Category Archives: elections

Home ruled out — Soldotna votes down charter commission formation

sld home rule vote noBy Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Soldotna residents ruled out a move to being a home-rule city in a special election Tuesday, voting down a proposal to form a commission to draft a new charter.

According to unofficial results posted after the polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday, the measure failed by a margin of 63.68 percent to 36.32 percent with 298 votes opposed to 170 in favor. Those 468 votes represent a voter turnout of about 14.56 percent. That’s consistent with voter turnout in most Soldotna elections, said City Clerk Shellie Saner.

sld home rule vote yes“It’s about what I’m expecting. I expected us to keep where we are with our average on the normal election years,” Saner said. “… Our normal turnouts are, in the years that there is a borough mayors race, they’re generally higher, but our average turnout on a normal year are 500 to 600.”

Becoming a home-rule city would give Soldotna greater ability to determine it’s own powers and policies, versus its current status as a first-class city. The issue largely driving the vote is a proposed exemption of sales taxes on nonprepared foods in the winter. A previous boroughwide voter initiative stopped the borough from collecting sales taxes on groceries in the winter, but the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly passed an ordinance that general-law cities would still continue to do so. The measure will come up for borough vote in the October 2015 general election. If it passes, Soldotna will no longer collect its 3 percent sales tax on groceries in the winter.

That could have anywhere from a $785,000 to $1.2 million hit on the city’s budget, administration has said. So the move to home rule was an attempt to get ahead of that curve by giving the city to ability to set its own taxation policy.

City Council Member Keith Baxter was one of seven residents who threw their hat in the ring to be on the charter commission. He said he saw the move to home rule as a way to limit taxes in Soldotna, as the council has discussed raising property taxes if the sales tax revenue is lost. He doesn’t like that idea, because property taxes will be a larger burden on Soldotna residents, rather than sales taxes, which are paid by anyone shopping in Soldotna, he said.

“If we were to make it up dollar for dollar in property tax, my property tax would have to increase 400 percent, so that’s a tough one to swallow if you live in city limits and are raising a young family and you pay property tax,” Baxter said.

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Frequent flyers — Nikiski art students vote for better campaigning in political project

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Sadie Averill, left, and Heidi Kaser, seniors at Nikiski Middle-High School, assembled trees from the political flyers that stuffed mailboxes this election season. Art teacher Anna Widman had each of her classes construct branches for the trees.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Sadie Averill, left, and Heidi Kaser, seniors at Nikiski Middle-High School, assembled trees from the political flyers that stuffed mailboxes this election season. Art teacher Anna Widman had each of her classes construct branches for the trees.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

The general election is over, and with it the deluge of campaign fliers that inundated mailboxes, taxing the capacity of Alaska voters’ patience and garbage bins.

Most of those flyers found their way to the landfill, but in Nikiski, many found a new purpose as a way to make a different political statement.

“I was getting so many of these in the mail and I figured everybody else was, too, so I had my classes start collecting fliers, and the teachers were pretty happy to bring in fliers, so we just started collecting them in a bin,” said Anna Widman, art teacher at Nikiski Middle-High School.

It seemed a waste to let all that paper go to waste — killing trees, and all. So she challenged each of her classes to make a tree branch and leaves out of the flyers. Two of her students, seniors Sadie Averill and Heidi Kaser, took it upon themselves to turn all the branches into trees.

There was no difficulty finding materials.

“I had one family give me 100 fliers because they have four adults in their household, so every one of them were getting their allotment,” Widman said. “And a lot of teachers brought in whatever they got at their house, which was quite substantial, as well.”

She told her students that whichever class brought in the most flyers would win a pizza party. Her second-hour class took the prize, thanks in large part to Melissa Roza’s large contribution — 1,000 flyers or more, Widman said.

“We’ve still got more that haven’t been used in the trees,” Widman said. “It wasn’t hard to collect fliers at all.”

The challenge — artistically as it was logistically for voters at their mailboxes — was what to do with them.

“We had to figure out how to get the base stable enough and also where to add stuff to it, because it leaned. Once we started adding stuff we had to figure out how to find the balance of it,” Kaser said.

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A vote for satire — Triumvirate’s election-year “Lame Ducks and Dark Horses” set to spoof

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. The cast of “Lame Ducks and Dark Horses” performs a parody song of “West Side Story,” where Republicans and Democrats are the rivals.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. The cast of “Lame Ducks and Dark Horses” performs a parody song of “West Side Story,” where Republicans and Democrats are the rivals.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

It’s down-to-the-wire time as Nov. 4 approaches. Campaign signs dominate the landscape. Election rhetoric is omnipresent. Speeches are being perfected. Images are being tweaked. Digs and jabs at opponents are being sharpened. Song-and-dance routines are being polished. All the last-minute stops are being pulled out to catch attention.

That’s not only the case for candidates. The performers of Triumvirate Theatre’s “Lame Ducks and Dark Horses” political satire show are rehearsing their lines for Friday’s opening night as frantically as a candidate in the homestretch of the election.

Chris Jenness serenades the crowd as borough mayor candidate Tom Bearup.

Chris Jenness serenades the crowd as borough mayor candidate Tom Bearup.

It’s hard to say which is funnier at this point — the sketches as written, lampooning some of the biggest quirks, quips and personalities of this year’s election season — or the sidebar comments made while preparing them.

“Am I supposed to be screaming because I’m getting attacked by a bear, or because someone wants me to go on Sound Off?” said Chris Pepper, seeking clarification during a sketch where he plays Thom Walker, the one-time Libertarian nominee for U.S. Senate, trying to survive in the literal wilds of Alaska as well as the political wilds as a third-party candidate.

“Wait, are you going to talk like you’re on helium the whole time?” director Joe Rizzo asked Dan Pascucci, playing, at that moment, an agitated Matt Wilson, KSRM’s general manager, berating news director Catie Quinn for not being able to drop her Australian accent in pronouncing the radio station’s call letters. A “My Fair Lady,” “Wouldn’t it be loverly” riff ensues.

“Yes,” Pascucci replied. “I’ll probably pass out, but it will be hilarious.”

Triumvirate has been doing “Lame Ducks” every other year since 2006, creating each show from scratch to parody whatever is making news, raising eyebrows and rolling eyeballs that election year. The actors onstage poke fun at people on the local, statewide and national stage, and the donations of humor are doled out evenly between the parties.

Delana Duncan does a “My Fair Lady” takeoff of KSRM news director Catie Quinn’s Australian accent.

Delana Duncan does a “My Fair Lady” takeoff of KSRM news director Catie Quinn’s Australian accent.

“Humor is the highest value, not the politics,” Rizzo said.

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New vote count approves animal control

By Naomi Klouda

Homer Tribune

After 1,800 absentee ballots were tallied, Kenai Peninsula voters spoke in favor of animal control by a 3,388 to 3,383 count. Proposition A would have been defeated if not for the absentee and early ballots. 
Since it was an advisory vote, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly is given the voters’ go-ahead to launch a boroughwide animal control department to respond in areas outside of cities.
The second question on funding the new program, however, did not meet with voter approval, by a big margin — 4,306 no to 2,451 yes. That question proposed to pay through an additional service area tax that amounted to about $3 a year per property owner.
The new borough ballot count put a further spread between incumbent Mayor Mike Navarre, who won re-election at the head of the Kenai Peninsula Borough with 5,895 to Tom Bearup’s 3,894 and Carroll Martin’s 1,000 votes. Navarre took 54 percent of the vote to Tom Bearup’s 35.9 and Carrol Martin’s 9.2 percent. That is up from the preliminary count of Navarre’s 4,794 votes to Bearup’s 3,270 and Martin’s 846 votes.

Status quo from voters

Voters most notably went for the status quo in the Oct. 7 elections. Mayor Mike Navarre agreed that voters on the borough level were satisfied with the current administration, or he would not have won re-election. Continue reading

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Sign thefts rankle campaign supporters

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

While free speech is a tenant of democracy, area Democrats are feeling silenced by thefts of their political signs this election season.

Signs supporting a yes vote on Ballot Initiative 1 — repeal of the oil tax reform bill passed by the Legislature — and Democrat-supported candidates for state and national offices, including Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, Democrat gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallot and nonaffiliated candidate Eric Treider for Senate District O, are disappearing around town, supporters say.

“There are probably close to a dozen signs that have disappeared in the last month,” said Dick Waisanen, of Soldotna.

Most are going missing in and around Soldotna. Signs posted at the Y intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling highways have been taken down three times now — twice left in a pile, and the third time, last week, stolen altogether.

“For the amount of money the candidates are trying to raise and trying to budget and all of a sudden they’re missing some signs, it does put a crimp in their fundraising. I don’t know if some people think, ‘Well, it doesn’t mean anything.’ It is vandalism, it is against the law,” Waisanen said.

The signs were placed on private property with permission of the property owners, in accordance with city and Department of Transportation regulations, Waisanen said.

“We always get permission,” said Waisanen, who is familiar with political sign-posting regulations from his previous runs for office. The city of Soldotna confirmed they did not remove the signs.

Even more frustrating is that signs backing Republicans and the No On Prop 1 campaign don’t seem to be touched, he said.

“The Democrats respect the right of free speech. If they (Republicans) want to put up a sign, that’s their prerogative, but they should respect our right to do the same.”

This has happened in previous elections, as well. Mary Toutonghi, of Soldotna, has had campaign signs taken right out of her front lawn.

“I’m just beyond yelling and screaming and shouting,” she said. “I’m ticked. I didn’t have a word to come out. It’s stifling my free speech. I don’t have the equal ability to express my views because (my signs) are being stolen. It’s vandalism and theft.”

Toutonghi said that sign thefts are not only a violation to the candidate or cause being supported, but also to the owner of the property from which the signs are being stolen.

“A number of them, some people who are worried about what will happen on their property, haven’t put the signs back up when they’ve been stolen. This is really ridiculous,” Toutonghi said.

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Bed tax, by-mail voting on the line

By Naomi Klouda
Homer Tribune
The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly faced two key decisions at its meeting Tuesday night that could depend on voters, one that would change how voters register their ballots and one that would levy a boroughwide bed tax.
The idea to have voters cast ballots by U.S. mail didn’t get a lot of public attention, said Assemblyman Dale Bagley, who set the matter before the assembly for a second vote at Tuesday’s meeting.
“Only about 10 people testified on it, mostly against. I would like to see a public advisory vote before we make such a fundamental change in the way people vote,” Bagley said. “The first motion failed for this year but there is still a chance the assembly will put it to a vote (on the Oct. 7 ballot.)”
At the July 1 meeting, a resolution asked to place the question on the ballot: Should borough elections be conducted by mail? Reasoning included reaching remote areas more efficiently and conveniently. It would also reduce staff expenses and money spent training election officials. In places where mail voting is underway, voter turnout has increased, Bagley said. Traditionally, the borough sees dismal turnouts at the polls — 17 to 19 percent.
But the measure failed with three “yes” votes, five “no” and one assembly member absent (Charlie Pierce, of Sterling). Bagley said he felt that if the matter were up for reconsideration, it might pass this time, and so he asked for the re-vote. Those voting “no” were Bill Smith, Sue McClure, Mako Haggerty, Hal Smalley and Wayne Ogle.
The state of Alaska paved the way for municipalities and boroughs to adopt voting-by-mail procedures in its Senate Bill 214 this spring.
“The state opened up the question,” Bagley said. “I think they want someone else to be the guinea pig. If the Kenai Peninsula does it first, they can see how it goes.”
One problem is that the plan wasn’t well vetted before the public. If the assembly had passed the measure at the July 1 meeting, a lot of voter confusion could result on Election Day, Oct. 7, Bagley said. At that point, they would have been handed the change without voting on it.
“I think this is too big of a change for nine members of the assembly to make. I don’t want to imagine the headaches it would create if we went this fall to voting by mail. A lot of people might throw away their ballots in the trash without realizing it,” Bagley said. He proposed to change the ordinance originated by Homer Assemblyman Bill Smith to allow voters’ input first.
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Vote of note — Kasilof elections volunteer leaves mark of favor

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

As voters hit the poles last week for the Oct. 1 municipal elections, those casting a ballot in Kasilof would have noticed many familiar things — poll workers ready to look up names, sign in voters and hand them a ballot, the booths in which to cast their votes, the machine in which to feed the cast ballot, and the “I voted” stickers to attest to the whole affair.

But one staple of voting day particular to Kasilof was not present — Louise Hann.

Hann was known as many things. More officially, she was the chairperson for elections in District 7. Perhaps more widely, she was the cookie woman, always bringing in sweet treats for voters to nibble while waiting to enter the ballot booth. And still to others, she was simply known as the kind old gal who always had her dogs with her, a Chihuahua named Scout and a dachshund named Lou.

Hann was noticeably absent from her post during the election, having died earlier this year, at 83.

“I miss her a lot,” said her daughter, Patti Hann, 57, also of Kasilof. She said that many of her memories about her mom are of her working elections or volunteering in other ways.

“She was here close to 30 years, and she is missed. People have come in looking for her and asking where she and the dogs are,” Patti said.

Louise’s story in Alaska is a familiar one. Patti came with her husband, who found work here. Louise and her husband came for a visit from California a few years later, when Patti had her first child.

“They fell in love with the place during the visit,” Patti said.

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