July 18, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 28

Redistrict plan would link Haines, Juneau

The Alaska Redistricting Board approved a new political map Sunday, placing Haines in a state House district with downtown Juneau, Douglas Island, Skagway, Klukwan and Gustavus.

The map will be submitted to a judge for review.

The board redrew the boundaries after the Alaska Supreme Court ruled last year the board hadn’t followed the correct process in carving up the districts. For the 2012 elections, Haines was included in an interim map with Sitka and several other small communities in Southeast.

Haines Borough Mayor Stephanie Scott said she fears the new map’s configuration will make Haines “the tick on the back of the elephant” that is downtown Juneau.

Though the board is supposed to carve up communities based on the degree to which they are contiguous, compact and socioeconomically integrated, Scott said she doesn’t understand how Juneau and Douglas Island are socioeconomically similar to Haines with their high reliance on cruise ships for revenue and lower Native populations.

Manager Mark Earnest, who has worked for communities that are both the “tick” and the “elephant” in their districts, said the new map means the borough will just have to work harder to get its voice heard.

“There is a challenge, but you just have to be more effective. You have to maintain good working relationships with the administration, with the state departments and with the delegation. It does require you to work a little harder, but if the projects are meritorious, the legislators that do get elected that I’ve worked with understand that and will find a way to provide assistance to communities,” Earnest said.

While working as manager in Whittier, a town of about 200 lumped in with Girdwood and parts of Anchorage, Earnest said the key to success in the legislature was hiring a lobbyist. “We hired a lobbyist, which was extremely helpful. My first year it was a little tough before we hired the lobbyist,” he said.

Earnest said he will recommend Haines invest in a legislative lobbyist in Juneau. “I think that would be very beneficial.”

The borough currently employs a $43,000 lobbyist in Washington, D.C.