Contributed by Mike Dryden, Wasilla City Council Member
Moose season is upon us; the fair has closed until next year, canning jars are flying off the shelves and Wasilla City elections are next month. All of these events are important, but take the time to attend a city council meeting before you go to the polls.
On the October ballot will be the issue of whether to approve the funding of a new proposed police station, and the City is asking the voters for a temporary sales tax increase to forward fund the project. Unlike some our southern neighbors across the Knik Arm, Wasilla prefers to have the money before embarking on a major capital project.
By paying for the construction cost before breaking ground, the city’s budget will only increase as operation and maintenance cost rise and not have long-term bonds that kids in middle school today will have to pay for in the future. This public sector funding method keeps Wasilla on a sound financial footing. Some cities bond for everything - fast depreciating equipment, paint for buildings, tar for the roof and even personnel cost. This irrational method of public sector funding is fiscal suicide. The list of insolvent cities, counties, commonwealths and states that borrowed money to pay for current operation and maintenance cost is long and distinguished - California, Hartford, Detroit, Chicago, Puerto Rico, Jefferson County, Alabama and the list grows longer by the day. The government's listed above borrowed money to pay for expenses that should have become paid from current operating budgets.
We heard testimony at one of our recent council meetings concerning building a new police complex on the old Iditarod School site, and all participants made some great points. We even had supporters of bonding for the project and of course supporters of doing nothing. After careful consideration, the council decided to let the voters decide if public safety in 2020 is a priority.
The Mayor and the City Council depends on the professional advice of our appointed department heads as well as the input from the public to guide us on matters of public safety and funding. While only the residents of Wasilla will have a vote on this measure, all that come to shop in Wasilla will be affected. The council allows anyone would like to speak three minutes to do so and many take advantage of the opportunity.
Since the proposed police complex is in its early planning stages, no hard figures are available at this time as I had hoped. If the voters approve the sales tax increase, planning will commence immediately with a site inspection and design planning, and the public will be able to review the process as it progresses.
Public testimony on whether to approve a ban on plastic bags in the city is being discussed. The ban has been in the news as of late on the Borough level, but Wasilla has been gathering input from the major retailer on the impact if enacted for months. A special Town Hall meeting was recently held on the bag ban, and the turnout was impressive. As usual, many different points of views were expressed, and all had their three minutes to shine. Only the major retailers would be affected while small shops could continue to use plastic bags.
As much as we all like to discuss the macro-scale issues facing our nation and state, it’s at the local level where you can make a difference. Public participation the democratic process is not just your right, but your duty. Until next month, be safe.