Economic development wording axed
Mayor Stephanie Scott on Tuesday broke a tie vote of the Haines Borough Assembly to adopt an ordinance that removes code language mandating the municipality have a department of economic development and an economic development director.
Assembly members Debra Schnabel, Norm Smith and Joanne Waterman also voted in support of eliminating the department from code.
“I’ve been here long enough to say that this has always been a topic of contention,” Smith said. “How do you define economic development?”
He said the issue is “a matter of perception and it’s a matter of definition,” and the assembly could revisit it once there is clearer direction for the department.
Scott recently wrote a memo calling for the code language to be scratched because the department had never been established. The change would have no impact on the borough’s municipal sales tax designated for tourism promotion and economic development, she said.
Robert Venables was economic development director for the City of Haines prior to consolidation. Economic development responsibilities then became part of the borough manager’s job, and the economic development director position has not been filled since Venables’ departure as manager in 2008.
Assemblyman Daymond Hoffman this week suggested amending the code to say the borough “may” have a department of economic development and director, replacing the word “shall,” which makes it compulsory. That would allow the assembly to revive the department without another code change.
Referring to the ordinance to remove the department from code, Hoffman asked, “If it’s been there for as long as it has, why are we changing it?”
Schnabel said the code should be more precise, and “staff is the purview of the manager.” “I don’t think that code would serve us well to be full of things that we ‘may’ or ‘may not’ do.”
Borough manager Mark Earnest has said the job description for a proposed executive assistant to the manager position includes “a very large component of what would normally fall under economic development director.”
Assembly members Jerry Lapp and Steve Vick voted in favor of Hoffman’s amendment, which failed when Scott broke a 3-3 tie. The assembly then adopted the ordinance that eliminated the department, following a second tie vote.
“I’d just hate to see us get rid of a chance that we might have an economic development director,” Lapp said.
Vick said he wanted to keep the department in code as an option, especially as the borough seeks more business from mines. No residents testified during the second public hearing Tuesday.