Lenise Henderson Fontenot, the Haines-based Alaska Arts Confluence and the Haines Borough deserve credit for big improvements to facades on Main Street this spring. Our core is considerably brighter this summer, due to their efforts. Combined with recent facelifts at Alaska Liquor Store and Olerud’s Market Center, downtown has come a long way in a few years.
Fish-themed bike racks and bear-proof garbage cans are a great addition, as are monthly barn dances at the ANB Hall aimed at bringing residents together downtown.
There’s still plenty of work for the Haines Borough’s downtown revitalization committee, including reviving a shop-at-home campaign. Urban planner Barb Sheinberg, in helping write the borough’s downtown plan in 2010, emphasized that commerce is the reason for rebuilding the town’s commercial district and a shop-at-home campaign is central to encouraging that. The Haines Chamber of Commerce can partner on this job.
The downtown plan identified eight initial goals for the downtown. Ones still needing attention include: 1) signage improvements to the town’s west and north entrances, 2) working with the state Department of Transportation on road and roadside issues in the downtown core, 3) seeking funding for streetscape infrastructure and 4) starting a downtown assistance program.
Working with the borough planning commission to steer retail development onto Main Street, filling in empty blocks and buildings there, should be another goal.
Besides obvious benefits to local shops, a bustling, attractive downtown would boost our pride of place and help build community. Working toward it is worth our time and money.
To avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, assistant to the manager Darsie Culbeck, who is working seasonally for Constantine Metal Resources, should recuse himself from working on projects related to mineral development.
Among reasons that Culbeck’s job is an issue is that his borough job involves development of infrastructure – such as Lutak Dock and Haines Highway – that would help his private employer. Constantine officials say a decision on whether to develop a mine near the deposit at 40 Mile Haines Highway will be made as the result of exploration in the next three years.
Culbeck’s job doesn’t allow him to make final decisions on borough matters. That authority rests with the assembly. But his job certainly gives Constantine an ear at the highest levels of our local government. Also, Culbeck is in a position to influence decisions by the assembly and borough management specifically because his position includes sharing and shaping information.
If, in either of his two jobs, Culbeck comes across information that would be beneficial to one of his employers but costly to the other, to which is he loyal? Culbeck should not work on the public’s dime evaluating decisions that might give an unfair advantage to Constantine’s agenda in how the Chilkat Valley is developed.
Assembly members apparently have decided Culbeck does not have a financial conflict of interest. Culbeck’s two jobs, however, certainly raise the possibility for many ethical ones. Ethical conflicts are real and need to be addressed because the mere appearance of them corrodes the public’s trust.
-- Tom Morphet