Two of these four candidates will be Haines' next assembly members
September 20, 2018
What is the single biggest issue facing Haines?
Maidy: The single biggest issue facing Haines is polarization. We are a town of very strong opinions and that leads to gridlock when it comes to decision-making. It’s time we put past differences aside and work towards rebuilding our infrastructure such as the sewage treatment plant, the public safety building, and the Haines Borough administration building. The school also needs significant repairs, there are talks of taking over waste management, there’s always the Lutak Dock. There’s just too many to list.
Rogers: The Lutak Dock. Most of the goods and supplies needed in Haines come by way of this dock. While the Roll-On/Roll-Off option is a temporary fix, it is not the best long-term solution. We need to have a plan to replace the Lutak Dock and a plan to maintain it going forward. We need to find outside sources of funding because Haines simply cannot afford the full cost of replacement.
Prisciandaro: The biggest issue facing the borough is sustainable economic growth into the future. For economic growth to occur we as a borough need to make sure that the infrastructure of the town can support the types of growth that are wanted. Items that need to be scrutinized and addressed include maintaining quality internet and cell service, lobbying the state for a better ferry schedule, continued upgrades to public utilities, and looking at ways to reduce energy costs. Haines is a small rural town and we need to grow at a sustainable rate that can be absorbed by the borough while still allowing residents to enjoy the lifestyle that we are accustomed to.
Mulford: I believe there are several issues that we are facing that affect our entire borough. The one that stands out most to me is the increase in drugs, drug use, and overdoses in our community.
Do you think the borough’s current level of taxation is appropriate? If not, how would you change it?
Maidy: I do not believe the Haines Borough taxation levels are appropriate. There are certain areas that are drastically undertaxed and others that are overtaxed. Some places pay tax and don’t feel they receive the services that they pay for. I would like to work with the borough staff in recognizing where these issues are and allocating an appropriate tax for each instance accordingly. When we taxed tobacco it was because we had not adjusted the rate in, I believe, ever. We were significantly lower than other communities in Alaska, which to me justified it. It was a tax of $0 that we raised to be more in line with other communities that have a higher excise tax placed on tobacco even after our increase. Currently we bring in a disproportionate amount of individual wealth based on rent and retirement and investments. We also have a lower bed tax than most similar communities. I believe Skagway is between 2 to 4 percent higher than our 9.5 percent.
Rogers: The current level of taxation is adequate. However, we cannot deficit spend like we have been. We need to protect funding for our basic government services such as schools, public works, snow plowing, etc. At the same time, it is important to reduce expenditures, that were added during years when funds were more readily available, which do not serve our basic needs.
Prisciandaro: I think that the current level of taxation in the borough is appropriate. I feel that before any taxes are raised the borough budget needs to be looked at carefully. This way, we can see if there are any places that money can be saved or generated before raising taxes.
Mulford: I feel the current level of sales and property tax are fine. If there were proposed changes I would support a decrease in sales tax during winter months and an increase during summer months.
Do you support a Tier 3 designation on the Chilkat River?
Maidy: I do support a Tier 3 designation of the river. As it is being discussed at a legislative level I am excited to see how they hammer out the details to make it work for our subsistence lifestyle. If it fails it will require more work on our part holding industries’ feet to the fire when it comes to regulating the emissions into our waterways.
Rogers: Tier 3 is a complex set of regulations. We need to look at the implementation of Tier 3 designations in other states and evaluate the consequences. There is a lot of hype on both sides of this issue. The final determination is not something Haines Borough gets to make. It is the responsibility of the Alaska State Legislature. Individuals should be encouraged to exercise their responsibility and communicate with their representatives and senators to influence their decision.
Prisciandaro: I fully support a Tier 3 designation for the Chilkat River. The Chilkat River has an impact on just about every Haines resident and the protection of the water quality will ensure that the people and industries that rely on the river can continue into the future. The river is also one of the major economic drivers of the valley with numerous jobs in fisheries, tourism and associated businesses all relying on the health and quality of water in the river. Without a clean and healthy river, Haines would no longer be the same Haines that the residents and visitors alike have come to love and enjoy.
Mulford: According to “Developing a Tier 3 Water Nomination and Designation Process in Alaska” Outreach report dated September 1, 2017, DEC is still in the process of determining how waterways and rivers should be nominated for a Tier 3 designation, who the regulatory agency should be (DEC or Legislature), and specifically what the parameters of a Tier 3 designation are. Two things are important; Tier 2 waters are ‘high quality waters where all water quality standards have been met or exceeded’, and ‘it is unclear whether a designation is reversable, or whether a final determination could be reconsidered or amended’. I have called DEC to see if there have been any developments in the designation process and have not received a response. At this time, I am refraining from taking a stance on Tier 3. Once the state figures out the details of a Tier 3 designation, who the regulatory agency will be, whether the Chilkat nomination process is acceptable, and whether the river qualifies, I will encourage community outreach as to which position and action, if any, the community would like the assembly to take.
Should the borough tax marijuana? Why or why not? What form should the tax take?
Maidy: Yes, the borough should tax marijuana. As I have always stated I am a strong believer in a retail sales tax placed on marijuana because it is proven to be where the most money can be brought in from the industry without negatively affecting their growth. I am still against an excise tax especially now that the assembly is debating placing it on a retail level, which essentially places a tax at the retail level that the people do not get to vote on. Instead of a 2 percent excise tax at a retail level that the assembly decides, let’s let the people vote to see if they want a 2 percent sales tax at the retail level.
Rogers: It is now legal to grow and sell marijuana in Alaska. Taxation of marijuana sales should be no different than any other product sold in Haines. Taxing marijuana sales at a rate other than the standard sales tax rate is punitive and harmful to local businesses. Marijuana is legal and sales of marijuana should be treated fairly with uniform taxation.
Prisciandaro: The borough should tax marijuana. I feel that the tax should be on the retail sale of the product. The exact amounts of these taxes should be modeled after areas in the lower 48 that have been dealing with marijuana sales already. This tax should be reviewed from time to time to ensure that it is still an adequate amount and is serving the purpose it is intended for. The monies generated from this tax could be earmarked in the budget to help fund items like the police department or other public health and safety programs within the community.
Mulford: Yes. It’s a product being imported/grown/ resold and will have some impacts on our community. It should take the form of a percentage tax that should be a targeted, dedicated tax to fund either the Haines School, mental health services, increased police service, or improved medical services.
How should the Haines Borough address solid waste management?
Maidy: When it comes to the solid waste working plan I think we should first find a service rather than a funding mechanism. It’s great to find the funding mechanism to tell us how much we can spend on a plan, but if we shop around for a plan first we can then discuss how, or if, we will pay for it.
Rogers: We should be skeptical of a solid waste management plan that is run by the borough. We have a solid waste facility. The borough’s “plan” is to tax you first then come up with a detailed plan which may put the local solid waste business out of business. This is reckless at best and not well thought out. There have been complaints about waste dumping out the highway, but nothing is being done to facilitate collection of waste from tourists. Bear proof dumpsters along the highway at convenient locations would be a good start. A transfer station out the highway around 25 Mile would encourage use by local residents and might show that the borough cares about those living beyond the townsite.
Prisciandaro: We as a borough need to develop a plan and determine how much it will cost, then we can look at ways of funding the service. If the borough takes over solid waste management we could still incorporate private industry into the management of waste, possibly by contracting out collection services. We need to provide ways for visitors to dispose of trash responsibly and provide services to everyone equally to curb illegal dumping and burning. Haines as a community should also look to strengthen its recycling efforts and support Haines Friends of Recycling in education and collecting and recycling of items in the community.
Mulford: They should post signs and enforce litter fines. There should be continued conversations with Community Waste Solutions, determine if a public-private partnership could work, and figure what the costs would be to address waste outside of the townsite. A transfer station could be useful, but costs need to be known.
Has the borough assembly been too aggressive or not aggressive enough when it considers tour permits?
Maidy: The Haines Borough Assembly has been complacent when it comes to issuing tour permits. The only reason the assembly has a say in the issuance of said permits are if there are issues brought towards the company that have not been resolved so it’s brought to the assembly to consider. With this last year’s growth in tourism and next year’s expected boost it is a discussion all over Southeast whether or not the infrastructure can handle such increases.
Rogers: Granting and/or denying tour permits may bring Haines Borough considerable liability that the borough cannot afford. The permitting process is inconsistent. Either the borough needs to adopt a comprehensive set of guidelines and rules to be used by the borough in the permitting process or they should get out of the business of regulating these businesses. It is simply irresponsible for the borough to make a recommendation based on an inconsistent process that changes with every assembly meeting. Maybe the borough needs to solicit input from the permit holders and citizens to establish a consistent policy if everyone wants to keep the borough involved.
Prisciandaro: I feel that the borough needs to be more aggressive when dealing with tour permit applications. Haines is a world-class tourist destination and maintaining safe, quality tours within the borough is essential. The borough should especially take heed of complaints from both visitors and tour company employees when new permits applications are submitted or existing permits come up for renewal. As one of our major economic drivers, we need to ensure all tours are held to the highest standards.
Mulford: No two tours are going to be the same. When a new tour is proposed there is consideration for the type of tour, guest capacity and area being used. The assembly needs better information to determine which areas in the borough have concentrated commercial operations, what those areas’ capacities are and how much of the determined capacity is in use. This would supply the assembly with the knowledge they need to ensure responsible tour operations and their impact on the community. I would suggest to vet new tours through a sub-committee or the Tourism Advisory Board.
If voters reject raising property taxes to create an on-call police service areas, how will you address police response in those areas?
Maidy: If voters reject on-call police service as stated in this election they must realize they are adding an extreme level of stress and work to our current police force. And they are expected to do it for free. I will continue to passionately advocate for the return of the Troopers. While waiting for a positive response I recommend we draft different levels of service and put them to a special election for the service areas to vote on until we can nail down exactly what they are willing to pay for. Until we reach a compromise I will continue to ask our police to respond to emergencies outside of the townsite. And I thank them greatly for it.
Rogers: The borough will need to aggressively pursue every opportunity to persuade the governor, the legislature and the Alaska State Troopers that they cannot refuse to serve the citizens of Haines Borough. If the vote fails in all 3 areas then the assembly could continue to do what has been done for the past year and one half. If one area approves the proposal and one or more areas reject it, then the assembly will have to think long and hard before just extending the service to those areas that did not approve a tax to pay more for the additional service.
Prisciandaro: If voters reject raising property taxes for a police service area the borough assembly must find money in the budget to maintain the ability to respond to emergencies outside of the townsite. I feel it is an essential service that the borough should provide to all its residents.
Mulford: Since we haven’t had a trooper stationed in Haines for approximately two years we should have somewhat of an idea as to how much it has cost our police department to respond to outside-of-townsite police emergency calls. Knowing what this extra cost is will better help us determine where we can obtain funds without targeting those residents with extra tax. I would suggest taking those figures and asking DPS if there is a possibility for a reimbursement for the borough covering those services. We could also use funds from the marijuana tax. These are just suggestions not knowing actual costs or how the vote will turn out.
Should the assembly have to cut the budget, which services take the least priority?
Maidy: If the assembly is forced to cut the budget then anything that is not roads, police, sewer and water would be at risk. I absolutely hate to say it, but if the budget was to be slashed we would have to focus on essential services. I would like us to invest in ourselves and repair our infrastructure so our budget deficit, which is primarily infrastructure depreciation, will shrink from lack of depreciation as well as being able to accommodate growth. Without dodging the question, I can’t clarify what I would cut. It wouldn’t be up to me. Essential services are necessary and a fundamental part of government. Anything extra that we would need to cut would have to come from intense civic engagement and discussion. It’s a choice we all have to make together.
Rogers: Haines Borough is responsible for basic governmental services like plowing roads, water, sewer, public schools, road maintenance, etc. Non-essential services should be the first to be cut. A fair method to evaluate what the community values as important should be used to rank the lowest to highest priorities, thereby providing a methodical and impartial system to reduce spending.
Prisciandaro: If budget cuts are needed, the assembly should first look for ways money can be saved or generated without cutting any services. If major budget cuts are needed the assembly should look at what services are not essential to the health and safety of the community and make cuts to these areas first.
Mulford: This is a tricky question because all services funded have a priority in one way or another. In my last experience working on the budget, all departments were asked to reduce their budgets by 25 percent. That is a really good start. Should there be an extreme budget shortfall, and there are no other options, I would look to reduce funding to the library, museum, and school. I chose these after studying the approved FY19 budget. However, I would also place focus on how to generate more revenue such as through selling off assets—especially those assets that generate property tax and potential sales tax.
If elected, what three steps would you take to put the Haines Borough on a firmer financial footing?
Maidy: Step one: find and eliminate regressive taxation to remove the burden from those in town most affected by our woes. Step two: capture sales tax from markets we currently tax far less than other communities in Alaska do. Also, properly taxing marijuana off of state and countrywide industry standards as opposed to what we feel will work best. Step 3: and most importantly, strive to make the Haines assembly professionals in the business of government and private partnerships.
Rogers: We should take a long hard look at everything the borough is funding and recommend eliminating non-essential services. We should encourage the borough staff to seek grants from Federal or State government that could help fix failing infrastructure as long as the grants don’t have long-term strings attached that would grow government or increase our indebtedness. Raising taxes would be a last resort, and only upon voter approval. We should work to eliminate deficit spending but not by raising taxes.
Prisciandaro: Three steps that I would take are 1: Review the budget to see if there are any areas that the money already collected by the borough can be better spent. This should be an ongoing process with emphasis given to the priorities the community has identified in the comprehensive plan. 2: Continue to support sustainable business in Haines and push for better services such as reliable cell signals, better internet service and more reliable ferry service which will allow more small businesses to thrive in Haines. 3: Find ways to creatively generate more revenue such as borough land sales and the hosting of more events throughout the year. Events are a great way to strengthen our economy without having negative impacts on the community or existing industry.
Mulford: Sell assets, consolidate borough offices, engage in more private-public partnerships.
If you received a $1 million grant to use for the Haines Borough any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?
Maidy: I believe you can learn everything you need to know about a town when you look at the conditions of their school, their library, and their public safety building. I would spend that money on renovating or rebuilding pivotal infrastructure.
Rogers: Set the money aside to be used to repair/replace failing infrastructure such as the Lutak Dock. While one million dollars is a lot of money it would not do much for the replacement of the Lutak Dock. Infrastructure repair is among our highest priorities.
Prisciandaro: If I received a million dollar grant I would use the money to catch up on some of the deferred maintenance issues the borough has accumulated over the past decades. Deferring maintenance always ends up costing more money in the long run. The borough should look to fix and maintain the equipment and buildings we have so that we don’t have to spend larger amounts of money to replace them in the future.
Mulford: I would invest in capital improvement projects to reduce long and short-term maintenance costs, improve our roads (which are terrible), and infrastructures used by the public, such as keeping restrooms open during off-seasons and picnic/ recreational areas.