Assembly hopefuls field questions
Three candidates for Haines Borough Assembly offered views on a range of local issues at a candidates’ forum last week sponsored by We the People of Haines.
The event, held Sept. 13 at Sheldon Museum, drew candidates Dave Berry, Jono Greene and Joanne Waterman.
Below are excerpted responses to some of the questions asked by We the People members and by those in attendance. Berry and Greene are vying for assembly seat “A.” Waterman and Jim Studley are seeking seat “D.” Studley was absent.
Q: What characteristics of the Haines Borough do you value the most and what steps, if any, should the borough take to protect or preserve those?
Greene: “Our quality of life depends on our surroundings and everything we’ve got here is fragile. We have to be careful about how we move forward. If we do anything too fast or without enough forethought we run the risk of doing damage in the name of progress.”
Berry: “We don’t have an economy that allows a young man or woman to come back and live their life here… I believe in economic development. If it’s done correctly, it can benefit this community. In my job I hear from so many people who say they want to live in Haines, but there are no jobs here… We have to be careful in what we do, but at the same time we have to do something.”
Waterman: “Haines is a place where you make a life choice and choose to live here no matter what it takes. I applaud that and I relish it. Economic development needs to be done. We need to firm up our foundation… For years we were a duct tape and baling wire town. We’re now at transition point. With our projects now, we’re asking, how we create something that’s sustainable in terms of infrastructure? Without infrastructure, the community can’t grow.”
Q: What’s your opinion of a Constantine mine?
Berry: “If a company goes through federal state and local permitting process and receives all the necessary permits and they can prove to shareholders that they can operate at a profit and provide employment to people in the valley, they should be given opportunity to operate.”
Greene: “The track record of most major mining conglomerates that have gone through all the aforementioned permitting processes is atrocious. This business is a dirty business… These guys are after the profits and they’re going to take the shortest routeto them, no question. They’ll be running ore trucks down the highway and one spill will be a giant threat to something we already count on for economic opportunities. If they screw up, we pay the price, not them.”
Waterman: “The role the assembly and administration would play is when it gets to permitting process, if it goes that far, we have to express what’s important to our community and what our needs are. And working with whatever company, if it goes that far, and have them be an active part of this community. If they’re more a part of the community, they’re going to take care of their home, too.”
Q: What are your guiding principles when conflicts of interest arise? When do you recuse yourself from decisions?
Waterman: “When you’re talking about anything you may have a conflict of interest in, that’s where you consult your base, the people you surround yourself with, and consult the Mayor, the clerk. To me it’s more of an internal checkmaster of myself. With conflict of interest, there’s definition and perception. Perception is stronger than definitions. In community such as Haines, I definitely think of how it’s going to be perceived.”
Greene: “I’m not beholden to any group. I can stand in middle and can field all the information, right and left, make a decision and live with that. I don’t know all the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of financial disclosure. I filled out an (state financial disclosure form) and didn’t have any problem with it.”
Berry: “Conflict of interest is entirely perception within yourself. It’s a decision you have to make personally. To me, conflict of interest is mostly financial. If there’s an assembly vote and it deals with a company I work for, or immediately family member of mine, I’d abstain. Even if I had no financial gain. Perception is everything.”
Q: What is your opinion of current heli-ski regulations. Should heli-ski permits be re-issued if regulations are continually broken by companies?
Waterman: “It’s not easy. Regulations are moving in the right direction but it’s still a very fluid document and government moves slower than a snail’s pace. As much as you want something to happen today it’s still going to take a while to learn what’s exactly fitting and not fitting in those regulations and how it all works. I support the regulations that exist now but it’s a fluid document… (The second question) is kind of an open-ended question. It depends on severity of what goes on and hopefully the administration will do the right things.”
Greene: “(The heli-ski companies) have had a lot of terrain taken away from them. They shouldn’t be allowed to get off Scott-free by any means. If they’re a little out of bounds, that’s not an issue. If they’re flauting regulations, they need to be brought back in line… It’s not safe for them to be competing for unmarked terrain in such a small area.”
Berry: “The permit process should have penalties assigned when you break rules and regulations. If you break stipulations, you should get a penalty. I believe in three strikes. It’s pretty harsh to take away permit for one infraction. But if you continue to break the rules within that permit, that’s a different story.”
Q: Do you support a community campus park in area of old school on Main Street?
Waterman: “I’d support it if that’s what the community wanted. We’re in process of studying that property.”
Berry: “I personally believe that it should be turned into a park.”
Greene: “It’s so beautiful there, but visitors get to Haislers and say, ‘That’s it. That’s Haines.’ Where I’ve lived there are shopping centers with fountains and playgrounds and benches incorporated into a business environment…That property is gold.”
Public radio station KHNS will host a candidates’ forum 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24 at the Chilkat Center.
The Chilkat Valley News will publish a grid of assembly candidate views in next week’s edition, along with profiles of school board candidates and a look at the ballot question regarding financial disclosure.