The Haines Borough Assembly’s personnel committee should reduce allotted leave in the manager’s contract during its upcoming review of that document. In addition to his $108,000 in pay, the manager may take 48 days of leave annually in addition to 11 paid holidays. Based on a five-day work week, that’s up to three months off, with pay, per year – an appropriate amount if our town were a small, European nation with bursting coffers and not much to do. It isn’t. Questions the committee might consider include: How much work can a manager accomplish in nine months? Does the manager’s efficiency make up for lost days? What message does that amount of leave send to other borough workers? What does it do to their morale and commitment to work hard? How does that much leave affect management of the borough, borough projects and oversight of borough employees?
It’s a truism that people generally don’t worry about government until their taxes go up. Some residents, upset about their land assessments and anticipating a property tax increase, are now raising questions about Haines Borough spending. Their timing is perfect. The assembly begins reviewing its budget, department by department, April 9. The assembly also is currently negotiating a new contract with its employees. Residents who feel strongly about local government spending should pay attention and speak up. Too often citizens regard government as a kind of automobile they “gas up” with tax dollars, expecting it will take them somewhere. Government is more like a bicycle that we buy with our tax dollars. Our participation and attention make it go.
The enduring success of Skagway’s Buckwheat Ski Classic begs the question of whether Haines could have its own, major wintertime event. We typically have much more snow than Skagway, Juneau, or Whitehorse, Y.T. Including the renovated Harriett Hall, we have a wonderful indoor/outdoor facility at the state fairgrounds, complete with rides. The kiddie sled dog race at the recent Winter Games was a huge hit with youngsters, parents and spectators. One mom dubbed it the “Ikidarod.” Such an event could be the anchor for a winter weekend festival in Haines. A small patch of snow is about all that’s required. Every child for 100 miles has a sled and a dog. We could paint a starting line named “Fourth Avenue” and the finish line “Nome,” make bibs, and profile “racers” and their “teams” in an “Ikidarod” program. Imagine.
-- Tom Morphet