November 15, 2012 | Vol. 39, No. 46

Letters to the Editor

Let’s Talk continues

To the Editor:

Imagine a community where your viewpoint is heard and where a variety of different opinions are valued and respected. Last Wednesday nearly 60 people took part in “Let’s Talk Petersburg: A Community Conversation”. The event, hosted by the Petersburg Public Library and the Petersburg Community Foundation, focused on having respectful, open conversations and sparking discussion about the issues that are important to our community.

We tackled some difficult issues. Small towns can be cliquish and gossip oriented and our town is no exception. Many people in our community feel excluded and hesitate to speak up. Let’s Talk Petersburg believes that having these difficult conversations in a structured and safe atmosphere is the key to overcoming them. Our community is a great one, but there is room for improvement. Coming together to discuss important issues like these in a meaningful and deliberate way will bring about lasting results and allow everyone in our community to thrive.

Do you want to be part of the solution? Join us for our next Community Conversation on December 19 - Let’s Talk, Petersburg.

Jessica Ieremia, Petersburg Public Library

Nicole McMurren, Petersburg Community Foundation

Survivors of Suicide Day event

To the Editor:

Each day in the U.S. approximately 100 people take their own lives, leaving behind loved ones to struggle with the loss, grief and all of those questions that begin with “Why . . .?”

Too often survivors of suicide loss believe the death of their loved one is somehow shameful or that they or their family are to blame. But research shows that more than 90 percent of people who die by suicide have an underlying, although not always diagnosed, psychiatric illness at the time of their death, most often depression.

The holiday season can be particularly difficult for survivors. To help, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s International Survivors of Suicide Day will be held on November 17 in more than 300 cities around the world, including here in Petersburg. I encourage all who have suffered a loss of a family member, a friend, or a coworker to suicide to come together for a time of healing and remembrance. The program can also be helpful to those who are involved in grief support and counseling, and to those who have an interest in suicide prevention efforts. The event takes place 6 p.m. on November 17 at the Fire Hall Conference Room.

The program is also available online at www.afsp.org.

 Mark Kubo, Facilitator

Choose to Live, Suicide Prevention Task Force

So what’s next?

To the Editor:

Is now the time for the expense of an organized borough?

I understand that the city has already spent around half the reserve fund in the last five years to make ends meet. I’m thinking that in a few years even the tax revenue generated from an organized borough would not fill the gap.

So what’s next? A personal property tax on boats, cars, trailers, and more?

If the existing government cannot operate the city efficiently, will it operate a much larger area any more efficiently? Should not the city get its house in order first?

I believe if you answer these questions truthfully, you will come to the same conclusion that I have.

Now is not the time for more government!

Beulah Johnson

Duncan Canal

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jody Tow, Finance Director for the City of Petersburg provided the following explanation on the city’s reserve fund balance.

The main reasons why the fund balance decreased in the last 5 years is due to the following: $1.43 million for construction and operating expenses for the Mountain View Manor that had been accumulating annually. In FY 2008, per an audit recommendation, the council took this "loan" off the books knowing it wasn't going to get paid back and having it in the financials simply overstated the General Fund Balance and was misleading readers of the financials.

In FY 2008 the Council forgave the Water and Sanitation Funds loans of ($268,669 and $636,436 respectively).

In FY 2009 the Council transferred $516,000 to the Downtown Paving Capital Project Fund as the City's 9% match needed to utilize Federal Highway earmarked for the improvement of Petersburg's streets.

As of the end of FY 2012 the unrestricted fund balance in the General Fund is $3.66 million. The City has a fund balance policy for the General Fund in that the unreserved fund balance should be within 4-6 months of operating expenses. (Between $3.2 million and $4.8 million this year). The City meets this policy.

Let’s be realistic

To the Editor:

Mayor Dwyer remarked on KFSK that he didn’t pay any attention to national politics. I believe that his sentiment reflects that of our city staff and our current city council as well. It is myopic to think that decisions we make at the local level can take effect in isolation with respect to our national economic situation. So before you let them levy new taxes on local citizens you need to consider the following facts.

We have had 45 months of record level unemployment. Male unemployment is at the worst level. Half of on record all recent college graduates are now unemployed.

Since 2008 the average American household income has declined more than $4000. But, during this time, the number of Americans using food stamps has risen from 30.8 million to a record level -on Veterans Day- of over 47 million. This trend translates into a huge additional burden on those that actually earn.

To make things more cheery we learn that the US National Debt equates to over $147,000.00 per household. This indebtedness is set to explode and will become even more onerous once our new European health care is fully implemented and a deckload of new regulations are brailed on to

the private sector.

If you work in the private sector, and don’t own tons of IFQs, I can guarantee you are working longer and harder than ever because the days are gone when you could work, save, and expect your savings to

generate a return that exceeds real inflation. In fact, the majority of your savings are probably in tangible assets like property. This is why the city planners have their roving eye on your property.

Let’s be realistic. We live on an island in the middle of a national forest where over 90% of the natural resources are effectively untouchable due to the high risk-to-cost ratio of development. Juneau and Wrangell have no interest in enlarging their domains in order to acquire more wilderness. Forming a borough won’t generate any real wealth, in fact, when stripped of all artifice, a borough is nothing

more than an expanded mechanism for transferring your savings to government.

Nationally we are standing near a fiscal cliff. Now more than ever families need to be able to keep more of what they have earned. Our current city government isn’t well disciplined, but it’s simple and it works. This is no time to complicate things and this is certainly no time transfer more of what people have saved over to the public sector. Say no to bigger government, say no to the borough.

Russell Thynes

Questionable city information

To the Editor:

Recently the city of Petersburg and borough proponents have made statements that untrue and misleading information was being circulated by the anti borough group. I know of no anti borough group other than CCUB. As a member and president of CCUB, I feel responsible to reply to such allegations.

CCUB’s focus has been to provide true and factual information. Several times members of CCUB published a retraction and correction, with an apology for an incorrect or misleading statement, even though in one case the information is substantiated by a state website. I can say CCUB has made a conscious and concerted effort to present truthful information.

I wish I could say the same for the city. Case in point is the brochure the city borough formation committee put out while they were soliciting petition signatures.  I quote from that brochure “A borough will strengthen your area’s regional voice; and more effectively advocate for your regional priorities and needs. Some examples are: Energy generation and transmission, Thomas Bay Hydro, Improved transportation systems, Retention of Alaska Airlines as an Essential Air Service”

More recently the city’s Fact Sheet states  “Fact the borough will have an expanded seat at the table when it comes to potential development of Natural Resources in our region, this includes issues such as hydro electric power at Thomas Bay.”

Last week I spoke with Ed Avrems Director of Hydro and Compliance at FERC in Washington DC. I asked him if a borough form of government had preference over municipalities or cities when it came to issuing hydro permits? He said no, more likely any preference would go to a municipality. In the event they were competing for the same permit and both had the authority to distribute the power and both had complied with FERC regulations, the one who filed first would get the permit.

Several months ago I contacted Alaska Air Lines officials in Seattle and Alaska Marine Highway officials in Ketchikan to ask them if being a borough would in any way affect service to Petersburg in the future? Both said no, the form of government in Petersburg had no bearing on the service they would be providing in the future. Those email replies can be seen at stoptheborough.org.

I wish not to rain on Petersburg’s parade, but I also will not support a government founded on half truths and deception. I believe any meaningful representative government based on honesty and respect will stand on it’s own merits and will be embraced by the people it serves. I do not believe the proposed borough meets this test.

Kenneth Howard

Keene Channel

Public funds for biased use

To the Editor:

Something is terribly wrong with our local Petersburg government. Shame on our local representatives that will agree to take public funds for a biased use. Adoption of Ordinance # 970 is an affront to all citizens – for or against the borough. There are two sides to this issue and both should be represented equally. If $15,000 is set aside to present borough formation then $7,500 should go to both the for and opposing sides. As it is the City is using those public funds to promote the for side and private citizens are paying all the cost to present the opposing side.

In the Official Election Pamphlets issued by the State of Alaska, the State, remaining non biased, solicits and prints a Statement in Support and a Statement in Opposition for any ballot measure or other major decision being presented to the voters. These statements are for we literate voters to read and then make an informed decision when we vote. Borough formation would be a rather major issue to consider. Does it ask too much of our local officials to offer we voters the same consideration at the local level. We can then make an informed decision when we vote “for” or “against” the borough formation. Is this borough election process so flawed from the beginning it is deserving a “no” vote?

I have been a Petersburg taxpayer since 1973 even when I choose to live in Kupreanof.

Sharon Sprague

International Tolerance Day

To the Editor:

November 16 is International Tolerance Day. Let’s all do our part to discourage bullies, special interest groups, harmful gossipers and cliques and be open to everyones’ view instead of just those with the loudest voice or crushing dissent, displaying or reinforcing only their viewpoint.

After all, if someone has to bully or censor to make a point, they really don’t have a point at all.

Dona Laubhan

Don’t want to be a part of greater Juneau

To the Editor:

The cliché about not being able to see the forest for the trees seems somehow appropriate for the borough/no borough debate. It’s easy to find all sorts of things on which to disagree. But our focus should be on what we can agree on, as neighbors.

Many “outliers”, if you will, don’t want to officially be part of greater Petersburg. In our newspaper and in the mail are invoked the likes of Thomas Paine and Reagan as sources for justification of their point of view. Well, frankly, I don’t want to be a part of greater Juneau, do you?

If we don’t form a borough I expect the LBC will revisit Juneau’s claim to Hobart Bay. The argument will be, Petersburg doesn’t want a borough, so we don’t need Hobart. And, y’know, Port Houghton’s just there, and Cape Fanshaw is certainly a natural boundary. But a really great natural boundary is the Stikine River.

Not that such a chain of events would ever happen, right? I just want to make sure if my grandkids grow up here they will have the option of raising their own kids here, with an economy based on renewable resources. If we want to preserve this economy for our grandkids, along with the community that it creates, we have to join together so we have a stronger voice. As it stands, we are already lumped in legislatively with downtown Juneau. Nothing against Beth Kertulla—she sure didn’t ask for us.

We need to stand together or who knows our grandkids might wind up with a whale-watching, sea otter petting zoo economy. I think some of you voters so adamantly opposed to borough formation need to get your heads out of your fantasies and look at the big picture. We all share a way of life in this particularly blessed place on Earth, and there’s no good reason we can’t work together for our larger community.

Sorry to resort to so many clichés here, but apparently that’s what’s in fashion.

Wally McDonald

Taxpayers been “duped”?

To the Editor:

I’m hoping the taxpayers of Petersburg haven’t been “duped” by our City officials…but it appears the City may have “jumped the gun” by setting funds aside to promote the proposed Borough.

Why? Because Alaska Statute [15.13.145(b)] says money used to “influence an outcome of an election” must be approved by City Ordinance.

Now I don’t know if the local taxpayers understand the different between a Resolution, which is an opinion, and an Ordinance, which is Law. Our Council passed a Resolution in June to use our money for promoting the proposed Borough; yet they didn’t pass an Ordinance until one week ago.

Oops. Have we been “hoodwinked”? Or is this the famous “spin” we hear so much about on TV nowadays?

I’m not “for” the Borough for personal reasons. And I’m sure there are others out there that share my opinion. To be fair, the City should fund both sides of an issue, or remain silent… instead of pitting one citizen against another.

I wasn’t aware of the City’s one-sided involvement in the proposed Borough until recently…and their use of our tax dollars to do so. I’ve been a registered voter in Petersburg for over 20 years. I have property both within the city and on Kupreanof Island. I pay City taxes. The City knows how to contact me for those taxes, and to advise me when a neighbor plans a new subdivision. Yet they have neglected to contact me regarding the proposed Borough.

I didn’t ask them to spend my tax dollars in this way. So who did? It impacts my future decisions and lifestyle. I don’t know if the public feels hoodwinked or not…but I sure do.

Judy Sarber

Petersburg and Anchorage

Run’em over

To the Editor:

I can’t say it’s every time, but most of the time, I’m very aware of folks crossing the street down town in the middle of the block- “J- walkers” I suppose you could call them. People going about their business, yes sometimes in a hurry just trying to get somewhere. And I often think how horrible I’d feel if I didn’t have time to stop and I actually hit and injured someone, or worse. Well I’d suppose it wouldn’t be my fault under the law but that doesn’t make it right either.

I congratulate the City of Petersburg for tipping their hand- so to speak. This whole business of taxpayer’s money being spent to support the borough by purchasing advertisements, signs, etc.- all without equal representation of the opposing view- well, it may be OK to do so under “the law” but it sure doesn’t make it right, does it?

The way I see it, and hear it, there are some folks who don’t want a borough, just hurrying around town trying to get their business done who feel they are being honked at, even at a cross walk. Like me, I’m a land owning taxpayer who supports the local economy the best I can. For me, I see the strong box being looted from the money train at every turn for huge spending sprees. But I also see that the next whistle stop is at the back pocket of the taxpayer, yet once again.

Is this type of local government we will have in the future, borough or not? Will decisions continue to be made that smack with “run’em over” seasoning being dished out to us “uninformed people’’? That’s what is seems to me, and others I might add. I learned a long time ago that every man is justified in his own eyes and is capable of hurting someone in the process. To fulfill that quest, it may be OK under “the law”, but it sure doesn’t make it right.

Jon Parker

p.s. remember to watch out for pedestrians.

Reader Comments

(0)