12 April 2007


Some folks on the Nome Common Council are looking at expanding Nome's city limits, given the gold mine that's expected to start producing gold at Rock Creek, just a few miles north of town. The idea is that if the city can generate more tax revenue from the mine, then tax rates in the city can be lower.

Sounds straightforward enough to me and I've been busy educating myself on what the Local Boundary Commission is and how annexation can happen according to the state constitution, statute, and regulation.

You can learn all sorts of neat stuff when you start looking at a new topic. For instance, did you know city governments can charge differential tax rates and provide differential services? There's been some grumbling about this idea among folks who live just outside of town and folks in town who don't want to, say, bus children in from the expanded limits. But that might not have to happen if the city didn't want it to.

The annexation procedure also seems remarkably detailed and extensive. I can understand why the state doesn't want city governments just taking over territory at will but it does seem like Alaska law creates a presumption against annexation and expansion.

Who knows where this idea will go. The mayor and city manager wanted to create an ad hoc committee to look at the idea and explore the issues at play but a powerful councilmember (he's of the "grumbling set") put his foot down and delayed its creation at least until the next meeting. The Nome Council is a status quo body and I wouldn't be surprised if they can't even get their act together and create an exploratory committee.

My read on the issue is that there's some support for this idea from a "silent majority" in this town, particularly among those folks who don't like this mine and would like any opportunity to stick it to NovaGold. But the grumbling set is always a bit louder and might prevail.

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