mayor Jack Cushing stepping down after eight years in office, four candidates are vying for the job. They include Homer City Council members John Fenske and Dennis Novak, attorney and former district court judge James C. Hornaday, and long-time council observer and business owner Julie Cesarini.

As it has been through past elections, the cost of government is a central issue. A proposed increase in the local sales tax has the support of three candidates, but Cesarini says it isn't necessary. She also has called for more public involvement and an agricultural hemp industry.

Homer voters will select from among three candidates to fill two three-year terms, and from among two others to fill a single two-year term on the council. Running for the three-year seats are incumbent council member Doug Stark, Homer Planning Commission member Bill Smith, and Homer resident Beth Wythe.

Vying for the single two-year seat are former Homer Port and Harbor Commissioner Val McLay and Lane Chesley, current chair of the Homer Advisory Planning Commission.

Council candidates offer varying perspectives regarding the scope and pace of future development and regarding recent decisions about proposed large stores and the size of future retail structures.

Homer's ballot also contains a pair of propositions.

Proposition 1 asks voters to decide if the city should borrow up to $2.2 million for the purpose of constructing and equipping a new Homer Public Library. The library project has an estimated price tag of $7.6 million. Passage of the proposition would allow the city to leverage existing funds, much of it raised over the years by library supporters and through state grants.

Proposition 2 asks voters to decide if the Homer sales tax rate should be increased by a half-cent. The current rate is 3.5 percent, or 3.5 cents per dollar applicable up to the $500 limit. The city faced a deficit of about $450,000 in fiscal year 2004, which it met by deferring expenditures, raising fees and using fund balance. Those options likely won't be available in the coming year and costs continue to rise, the city says.

The city of Seward's municipal ballot includes no propositions. However, voters there will select a mayor and fill three two-year council seats.

Running for mayor are the incumbent Vanta Shafer, who was appointed to the post earlier this year, and challenger, local business owner Tim McDonald.

Seeking election to the Seward City Council are incumbent Margaret Branson, a business owner and former state lawmaker; incumbent Willard Dunham, a business owner and retired state employee; as well as business owner Steve Schafer, and Seward residents Stu Clark, Walter Christolear and Dorene Lorenz.

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