March 8, 2012 | Vol 42, No. 10

Borough leaders nix trip to D.C. to lobby

A Haines Borough contingent won’t be making the trip to Washington, D.C., this spring.

“There are so many things that need to be tended to here in the borough, and I feel an absence from the borough should only be undertaken if it’s absolutely required,” said Mayor Stephanie Scott.

She sought assembly approval last week to cancel the annual trip, budgeted at $8,500 in the economic development fund. Scott said Brad Gilman, the borough’s D.C.-based lobbyist, told her “if there was a year to skip that trip, this would be the year.”

Assemblyman Steve Vick agreed with the cancellation, but said the visits still are valuable. “I think going to Washington and lobbying is just a part of what we do to serve the community,” he said.

Last April, borough manager Mark Earnest and then-Mayor Jan Hill traveled to the nation’s capital to lobby for Small Boat Harbor expansion and borough acquisition of Picture Point.

They had meetings with U.S. senators Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski, U.S. Rep. Don Young and representatives from the National Association of Counties, Federal Highway Administration and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The trip had an estimated cost of $5,000.

Lobbyist Gilman in a February e-mail to the borough said this year’s efforts would focus on “intelligence gathering,” so “if money is tight, this is probably a good year not to come back” to Washington, D.C.

“Where is the biggest bang for your buck?” Mayor Scott said. “We have limited bucks, and I am very mindful of how they’re being spent.”

She serves on the Alaska Municipal League board and said she will seek state support for projects.

“I feel like the borough needs to raise its voice on the state level, and that is maybe the place where I feel that I can be most effective, getting to know those players on the state level,” Scott said.