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Monday, February 19 2018 @ 12:39 AM AKST

Op/Ed: Big Lake Incorporation

Op-EdSubmitted by Darren Zimmer

If you are undecided about voting for for Big Lake Incorporation, look to nature for inspiration.

If you are one of the many that are undecided about voting ‘Yes’, or ‘No’ for Big Lake Incorporation, look to nature for inspiration. Nature teaches us that change is inevitable and those that adapt sooner, do better.

With approximately 3,500 residents, the Big Lake community is now larger than 131 other Alaskan incorporated cities. If it incorporates, it would be the 17th largest city in Alaska (according to Wikipedia). Economic and residential development in and surrounding Big Lake is influencing events in our community. Change to our community is inevitable, fortunately, with change, comes progress.

Incorporating involves another type of change, one that introduces tension into our neighborhood. Fortunately proponents “for” and “against” want the same thing, to retain the character of our wonderful community. The challenge for our community is to determine which approach to change will help us achieves the best long-term outcome. Proponents ‘for’ see Big Lake in a evolving environment controlled by others and believe the best way to preserve our interests is to be in a position to influence local decisions. They believe that no one outside our community is better suited than us to keep our community the way we want it. So, they petitioned the State to allow the community to legally gain control of it’s own destiny. Proponents ‘against’ incorporation are content with borough control of local affairs. They believe that the Big Lake community is not ready to effectively manage itself and fear that a city government may bring about undesirable change.

Both positions are fraught with risk. Leaving borough management and setting up our own city potentially exposes the community to poor local management. However, only by setting up our own city can the community properly influence local events and help us preserve the character of Big Lake. Establishing a fully empowered city government would not happen overnight. The Petitioners designed the process to be slow and steady and only grow upon the approval of the residents. Upon incorporation, the city will only exercise the Road Service Area services. The borough will continue to provide the Area Wide Services, Planning & Land Regulation and Fire Support Services. This will allow the nascent city government a chance to learn to handle limited Big Lake affairs while ensuring that services to the residents are not interrupted. If the community approves of it’s governments handling of road services, it can vote to petition to for more powers at a later date.

The Petitioners selected the Road Service Area powers because it’s an area they believe we can do better than the borough, at less cost. Borough standards are developed to fit the most appropriate general level of care for all the borough’s roads, be that highway or gravel lane. The Petitioners believe these standards are over engineered for the needs of the Big Lake community where ~90% of the roads are gravel. The Petitioners believe that we can have an improved road network by applying specific standards and fixes to low travelled roads. Some argue that the terrible roads are OK and don’t need improving or that the borough will get better at fixing them. When we vote, we should ask ourselves do we think the borough’s best efforts are good enough for now, how about for the next 10-20 years? Einstein is quoted as having said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Nature also teaches us that everything tends to grow. Governments are no exception; it’s inevitable that the borough government will continue to try to grow, as would our city government. We should ask ourselves which growth could we better control, a borough government where our voice is 1 amongst 70,000 (or so), or a local government where our voice counts for 1 out of 3,500 (or so). Where is your personal power of influence stronger?

Incorporation can be a reason to divide our ‘modestly well off’ and ‘living from paycheck to paycheck’ community; or, it can be a catalyst to bring us together with a common purpose. That purpose could be to provide the community oversight to our city government to ensure they pursue our common interest and preserve the character of Big Lake. Change is constant and Big Lake is changing with, or without us. If you wish for more information on incorporation, join the Petitioner’s committee as they provide an information presentation at the Big Lake Library, Thursdays at 6:00 PM.

Darren Zimmer

Big Lake, AK

See this topic for related articles and discussions about the Incorporation of Big Lake.

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Op/Ed: Big Lake Incorporation | 5 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Op/Ed: Big Lake Incorporation
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, September 22 2015 @ 06:56 PM AKDT
Thought-provoking letter.
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Op/Ed: Big Lake Incorporation
Authored by: Anna on Wednesday, September 23 2015 @ 07:50 AM AKDT
Interesting perspective, thanks for posting this. People should have all the facts and information available to make an informed decision on voting day. To me, this seems like a good deal for Big Lake.
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Op/Ed: Big Lake Incorporation
Authored by: DG on Wednesday, September 23 2015 @ 12:01 PM AKDT
The Big Lake Times offers equal time and space for citizens expressing all sides of of a position or issue, politicians running for their office, and anonymous comments from readers. We believe that this provides a useful service to the Community. Timely, relevant, and unbiased News should be freely available to all, and the opportunity to express views or have discussions is an important part of why we do this.

Thanks everyone past, and present, for keeping the discussions civil and on-topic.
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Op/Ed: Big Lake Incorporation
Authored by: D Zimmer on Wednesday, September 23 2015 @ 08:52 AM AKDT
Thank you.
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Op/Ed: Big Lake Incorporation
Authored by: A Big Lake Resident on Wednesday, September 30 2015 @ 02:22 PM AKDT
Thanks for this information from your perspective. I'd much rather have facts to determine my vote as opposed to rumours, innuendo, supposition, and emotions, and your article gives me something to think about. Thanks.
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