State representative-elect Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins visited Haines this week. His four-day visit included playing in community hockey games and meeting with interest groups.
The 23-year-old Democrat arrived Monday afternoon with the goal of networking with local agencies and leaders to determine needs and priorities. Kreiss-Tomkins visited with borough and school board officials, spoke with senior center and pre-school representatives, played in a Wednesday afternoon hockey scrimmage, and squeezed in a nighttime run with an old friend over the course of his stay.
Kreiss-Tomkins was on a tour of House District 34 communities and was planning to travel to Hoonah next.
“I didn’t appreciate the extent to which being a legislator is interacting with agencies and swinging the big bat when it comes to constituent interest,” Kreiss-Tomkins said.
Haines Borough Assembly and school board members got the chance to ask questions of their new representative Wednesday night. Kreiss-Tomkins said in an interview before the meeting that most of his discussions with individuals and groups around town have revolved around finances, and Wednesday night was no different.
Mayor Stephanie Scott pointed out that none of the projects on the borough’s “wish list” of funding requests to the Alaska Legislature were included on Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell’s recently released capital budget, and asked Kreiss-Tomkins for advice on how to breathe life into the projects.
“The short answer to that is I don’t know. This is all part of the learning curve that I’m trying to climb as fast as I can,” Kreiss-Tomkins said.
Parnell released his capital budget Dec. 14. It proposed spending $195 million for Southeast projects, including $31 million for 22 miles of Haines Highway reconstruction and $10 million for the Juneau access road.
“The governor has announced his priorities and the leadership in the House and the Senate have announced their priorities, and I’m sure the issues that they have announced as priorities will continue to be priorities. And that’s looking at oil tax legislation,” Kreiss-Tomkins said.
Kreiss-Tomkins encouraged the officials at Wednesday night’s meeting to maintain regular contact with him and requested meeting agendas and minutes be sent to him regularly. He offered to set up a weekly conversation or meeting with Haines officials to keep up to speed on local developments.
Assembly members and school board members asked what Kreiss-Tomkins could do about the governor’s recent, seemingly unilateral decision to scrap plans for an Alaska Class Ferry in favor of two smaller “shuttle” ferries. The project shift has created considerable confusion and exasperation among residents and governmental officials in Southeast.
Kreiss-Tomkins said he was “deeply concerned” by the governor’s announcement and said he has “yet to meet anyone who supports it,” a fact he intends to make clear while sitting on the House Transportation Committee.
In addition to the transportation committee, Kreiss-Tomkins has received appointments to the House Fisheries Committee and House State Affairs Committee.
The 28th Alaska Legislature convenes Jan. 15.