Although the October 2nd election in both the Fairbanks-North Star Borough (FNSB) and the City of Fairbanks is now less than 24 hours away, there is one issue which has emerged front and center. Proposition 3, entitled the Citizens Home Heating Initiative, has become a major bone of contention, and the debate is being obfuscated by some misrepresentation.
Supporters of Prop 3 claim that a Yes vote is necessary for FNSB residents to maintain local control. However, the operative language of the measure tells a different story:
The borough shall not, in any way, regulate, prohibit, curtail, nor issue fines or fees associated with, the sale, distribution, or operation of heating appliances or any type of combustible fuel.
A “yes” vote means the Borough would be prohibited from regulating, prohibiting, curtailing, or issuing fines or fees associated with the sale, distribution, or operation of heating appliances or any type of combustible fuel.
If the Borough is denied the authority to exercise any power over the local use of heating appliances or combustible fuel, then this actually curtails the Borough's power, and by extension, the power of local residents. And since power abhors a vacuum, this means the power will shift to another source; namely, the state, or, much worse, the federal government. Considering that the federal government has a track record for using a sledgehammer to kill a mosquito, do FNSB residents really want to send an engraved invitation to the feds to meddle further in their lives? Federal intervention is a looming threat as the EPA has just sent a letter to the Borough stating that the failure to meet a 2014 deadline for meeting the air quality standard for PM2.5 would result in reduced funds for highways or additional regulations on energy projects and the possibility that the federal government could impose its own air pollution regulations.
Consequently, FNSB residents who believe in the maximum degree of local control and sovereignty are best advised to vote NO on Prop 3. The Daily News-Miner editorially supports a No vote, noting that "If the borough can’t create a viable plan, the state will do it. A state plan could include a burn ban during cold days, as occurs in Juneau. That would be a truly unfortunate and economically devastating rule if applied here". News-Miner columnist Dermot Cole has also taken the Yes On 3 folks to task for sending out misleading mailers claiming that a Yes vote for increase local control.
Supporters of Prop 3 are undoubtedly concerned that a runaway Borough Assembly might try to push another draconian measure like 2011 Proposition Two, which would have banned hydronic heaters boroughwide regardless of their emissions. But FNSB residents showed they were smart enough to reject such extremism, and would likely slap down another similar attempt in the future. A No vote would preserve the maximum degree of local control over the issue.
Update: It looks like Proposition 3 has passed, but by a relatively narrow 7 percent.
Here are the most pertinent links for all Fairbanks election information:
-- Fairbanks-North Star Borough election page
-- City of Fairbanks candidate list
-- Fairbanks Daily News-Miner election page (numerous Q&As with candidates)
-- City of North Pole candidate list
-- Interior Alaska Voter Guides