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

Borough candidates talk business in final forum


September 28, 2017

The Haines Chamber of Commerce asked business and economy-focused questions of assembly and mayoral candidates at the third and final candidate forum before the Oct. 3 municipal election.

Chamber Executive Director Tracy Harmon asked the eight candidates seven questions and each had one minute to respond. Chamber president John Hagen assisted in moderating the forum at the Chilkat Restaurant and Bakery.

Asked about how the assembly plans to make Haines more attractive for new businesses, assembly candidate Brenda Josephson said there is an attitude in Haines that the community doesn’t want new businesses.

“I would like to change the perspective in Haines that we’re open for business,” Josephson said.

Candidates were asked about what they think are the greatest challenges for newcomers starting businesses in Haines. A common answer to this question and others echoed by several candidates was to create a sense of continuity and simplicity in borough code.

“I think the role of government is to provide the infrastructure for businesses to operate. It’s best when not seen,” said assembly candidate Michael Fullerton. “Rules, regulations that are consistent, that give a business owner the opportunity to plan for the future without wondering what’s next. I’d like to propose a sense of continuity.”

Josephson said a challenge for newcomers is “understanding the regulatory environment,” and she’d like borough code to be more consistent.

“We need to lighten up a little bit and make this a more welcoming code,” said Mayor Jan Hill. “Right now, I think we have too restrictive codes and rules.”

“I think a new business owner needs to have simple rules so he knows what he’s doing,” said Diana Lapham. She also advocated for a “cohesive assembly and concise and clear code.”

Andrew Gray said a lot of the uncertainty for business owners stems from an unbalanced borough budget.

Mayoral candidate Joanie Wagner, Fullerton, Gray and Stephanie Scott, who was unable to participate in earlier forums due to medical issues, mentioned how the Lutak Dock is integral to Haines’ economy and to running a business.

In response to a question about how the assembly can influence economic development, Gray and Lapham said the government needs to stay out of the way.

“I look at this as a public/private partnership,” Lapham said of the Haines Economic Development Corporation.

Hill said the borough needs to be mindful of taxes and not put “bumps in the road for new or existing businesses.”

Sean Maidy said during his time on the assembly in an interim seat, he’s been a translator between the assembly and the community.

In response to a question about how land use planning and zoning codes effect business in Haines, Maidy said it’s the assembly’s job to fix zoning problems to the benefit of everyone, and thinks there’s often a communication gap.

Fullerton said there needs to be more respect for one another and a better balance between business and residential zoning.

The election will be held at the ANB/ANS Hall and the Klehini Valley Fire Hall.


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