Borough not to be feared
Voting on the formation of the Petersburg Borough is underway with the arrival of mail-in ballots provided by the State of Alaska Division of Elections. The state, not the city will conduct the election. Voters have the opportunity to vote in person at the city council chambers beginning on Monday, Dec. 3, or they may vote the ballot that was mailed to them and return the executed ballots by mail. The deadline for all voting is Tuesday, Dec. 18, which is the date all mail in ballots must be postmarked, to be counted at the Division of Elections.
City will dissolve: With the approval of voters, the borough will be established, the incorporated City of Petersburg will disappear and a new government will be established. City employees will become borough employees, a new slate of elected officials will be seated and the transition process will begin with re-wording of ordinances and city regulations, amendments will be made to zoning maps and plats and new tax assessments will be ordered.
Contrary to the statements of many, the formation of the borough will indeed benefit the school system. A statement explaining the benefits is published elsewhere in this edition and was provided to us by the Petersburg City Schools Superintendent Rob Thomason.
The city chose to take a low-key approach to providing information about the borough formation process and did not attempt to rebut every accusation and argument put forth by opponents to the borough formation.
An Open Process: Repeatedly, borough opponents have accused the city and elected officials of drafting the city’s petition behind closed doors. That is simply not true. The city council has debated and voted upon every draft of the city’s borough petition, in open public meetings that were duly recorded by the clerk’s office. No part of the process took place illegally behind closed doors.
Ravenous Tax Collection? Additionally, the city has been portrayed, in word and image, as a ravenous, unregulated, out-of-control tax collector that will use its borough status to tax both citizens and businesses out of existence. How foolish.
The city administration is bound by both the will of the voters and the decisions of elected representatives who convene regularly, in public session, to oversee the administration of the city, and monitor the delivery of services to the residents of the municipality.
Repeatedly, we have seen administrators leave and elected officials recalled or replaced when the will of the electorate is ignored. Be it the City of Petersburg or the Petersburg Borough, voters will control the actions of the local government by their vote and their voice.
City is Responsible Entity: Comments that the city is not financially qualified to become a borough are equally irresponsible.
The majority of the city’s petition for borough formation was spent justifying the city’s ability to organize and operate a borough, as is required by State Law. Was the city’s petition found lacking, the Local Boundary Commission would have returned the city’s paperwork and would not have approved the city’s petition.
The city could not have progressed to a public vote without clearly proving their ability to operate a borough capable of serving the residents of the region.
That the city’s petition received easy approval by the LBC, speaks to the professional effort that went into the preparation of the document.
Borough will succeed: The state constitution proposes that the state would be made-up of organized boroughs. Alaska’s boroughs are nothing more than counties that are political subdivisions that are successfully established across the country and in Alaska. With boroughs in operation all around us (Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Wrangell) there is no reason voters should fear the proposed Petersburg Borough to be a failure.
The Petersburg Borough will not destroy the lifestyle we all enjoy. Its taxes will not impose undo hardships and will support the education of students for generations to come.
Petersburg needs to become the next community to establish an organized borough as the framers of the State Constitution envisioned more than 50 years ago.