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



Instead of tying itself in knots on the question of selling a lot on Third and Main or making it a park, borough leaders could steer a middle course and make the lot the borough’s designated site for summer food carts and trailers. Put the trailers on the lot’s downhill side and leave the rest of the lot for people to rest and recreate.

The borough could collect rents from the trailers and establish guidelines for appearances, setbacks, etc. In the interest of trailers serving as a “small business incubator” and transforming them into brick-and-mortar buildings, the borough could limit the number of years on a food trailer permit.

Such an arrangement would provide food carts a neutral place to operate, with room for customers, and increase their attraction by putting other vendors next door – the same logic that helps food courts in malls succeed.

It also would resolve unanswered questions about permitting and planning and keep food trailers from popping up like mushrooms, as they currently do. By charging rent, it might also satisfy residents who want Third and Main sold to generate revenues for the borough through property taxes.

Finally, the arrangement also would leave the property in borough ownership if residents later decide to make the lot a park.

As a mix of commercial use and open land, such a solution would represent a compromise as well as a solution to two municipal issues at once.

If borough leaders have better ideas, let’s hear them.


Bill Seward, new manager for the Haines Borough, demonstrated in one week that he doesn’t understand the bounds of his authority, the concept of open government, or quite what to do.

This is not surprising because Seward has no municipal experience or training. He spent the last 20 years in the U.S. Coast Guard, most recently in recreational boating safety.

Why we must remark on Seward’s spectacularly awkward debut is that it’s a repeat of the one by previous manager David Sosa, also a career military man who had never worked for a municipality.

On arriving here, Sosa quickly chafed staff by requiring them to create PowerPoint presentations on what they did all day. He spent time at the assembly chambers rehearsing his manager’s reports, held continual meetings with high-level staff and finally invented “bimbling,” the notion that he could get paid for just walking around town during work hours. The assembly stood by him.

Sosa launched crusades against Haines Animal Rescue Kennel and Mosquito Lake School for reasons that were never fully clear. Maybe he had nothing else to do.

Before Sosa was hired, I asked him if he had ever so much as shadowed a municipal manager. He just gave me his tough, “I Am A Marine” look, as though working as a warrior somehow qualified him to steer a municipality. Teenage boys cop a similar attitude about driving if you hand them keys to a Ferarri.

Managers and city administrators here were once seriously busy. Then, in 2007, manager Robert Venables convinced the assembly to create a $65,000 “director of public facilities” position, removing about half the manager’s workload. After that, managers started popping up at tea parties around town, mingling and exchanging pleasantries.

Which might explain why Seward was at recent meetings about biomass heating and parking at Mud Bay, ones he didn’t need to attend. (Both borough consultant Darsie Culbeck and public facilities director Brad Ryan already were staffing the biomass meeting.)

The back story here is that recent assemblies decided experience doesn’t count a lick when it comes to choosing a manager. Plus, there’s no handbook for what a manager should do all day. Maybe we could pay a consultant $40,000 to write one.

It’s as if we hired a burger chef to lay carpet in our living room and now we’re surprised to find him in the kitchen. Credit some borough staffers back in May for trying to convince the assembly to hire an actual carpet-layer.

Too bad they didn’t listen.

- Tom Morphet


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