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

Six different visions proposed by Haines assembly hopefuls


Diana Lapham and Ryan Cook want to push ahead with Haines’ harbor improvements. Leonard Dubber thinks government is just too darn big.

Heather Lende is the optimist. Judy Erekson is the budget numbers geek. And Tom Morphet wants to do significant surgery on how the borough is run.

That’s how the six candidates for two Haines Borough Assembly seats appeared in two forums on Friday and Wednesday. About 50 people attended each of the forums sponsored by the Haines Chamber of Commerce and KHNS.

About the only item that all six agreed upon is that the potential mine from the Palmer Project is too far in the future to worry about now.

“I think this is a state issue, not a borough issue. … We have no laws governing mining. We have no expertise in that field,” Dubber said.

• Where should the budget be cut to deal with a $450,000 deficit?

Dubber and Morphet believe the police force can be cut from four to three cops – essentially eliminating 24/7 coverage. “We still have five dispatchers if something goes wrong,” Morphet said.

Lende, Erekson, Cook and Morphet specifically said the borough has been conducting too many studies, and want to cut those. Cook and Morphet suggest cutting some administrative staff.

“I don’t think the budget is in as bad shape as everyone thinks it is,” Erekson said.

Lapham took the opposite position. “I don’t know where we would cut,” she said. Lapham said studies are conducted to provide data for when the borough seeks grants.

(Disclosure: Morphet owns the Chilkat Valley News. Lende is the paper’s obituary writer.)

• Should the borough cut appropriations to nonprofit groups?

Lende, Morphet and Erekson were the big nonprofit supporters. “I think cutting nonprofits is cutting our own throat,” Morphet said.

“I don’t know how to increase (appropriations to nonprofits) when there is no money anywhere,” Cook said.

Dubber noted that the Sheldon Museum and library began as nonprofits that were later absorbed by the borough. “Nonprofits tend to grow into city services. We should hold the line on nonprofits,” he said.

Lapham said the borough should trim nonprofits’ allocations a bit. She said people are willing to donate to nonprofit services, but don’t like that funneling the money through the borough removes their say into where their money goes.

• Should the police force be reduced?

Erekson, Cook, Morphet and Dubber want to trim the number. “If there is a drug problem, we can deal with that with treatment. … Let’s try something new,” Morphet said.

Lende and Lapham opposed such a reduction. Lende and Lapham voiced concerns about drugs in Haines. “There is an underbelly to Haines that we normally don’t hear about,” Lende said.

“It’s an interesting question since we had the break-in at the library. … I think it’s up to the people. (I’m for) three cops and a chief,” Lapham said.

• Should Haines hold a referendum on proceeding with the harbor improvements?

Erekson, Lende, Morphet and Dubber support a referendum.

Cook and Lapham oppose a referendum, arguing the borough should proceed immediately with the first phase, which includes installing a steel breakwater, filling in the uplands and possibly converting much of that area into a parking lot. They argued that the design has already gone through years of public input and modifications.

However, both said they are open to tweaking the design of the first phase.

“I think people are afraid of change, and change is a good thing,” Cook said.

• Should Haines overhaul its garbage collection system?

Erekson, Lapham and Morphet opposed the idea of 100 percent of the borough’s homes and businesses being ordered to pay a mandatory garbage pickup fee.

Borough assembly member Margaret Friedenauer is preparing to set up a working group to study solid waste matters, with such a mandatory fee being a possible option to ponder. The mandatory pickup idea has been suggested as a way to combat illegal dumping.

“The assembly never directed this person to take on solid waste management,” Lapham said.

Lende said illegal dumping should be tackled. “It would be nice to be able to figure out how to do it without taxing everyone,’ she said.

Cook added: “If adequate service can’t be provided, then the borough needs to step in.”

Dubber was open to exploring options. “It needs to be an open process. Don’t put it on a fast track,” he said.

• Should the borough attract more cruise ships and should it continue with the upcoming 50 percent reduction in docking fees?

All supported trying to increase the number of cruise ships.

Lapham supported the 50 percent reduction in docking fees that the assembly approved earlier, saying it has already attracted more cruise ships to Haines in 2017.

Dubber and Cook wanted to eliminate the reductions, saying those waivers subsidize rich, private corporations.

Morphet, Erekson and Lende took no positions on the waiver.


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