Haines Borough lobbyist Bill Thomas submitted his first two reports to the borough, updating staff and the assembly on his progress in Juneau. He wrote that in his first two weeks he attended multiple meetings, sessions and fundraisers. He listed legislators he met with, but noted few specifics.
Thomas, a former legislator, has been in Juneau for a few weeks. So far he’s met with lawmakers on important issues like the Alaska Marine Highway System, and commercial fishing. It’s still early in the session, but the reports thus far are a little vague.
Assembly member Margaret Friedenauer said she hopes the updates will offer more particulars as the session progresses and the assembly fleshes out a priority list.
“My concern has always been that as an assembly, we haven’t identified concrete priorities that we want a lobbyist to focus on. During the legislative session and beyond,” she said.
Assembly member Mike Case maintained that divulging too much information in the lobbyist’s updates could be detrimental.
“At some point, we wouldn’t want some of Bill’s information to go out to people who might competing for the same money that we’re trying to get,” he said.
Case said he’s optimistic the borough will get some money, though not nearly enough.
“Because I don’t think that there’s that money there. But, in my opinion, and I did say that Bill and I are good friends, he’s very, very effective at finding out where there are pockets with money in them.”
At the Jan.25 assembly meeting, they voted to hire a Juneau firm called Dynamic Consulting to help with outlining the assembly’s short term priorities to better assist Thomas in Juneau. For around $4,000, the group will conduct a one-day, goal-setting session sometime between now and the end of March. Here’s Friedenauer.
“It’s not necessarily an intense strategic plan we’re undertaking yet. I hope we do that eventually, but this is a one-day session to identify some immediate goals we can work on as a group, some direction we can give our staff during the budget process, and hopefully some priorities we can outline for the lobbyist.”
In his most recent update, from the last week in January, Thomas wrote that he sat in on an early-morning finance sub-committee meeting focused on the Department of Transportation budget and the ferry system. Later in the week, he wrote that he attended a fisheries committee meeting about young fishermen and the issues they face starting out.
Thomas said he was directed by interim manager Brad Ryan to start promoting the Culture, Humanities, Arts and Museums Partners, or CHAMP, program. He said in his report he’ll be calling in to Tuesday’s meeting to talk more about it.
Ryan said aside from the written updates, he’s in frequent contact with Thomas.
“It’s almost like it’s a moving target as things come up as well,” he said.
Both updates are in this week’s assembly agenda packet.
Tuesday’s assembly meeting will also feature four public hearings. Among the hearings is the second and final for the tourism department. It is trying to recoup money that was moved over to economic development under a previous department head. Tourism is also asking for a second chunk of money to conduct an audit of the borough’s online marketing strategy.
Another public hearing will call on comments about local bidder preference. A third will solicit input on amending code to revise the review process for capital improvements and borough projects, and to delete references to the coastal zone management plan.
Resolutions are on the agenda about fish tax revenue, assembly support against state cuts to public broadcasting, and hiring Southeast Roadbuilders for the Piedad Springs Water Treatment Plant.
In new business, interim manager Ryan is requesting the borough enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Friends of Mosquito Lake School and Community Center for use of the facility.
The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. in assembly chambers.
Find Thomas’ updates and the full assembly-meeting agenda here.