|Daily News - Miner
Editorial, November 10, 1998, relative to petitions seeking
to consolidate the city of Fairbanks with the Fairbanks North Star Borough (boroughs are
similar to counties, though in this case, much larger than most counties) Click here to go to rebuttal.
Sponsor the Merger, Personally
Fairbanks voters should have little reason to
hesitate if they are asked during the next few months to sign petitions advocating the
merger of the city and borough governments. The petition calls for almost no change in
local government services and asset distribution. At the same time, the consolidation
should cut loose some money for better services and give the community a stronger voice in
state and federal issues.
If anything, the proposal could be most easily criticized for not
changing enough. Authors of the petition took care not to alienate anyone unnecessarily.
The words "will not be affected and will remain in force" repeat as a chorus in
the transition plan.
For the most part, taxes wouldn't change, services wouldn't change and
boundaries wouldn't change. The most significant alterations would be at the upper level
of city and borough administration, where duplication would be eliminated. We'd have one
mayor instead of two and one local legislative body instead of two. The borough and city
finance, legal and personnel departments would merge.
However, people would see little change on the street The city of
Fairbanks would disappear and be resurrected as an "urban service area." Police,
fire, building inspection, public works and engineering services all would continue as
before within the new service area's boundary.
These services would be paid for in part with existing taxes, of
course. But the urban service area would also have exclusive access to the (former) city's
permanent fund, which was created with money from the 1997 sale of the Municipal Utilities
System. That money would be placed in trust for the benefit of people within the new urban
service area. The account will top at least $86 million within the next Year. It would
remain an immense and valuable asset for those residents and businesses with the good
fortune to be located within city limits.
Petitioners need to gather more than 3,400 signatures before submitting
the idea to the state's Local Boundary Commission. So if you see a copy of the petition
somewhere in the next few months, add your name as a sponsor.
Want the other side of the story? Click here.
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