Did the Homer City Council do right by the citizens of the Cosmic Hamlet when it seated Storm Hansen-Cavasos as a voting city council member?
A judge will weigh the matter. Dec. 3 is the first court appearance for a group of Alaskans who believe that Hansen-Cavasos didn’t meet the requirements to be a candidate, much less a council member, because she lived in the Kenai Peninsula Borough, not in the city.
Cavasos filed for office on Aug. 9 for the October local election, but it wasn’t until after she was elected that some people in the area began questioning whether she met the residency requirements when she filed for office. People knew she lived on Rolling Meadows Road, about six miles out East End Road beyond the city limits.
One of those people questioning the candidate was the incumbent who lost to Hansen-Cavasos — Tom Stroozas, who took fourth in an election for two seats on the council.
Some say it’s sour grapes. But Stroozas has said he knows he’s out of the running, yet he still believes rules are rules — and that there’s ample proof Cavasos didn’t live in the city limits for the year leading up to the election. Stroozas believes the person who received the second most votes should be seated instead. That person was Shelly Erickson.
The Stroozas group has raised over $12,000 and hired an Anchorage law firm, which last week requested an expedited hearing with an Anchorage Superior Court judge, and an emergency injunction to prevent Hansen-Cavasos from serving until the matter is resolved.
The Homer City Code is clear that candidates must live in the city for the year prior to the election date. When Cavasos filed for office on Aug. 9, she listed an in-town address. But she had had a lease on a home outside the city limits that had gone through March of 2019, and then she extended it on a month-to-month basis, while she was evidently making a transition to a new residence in town. Because she is a life-long residence of the area, she is known as a local, but in fact, may have been living at her Rolling Meadows Road location, six miles outside of the city limits in 2018 and through much of 2019.
East End Road “feels like” Homer, but isn’t. You’re back in the borough once you cross McClay Road.
Rolling Meadows Road is another six miles past McClay Road. Critics say that distance would be the same as a candidate living in the Old Sterling region of the Sterling Highway, going the other direction. Or it would be as if someone living on Trunk Road in the Mat-Su Borough served on the Palmer City Council.
The Homer City Council looked into the matter, had an investigation conducted on its behalf, gave Hansen-Cavasos a pass because she’s a well-known life-long resident of the area, and swore her in.
“This case involves constitutional rights of the highest order—the right to vote, and to have one’s vote counted. It also involves the companion right, equally important, to have representation in government by a person of one’s choice. Revolutions have been fought over such rights,” wrote the lawyers for Stroozas.
“Stroozas and other residents of the City are entitled to elect an eligible candidate of their choosing. Stroozas is therefore entitled to an order directing the Homer City Clerk to swear in the next eligible candidate with the highest percentage of the votes. The City must obey the law which it failed to do when it seated ineligible candidate, Hansen-Cavasos on the City Council,” the attorneys wrote.
The group believes the scenario could come up again and again in Alaska, thus feels their cause is precedent-setting. They’re asking for financial help to pursue the question of “what constitutes a city resident” in Anchorage Superior Court. Checks may be directed to Reeves-Amodio LLC, 500 L Street, Suite 300, Anchorage, AK 99501, with Attn: Stroozas Defense Fund in the check memo line. The Stroozas Defense Fund needs to raise another $11,000.
What the judge — or likely the Alaska Supreme Court — decides will be considered case law and will be referred to in future cases that could come up in Anchorage, the Mat-Su Valley, and the Fairbanks area, where municipalities and boroughs are side by side.
On Monday, the Homer City Council will meet in executive session to discuss how the city will pay for the defense of its decision to seat Hansen-Cavasos.