Finding strength in numbers, delegates from the Kenai Peninsula joined 400 attendees from around the state at Alaska Municipal League's convention in Juneau during the week of Nov. 6.
"We've always been down there to find consensus with the rest of the state," said Tim Navarre, president of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly. Navarre also is an ex-officio director of the organization.
Pete Sprague of Soldotna sits on AML's board of directors.
"The value (of attending) to the peninsula is that we have a voice among the 140 municipalities," said Sprague, who is on the borough assembly. "It's a good way to promote interests of the municipalities to the Legislature."
Grace Merkes, assembly member from Sterling, also joined the cross-section of peninsula assembly members, city council representatives, and borough and city staff.
"There was representation from all over the borough," Merkes said. "What we did was go over policies AML supports to use for when we lobby the Legislature."
Toward that goal, those attending approved both a state and
federal legislative platform. Alaska legislative priorities include:
n Urging the Legislature to adopt a state long-range fiscal plan that considers direct and indirect impacts of the plan on municipal services and local taxes;
n As specifically required by the Alaska Constitution and interpreted by the Alaska Supreme Court, the Legislature must increase per student state education spending to meet documented increased costs necessary to provide an adequate education for all Alaska children;
n As a key component of the state's long-range fiscal plan to stabilize local taxes, the governor and Legislature are urged to restore $50,000 to communities through existing revenue sharing programs or by creating a voter-approved Community Dividend Program;
n Adequate operation and maintenance funding for existing and new surface, air and marine transportation infrastructure;
n Continued funding for ongoing state and local deferred maintenance of roads, schools and other public improvements through advanced funding mechanisms; and
n State support for an Alaska local government summit, to include state, municipal and tribal governments to determine if state policies on local government are consistent with the intent of the Alaska Constitution and if improvements are warranted.
New assembly members Ron Long of Seward and Milli Martin of Homer took advantage of tips for maintaining balance between civic involvement and personal commitment presented by Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer and Rep. Gail Phillips, R-Homer.
"There were some really good talks on time management, how to best utilize your time to remain effective and still have a life," Long said. "In order to be effective, you need to devote time to self, health and family."
The Seward assembly member said he's already taken one of Phillips suggestions, learning to speed read.
Even though Martin, who has served on the borough's school board and the Kachemak Bay Advisory Planning Commission, was familiar with some of the material for newcomers, she came back to the peninsula with material she said will serve her well in her new role on the assembly.
"There was just an awful lot of really good, helpful information," Martin said. "It provided a good preview of what to expect."
Borough Mayor Dale Bagley said benefits from participating extend beyond the presentations.
"One aspect that's very productive is just meeting people from different boroughs," said Bagley, adding that plans are being made for a meeting of Southcentral municipalities.
"We're getting more regional," he said. "We need to stop thinking of just our little area."
Scheduled to give a presentation on responsibilities and conduct of elected officials was assembly member Bill Popp of Kenai.
"The municipal league offers a lot of opportunity to interact with other officials, compare issues and find common ground on major issues," he said.
Unfortunately, the only ground Popp found was that of home. Mechanical airplane problems kept him earthbound.
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