July 11, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 27


Now that the fine-tuning is done, it’s time for good men and women to come to the aid of their borough and file as candidates for elected office.

In the past year, two important changes were made with an eye toward improving local elections. At the assembly’s urging, borough voters last year struck State of Alaska financial reporting rules that required candidates to divulge their full incomes. Proponents of the change said it would encourage more citizens to run for office.

The assembly replaced a ballot organized under designated seats with a roster-style ballot, where all candidate names appear on the same ballot and voters notch their top choices. The previous ballot was susceptible to jockeying by candidates previous to filing and led to a trend where only two candidates – typically one each from the town’s liberal and conservative camps – squared off for any given seat.

Both changes should help encourage more citizens to seek office. For voters, that should mean more choices, resulting in a broader, brighter and more vigorous discussion of local issues during the campaign season.

Freed from running “against” an opponent, candidates can run “for” – and be judged by voters on – their ideas and abilities.

After 27 years of watching local elections, this editor long ago abandoned the notion that liberals or conservatives made the best assembly or school board members. Most municipal issues revolve around management and judgment, not ideology.

The best elected leaders have been ones who do their homework ahead of meetings, ask insightful questions and seek creative solutions to problems while keeping an eye on getting things done. Neither liberals nor conservatives have a lock on those traits.

The candidate filing deadline is July 26.


It’s not too much to expect Haines Borough leaders to develop a strategy for burying utility lines in the townsite.

We’ve already buried lines to the ends of Lutak and Mud Bay roads and along Haines Highway. It’s reasonable that we’d bury them downtown, where the biggest segment of our population lives and works and where most of our visitors congregate.

If we were Cleveland – or even Wasilla – overhead lines wouldn’t matter. We’re Haines. Our mountain vistas are among Alaska’s most spectacular. Visitors literally gasp at views from Picture Point and Cemetery Hill. To continue to obstruct our postcard views with poles and wires is to degrade one of our valley’s top assets. That’s bad economics.

Replacement of poles with underground conduit should be included as part of the cost of every downtown road project.

Coming up with ways to fund burial of existing lines will likely require some thinking outside the box. One obvious source of money would be the borough’s tourism and economic development funds. Other options might include investigating whether the borough can do some of the required trenching for burial, and checking to see how other towns have covered this cost.

There are surely other ideas.

Burying lines may not be easy or cheap, but the alternative is not pretty. As utility poles seemingly get taller and more prominent all the time, it’s downright ugly.

-- Tom Morphet