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

Deadline draws near for minor offense law


The deadline for an ad hoc committee to bring a revamped minor offenses ordinance to the Haines Borough Assembly is fast approaching, with a town hall meeting scheduled for Tuesday, April 5, for the community to review the proposed changes to the controversial ordinance.

The town hall will run from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Chilkat Center lobby, where the committee will present its work and take questions and comments. The committee will also discuss minor violations at a meeting 6 p.m. Monday.

“We have already talked about Title 10 (minor violations) once but didn’t have much public there, so we just want to make sure people know they have another opportunity to weigh in,” said Margaret Friedenauer, one of three assembly members on the committee. “Discussions might include minor offenses and fines associated with skiing, cycling, ATVs, snowmachines, J-walking, littering.”

Since beginning work on the ordinance in November, the committee has decided on several changes to the document, including the addition of a statement to quell fears about potential abuse of the law by “policing for profit.”

“The purpose and intent of this title is to protect the lives, health and safety of the public and government employees; to protect public and private property; and to protect the rights guaranteed in the United States Constitution, the State of Alaska Constitution, and the Haines Borough Charter Preamble and Bill of Rights. Under no circumstances shall revenue generation be used as a motive to enforce the provisions of this title,” it reads.

There is also a recommendation for oversight of the number of tickets and dollar amount collected. Those figures would be tracked and available upon request to the Public Safety Commission and assembly.

Another alteration concerns which borough officials would be authorized to write tickets.

The original ordinance allowed the manager to deputize any borough employee to write citations, while the current document allows only police officers to do so. However, the committee is recommending the harbormaster and assistant harbormaster be given this same authority with proper training.

The committee has decided to stick with some elements of the original document that generated concern, such as leaving the appeal process in the hands of the magistrate rather than the administration. A ticketed person will appeal through the court system, not the borough administration as some critics suggested.

“There were several people in the community who didn’t think minor offenses should go to the court, but we thought it was more fair for everyone,” Friedenauer said. “The magistrate is trained to deal with these things and personally, I see it as the best way to ensure the rights of the individual are protected. And it’s only a last resort; it only goes to the magistrate if the person disputes the violation.”

The committee also recommended removing all of Title 18 – land use and development violations – from the minor offenses ordinance, with the reasoning that those disputes should be handled by the Planning Commission and planning department. That change remains under discussion.

The committee must bring its recommendations to the assembly by April 26, the deadline set by the assembly in October.

The 35-page minor offenses ordinance, introduced in June, contained about 250 violations and accompanying fines. The assembly passed the ordinance in September amid a flurry of criticism, and ultimately voted to nullify its passage in October after more than 650 residents signed a petition calling for its repeal.


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