Homer tribune Oct 15, 2014

‘Silver Tsunami’ spells more changes ahead
In what is coined a Silver Tsunami by the Alaska Commission on Aging, the Kenai Peninsula is seeing a new demographic – now more than half of all the residents here are between the ages of 45 and 54. Projecting down the aging road, that increase is anticipated to be 130 percent in the next few decades.
What does this mean?
At the South Peninsula Senior Summit last week at the Homer Senior Center, experts and providers came together to talk about what these trends may mean. An uplifting message from Mary Shields, the executive director of the Alaska Commission on Aging, noted the power of this demographic. It may be challenging to grow old, but there is a great deal of economic, political and social power that goes with it.
Seniors tend to be super voters and, therefore, wield a lot of political clout, Shields wrote in a message that was read at the conference. They spend their retirement and savings in their local economies, accounting for $2 billion a year. They carry social power in their families and community links and tend to volunteer for needy causes, thus providing an extra set of welcome hands in places like food banks and shelters.
Alaska’s aging demographic tipped the sociological profile of the state just 40 years ago. That was when a majority of Alaska’s residents were measured in the younger categories. Those people stayed, and as they aged, the numbers shifted. Nevertheless, Alaska overall doesn’t have a large aging population, according to the statistics presentations at the Senior Summit. This shift is unique to the Kenai Peninsula.
Still, there’s something worrisome in these statistics. A good mix of age groups keeps a community diverse. Young people establishing families need jobs and earning power to purchase homes. Retirement age people do not generally own businesses and cannot offer jobs.
The main influx in the job market on the Peninsula comes from certified nursing assistants and in the area of care giving. Medical jobs on the peninsula will continue to grow – good news for those interested in the profession.

Seniors, Medicaid and Military Denied Choice of Doctors


Seniors and Military on Kenai Peninsula Denied Choice of Doctors

By: Peter T. Zuyus

After a long battle with bureaucrats, the Surgery Center of Kenai recently opened its doors. The Surgery Center could offer medical care to Medicare/Medicaid and Tri-Care patients at significant savings over Central Peninsula Hospital. In addition, the Surgery Center could save Seniors over 40% in co-payments. Medicare/Medicaid and Tri-Care will not reimburse for services unless the Surgery Center is issued a transfer agreement from Central Peninsula Hospital.

The Surgery Center physicians, individually, have been caring for Medicare/Medicaid and Tri-Care (military) patients for years. However, as a Surgery Center, Medicare/Medicaid/Tri-Care requires the center to have a “transfer agreement” with Central Peninsula Hospital. Central Peninsula Hospital refused to issue the transfer agreement. Alaska Regional and Providence offered the surgery center a transfer agreement, but Medicare requires that one be granted by a ‘local’ hospital.

Central Peninsula Hospital is owned by the Kenai Peninsula Borough and theoretically takes direction from the Mayor and Assembly. CEO, Rick Davis of Central Peninsula Hospital has refused to sign the transfer agreement.

The refusal by CPH CEO Rick Davis, to sign a transfer agreement, is an outright denial of medical care choice, to Senior citizens and Veterans. Physicians who are willing to serve Senior, Medicaid and Veteran patients are directly being told: NO! CPH will determine which doctor and hospital Seniors and Veterans will use.

These are NOT doctors, making your medical decisions. These are government bureaucrats deciding your medical fate. When questioned about his concern for community access to medical choice at the Aug.5 Assembly meeting, by Assemblyman Ogle, Davis said that he is NOT concerned about the community, he works for the hospital.

Senior citizens throughout the United States are being denied access to their choice of medical care services and doctors, as a result of $550 million in cuts to Medicare providers initiated and approved by the current administration. At the same time, Medicare administrators are being encouraged to reduce costs in order to extend the solvency of the program. Doctors are beginning to turn away Medicare patients. These are facts.

It is a dangerous and frightening leap into the world of rationed medical care, if we allow bureaucrats to decide the medical care we receive. This must be corrected immediately, or like a disease, will spread.

Alaskan residents and legislators across the state please stand up. Contact Mr. Davis, CEO CPH; KPB Mayor Mike Navarre and the CPH Board of Directors. Demand the right to make your own medical choices. Demand that your fellow KPB Seniors and Military keep the right to choose their own doctor.


Open Letter to KPB Senior Center Administrators


Dear Senior Citizen Center administrators and directors,

Over the next several months I will be encouraging Senior citizens of the KPB to exercise their right to vote and vote in larger numbers than ever.

The upcoming October 7 Borough election is the most important election for Seniors in many years. Over the past 10 years a number of politicians have attempted to lay blame for budget shortfalls on Senior benefits and programs. Respect for Seniors has taken back seat to the “tax Seniors” politicians, many who believe Seniors have too much.

In 2007 the Unlimited Senior property exemption was taken away and replaced with a $300,000 exemption; 2013/2014 Borough politicians attempted to take away the Senior residential exemption and recently the City of Homer refused a request from the Homer Seniors Center for assistance with their conversion to natural gas. All of this done while lulling Seniors into complacency with distorted words and verbal trickery. Seniors are their scapegoat.

This October three Assembly seats and the Mayors office are on the ballot. If the Assembly and Mayors office see the Senior benefits as a place to cut back spending it will have a long term negative impact on Seniors, Senior Centers and Senior outreach organizations. There are politicians who believe Seniors receive too much now.

All Seniors must listen to the candidates, question the candidate position on Senior benefits and demand a commitment to support Senior programs and issues. I am not endorsing any particular candidate but saying, ask the direct questions of all candidates, select your candidate of choice and VOTE. If Seniors vote in numbers we can protect our Benefits, and programs from being gutted by issue oriented politicians.

I ask you, Senior citizen program administrators, to join me encouraging Seniors to get informed, listen to the candidates and VOTE.

How can you help?

Encourage every Senior to register to vote.

Encourage every Senior to request an Absentee ballot.


Why? They can fill out an absentee ballot and keep it handy. If they are not feeling well, have transportation problems, weather issues etc- they can just mail in their vote. The option to go to the polling place is always available.

Encourage every Senior to listen to and question candidates. Demand a commitment to support Senior benefits and programs. Listen carefully to their answer.

Then: Vote for their candidate of choice.

October 7 is a very important election day for Senior citizens. Benefits are easy to lose, almost impossible to restore.

Please contact me with any questions. There will be additional letters regarding Seniors and reminders to vote.

Thank you for your time and concern for our Senior Citizens and their programs,

Peter T. Zuyus


The Bed Tax Boondoggle


Bill Smith, KPB Assembly Member from Homer has introduced Ordinance 2014-25 The “Area wide Transient Accommodations Tax” also called the “bed tax”. He asks KPB to establish a 4% “bed tax” that KPB businesses will charge visitors. It is proposed to collect this tax as a “pass thru” from the KPB to the Kenai Peninsula Marketing Council (KPTMC).

Now lets peel the onion.

The KPTMC currently receives $300,000 per year from the KPB for Borough marketing. This is an NGO (non-governmental organization), receiving taxpayer monies financial audit provided. Audits provided by KPTMC to the KPB –NONE. The explanation for use of funds- Tourism?

Estimates of revenue to be raised by the tax are between $2.0 and $2.4 Million. Yes MILLION. Use of funds? Tourism. This is so absurd it is almost laughable. An additional $2.0M plus to do what?

What is a “pass thru”? It means the KPB collects the tax and immediately transfers the monies to the KPTMC. No checks, no balances- just pass it on. Incredible. Seniors will remember this as “payola in the 60s”; “Graft in the 70’s”; “Corruption in the 80’s” and now it is a modern day politically correct term “pass thru”.

The new “Bed Tax” is an unaccountable tax to be funneled to an outside organization, with no responsibility for disclosure except –it’s for Tourism.

Who markets cruise trips to Seward? Homer? Princess Lodges? THE CRUISE LINES

Who are a majority of people staying at local owned facilities? ALASKANS

Who pays this tax? ALASKANS

Approximately 60% of guests staying at local owned KPB facilities are ALASKANS.

Let’s try some common sense.

In February of this year, Mayor Navarre announced that the voter approved increase in residential real estate property exemption, along with Senior retention of that exemption was forcing the KPB to take $1.3 million out of reserves. He would have to find a way to make up the difference. Restructuring budgets to accommodate the public demands for tax relief would have been the fair and prudent method

If we really “need” a “bed tax” lets direct it to the Borough reserves and stop the negative rhetoric about KPB residents for voting for tax relief; lets enhance technology access for teachers and students OR do both.

If the Mayor and Assembly insist on the “bed Tax”, Mayor Navarre and all Assembly members should be required to execute an agreement to not accept a position or money from KPTMC, now or after leaving office. KPTMC funds should be forfeited for violating that agreement. The forfeiture must be immediate and non renewable.

In addition, before KPTMC receives any funds from KPB, it should be required to provide an audited financial statement from a recognized accounting firm.

Ordinance 2014-25 SHOULD be defeated 9-0. The stench for the potential of financial malfeasance and corruption is way too obnoxious. There are many politicians spending time in federal facilities for less financial malfeasance than this.

Dear Mr. Mayor and Assembly members- vote NO, on Ordinance 2014-25 See the new article Your comments welcome.

*** Seniors get ready for Election season***

There are approximately 10,000 Seniors on the Kenai Peninsula and a majority are registered voters.  We are a strong voter demographic. Lets use our vote to insure that Senior issues are addressed and that KPB politicians support them.

KPB residents and Seniors have a full plate of political topics this election season. Primary races and propositions will be up first in August and then a full slate of candidates and issue votes to follow.  Let’s take a quick look at some of those and how they affect the KPB Senior voters.

The KPB Mayoral race is now shaping up.  Tom Bearup is first  to challenge Mayor Navarre, with several more preparing to announce.  KPB Seniors should pay particular attention to the position candidates take on Senior issues.   The official filing period is Aug. 1 thru 15, so we can
expect little political fireworks until then.  We can assume that the Mayor will run on his record as Mayor and Mr. Bearup and others will challenge that record and offer their own ideas.

The Mayor’s campaign has been pretty quiet. Tom Bearup is traveling the Borough to garner name recognition and support.  The race will certainly heat up soon and we will be there to press all candidates on Senior issues.

Seniors will ask the Mayor, Mr. Bearup and other mayoral and assembly candidates  to make the following commitment :

“I will not support or vote for any reduction of KPB Senior benefits or raise taxes on Seniors, either by exemption reductions or tax increases”.

Yes or No? There is no middle ground.  You either support Seniors or not.

Candidates declining to commit to Seniors and “Seniors to be”, should not receive a
Senior vote.  Actually, this is a simple and very straightforward statement of support for Seniors and a simple and very straightforward response from Seniors.

The KPB wants to have us vote yes or no on “vote by mail”. Seniors are the group mostly likely to have difficulty getting to the polls, so we see this as a Senior benefit.

To test “vote by mail” , The KPB should send ALL Registered Senior voters an absentee ballot with 3 choices;
1. fill out and mail in
2. fill out and bring to a polling place
OR 3. Discard and vote in person.

That would be a painless and easy way to see how “Vote by mail” would be accepted.

We will have to wait to see the final versions of other items such as the proposed “bed tax”, before comments and recommendations can be made.

May the political rhetoric begin, and may we hear more fact than fiction.

Its the Seniors fault again

Seniors fault again?
In Mayor Navarres announcement to run for re-election he made several statements that are  audacious at best and surely deflecting  poor management by the borough, under the guise of “its the Seniors fault” that KPB service areas are in need of additional funding.
 from the Mayor February 25, 2014; “seniors use emergency services more than any other group, but they’re exempt from paying for them. He said if he doesn’t evaluate that area of the budget, the burden is going to shift to other demographics”  In other words:  It’s the Seniors fault!

Another slap at Seniors or poor political advice?  Either way it is an odd way to start a political campaign.
Let’s set the record straight with facts versus political rhetoric.
Fact:  Seniors  (65 plus) are covered by Medicare.
Fact: Medicare pays for medically necessary transport to hospitals or emergency care facilities WHEN BILLED.  (Source- Medicare.gov)
The Mayor can simply direct the borough finance department to bill Medicare for the emergency services.  It is not difficult and will reduce the service area tax burden on all residents.   If Mayor Navarre is not comfortable doing this on his own, I am quite sure the Assembly would support him on the issue.  It does not need a department or a committee, just a directive to the borough Finance Director.
In addition, Medicaid pays for medically necessary transport to hospitals or emergency care facilities WHEN BILLED.  (Source- medicaid.gov).  Most health insurance policies pay for medically necessary transport and now that we have Obamacare, by law, everyone must have insurance.
Fact: The borough can bill for all emergency service and reduce the overall tax burden on all residents.
There are only two reasons for not billing.
  1.  poor management
  2. financial malfeasance 
Mr. Mayor, the first reaction should not be, blame Seniors, blame residents and raise taxes.  You have the reins of leadership and can fix the perceived problem with your pen.
Manage finances, reduce taxes and reduce rhetoric. 
Now, in addition to Seniors, the blame for budget shortfalls is also being put on KPB residents voting to raise the residential tax exemption to $50,000. 
The KPB is NOT losing revenue- the residents voted to keep their own money.  The $1.5 million the borough will use to offset the exemption raise is not excess revenue, it is Excess collection of taxes from residents.  It is not the Mayors or the Borough’s money- it is excess tax collected from borough residents.  KPB residents voted to reduce their taxes and keep their hard earned money.  Budgets reflect future spending projections- propose less and spend less.  It is not magic, it is management.
Fact: It is the job of the Mayor and the Borough to manage borough finances and to support and honor the will of the people. 
The will of the people is clear.  Embrace it, support it and move forward.
Additional comments can be found at KPBSeniors.com

Local Seniors more than a commodity


What I found most disturbing regarding the Borough’s proposed ordinance to raise taxes on some resident seniors was their lack of justification for increasing the taxation for this group. Sure, many seniors can afford to pay more, but why should they be targeted for tax increases?

Seniors benefit our borough. Local seniors contribute to borough sales tax revenue. All local residents benefit, not only by their presence and the life experience that they share with us, but by the economic benefits that we all gain when they spend their money in the borough.

In the past, our Borough Assembly supported an unlimited property tax exemption for our seniors. This enlightened act retained many seniors and attracted many more. I find it disturbing when our current local politicians now find taxing local seniors the most attractive alternative for balancing their budget.

Statistics show a growing senior population here. I believe that’s good for our community.

Mayor Navarre introduced the ordinance and Assembly members Bill Smith, Brent Johnson, Hal Smalley and Mako Haggarty voted to reduce seniors’ exemptions. The good news is there were five Assembly members that voted to preserve them. Our borough should consider the benefits of providing tax relief for seniors.

If the Borough Assembly wants to fix something, then let the people vote to restore the unlimited property tax exemption for all local seniors. We should go back to the day that we welcomed seniors and should encourage people to retire in our community.

I believe this change would be in our best interests.


Thank you Assembly members, Kelly Wolf, Wayne Ogle, Dale Bagley, Charlie Pierce and Sue McClure for your vote against Ordinance 2013-36 that would have raised taxes on about 20 percent of KPB Seniors.  Your votes were a significant step in preventing the erosion of Senior benefits and rights that some of your fellow Assembly members embrace.

During my short but active involvement with defeating this ordinance, I have learned much about the attitudes, beliefs and positions of most Assembly members, when it comes to Senior issues. Some of it surprising, some heartwarming and some frightening for Seniors.

From: anti-Senior comments such as “this ordinance has nothing to do with money, it is about principle, Seniors need to pay more”.

To : “We must support the Seniors of the borough, many of us always have and I believe we should continue”

Mayor Navarre, who will run for reelection supported raising taxes on Seniors and stated that Senior benefits should be reviewed as there too many Seniors and the population of Seniors is growing. Obviously that is a politically calculated statement he felt was necessary in an election year.

A mixture of arrogance, disdain, jealousy,and disregard for Seniors came through.

Rather than point at specific Assembly members, suffice to say, all wanting to take benefits from Seniors are “termed out” as they put it, let’s just take a look

Disdain: get even for term limits
Arrogance: I can do whatever I want with no recourse (termed out)
Jealousy: Jealous of some Seniors
Disregard for Seniors: Seniors already have too many benefits, we will just take some back.

The good news, Assembly members are on the record for supporting or not supporting Seniors.  All the political PC and political rhetoric in the world cannot change the facts.

Where do Seniors go from here?
Forward to insist that all Assembly members and future Mayor support and honor Senior citizen rights and benefits.

How do we do it?
We VOTE. We make it known that our vote will go to those who support Seniors, period.  In the last Mayoral election Mayor Navarre was elected with only 9 percent of registered voters voting for him.  Hardly a mandate.  Seniors represent 22 percent of registered voters on the KPB. We can make a difference and we should make a difference both at the Assembly and Mayoral level.

Seniors should not let themselves be quieted with political correctness or political rhetoric.  We can demand YES or NO answers to our questions, no gray areas. Quite a challenge for politicians.

Mayor Navarre said the Senior population is growing and their benefits should be reviewed for reduction.  He has staked out his position on Seniors in the upcoming election.

Seniors look forward to seeing how other Mayoral candidates view the Seniors of the KPB.

Thank you again to all who supported the Seniors of the KPB.

Mayor and Assembly Respond

Mayor Navarre and many assembly members ( all but one) did contact me regarding the upcoming Senior citizen exemption vote.

We had the opportunity to exchange views about Senior exemptions and the overall support of Seniors of the KPB. Our assembly members have differing views, from a firm belief that all Seniors have too many benefits from the State and Borough, to full support of Seniors and Senior organizations on the KPB.

Rather than mention names, I will let voting records and comments speak for themselves. Following the Jan 7 assembly vote on raising taxes for some Seniors a list of names and their votes will be on Kpbseniors.com. The report will be simple, Yes or No in support of Seniors. There is no middle ground, no maybe, no depends on a report and no we will take it up another time.

Mayor Navarre does not have a vote. However, he did endorse the Ordinance raising taxes on Seniors. If he withdraws his support of the Ordinance before the vote, it will be considered that he supports Seniors. Unfortunately, assemblyman Haggerty did not wish to discuss the subject, but his vote on Jan 7 will clearly state his position.

Keep in mind that raising taxes on 20 percent of Senior property owners is not a small thing, but could be a sign of more cuts to come.

I encourage all Seniors and Seniors to be, to urge your assembly representative to vote NO on Ordinance 2013-36.
You can go to www.kpbseniors.com for more commentary or to share your own thoughts.

I thank the Mayor and Assembly members for their time and wish all a very Happy and Prosperous New Year.

Seniors under attack

 Seniors under attack by KPB politicians

In 1986 KPB Seniors were leaving the Borough in alarming numbers.  Moving south or to other boroughs, more welcoming of Seniors and pleased to have them as part of their community.

Borough leaders and residents reacted by saying, you are our Seniors, you built our Borough and we want you to stay.  That is when  KPB enacted Ordinance 86-78 eliminating real estate taxes for Seniors over age  65.  The State had already recognized the Senior contribution by enacting Statute 29.45.03 (e) exempting Alaska  Seniors from the first $150,000 of assessed valuation.

The impact of State and Borough exemptions exceeded expectations.  The Senior migration reversed, not only did KPB Seniors stay, but other Alaskan Seniors built homes and retired in  KPB, which affectionately became known as “The Alaskan Riviera” for its beauty and climate.  Seniors approaching retirement built new homes, remodeled existing homes and invested heavily into the KPB.  They created jobs and are still a major contributor to the economic growth of the KPB.

In 2006 Borough politicians decided the contribution of Seniors was no longer needed.  20 Years of successful investment by Seniors, now attacked by a new generation of politician.

The KPB politicians rushed to rescind the unlimited Senior exemption and brought it to a vote under the guise of “vote yes for the senior exemption “.   Mislead Seniors and voters thought they were preserving the exemption, not raising taxes on many Seniors.

The result? Seniors no longer trust the Borough they helped build.  Remodels that would exceed the new exemption limit dried up.  New construction of homes over $300,000 virtually ceased.  Since the 2007 assault on Seniors the KPB has lost millions of dollars in revenue and several thousand jobs.  The KPB forecast of massive additional tax revenues from Seniors never materialized.

Now, Mayor Navarre, with Assembly members Smith and Johnson want to raise taxes on Seniors again.  After a successful, but misleading Ordinance to remove the Senior unlimited exemption   and an Ordinance to raise the general Residential exemption to $50,000, they have turned on Seniors once more, by trying to eliminate the eligibility of Seniors for the $50,000 Residential exemption.

They have  scheduled the Assembly vote  on Ordinance 2013-36 for Jan 7 2014.  Why this date?
Simple, they know many KPB Seniors will still be visiting family.  Embarrassed for their constituents to see them attack Seniors, they get deniability by saying  “Sorry, you Seniors should have been there”

If you are a Senior, have relatives that are Seniors, OR plan on becoming a Senior one day, PLEASE tell Mayor Navarre and the Assembly: stop assaulting Seniors, leave their $350,000 total exemption alone and go about the important business of managing the KPB.  Call, write or email, but let them know that you support the Seniors of the KPB.

You are our friends, our children and grand children. We need your help and support.

Peter T. Zuyus

A KPB Senior