Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

 
 

Editorial

 


By extending a $53,000 “courtesy” bonus to police chief Gary Lowe, the Haines Borough Assembly last week bankrupted arguments that the municipality can’t afford to keep open its museum and swimming pool.

The severance went beyond even the borough’s bloated and inexplicable contract language to provide Lowe with three months of wages in the event that he was fired.

If there are tens of thousands of dollars available as a “courtesy” to an unsatisfactory employee, there’s money enough to keep the public’s facilities open to the tax-paying public.

Also, the public deserves some assurances that Lowe’s severance is not a precedent. If it is, we’ll go broke on resignations.

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Leaders must now hire a new police chief, and hopefully, find one qualified to professionally supervise nine employees and oversee a $1 million budget. In Petersburg, the municipality recently hired a head-hunting firm to replace its outgoing chief, who worked there 19 years.

Their search will cost $15,000, plus travel expenses. That sounds like a lot, but is not much compared to the $120,000 per year the Haines Borough has been paying for Lowe each year in wages and benefits.

Our town has suffered at the hands of bad chiefs hired through the traditional process, in which we put out an advertisement and unemployed or unemployable candidates who can’t find work elsewhere apply here.

In the past 30 years we’ve had one chief who left town after stealing money from the police reserves, another who was implicated in a scheme in which he was paid “overtime” for attending borough meetings (although he was already a salaried employee) and another who raised hackles with a “good ticket” program under which patrolmen were to pull over citizens for abiding the law.

We’ve had a few good chiefs, but they’ve been the exceptions. Unless we change the way we go about recruiting cops, the parade of corrupt and incompetent ones is likely to continue.

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A friend from Whitehorse who came to Haines last weekend was shocked to learn our borough buys coffee for its employees. My friend is a government employee who describes herself as a socialist. She thinks property ownership is a crime. But she considered it preposterous that the government would buy its workers beverages.

Another friend who arrived on the ferry Columbia Monday said the breakfast on board was served as a buffet, including all the bacon you could eat. So she ate all she could.

We may have to buy our own health care in this country. And we don’t have the fancy recreation halls and cultural facilities they do up north. But our taxes are low and we’re rich in cheap joe and greasy breakfasts.