The Haines Minor Offenses Ordinance Ad Hoc Committee met on Monday to continue its task of sifting through the list of violations. The committee is responsible for sorting out and adjusting fines and redundant offenses. All decisions made by the committee are only recommendations that still have to go before the assembly next month.
A few meetings ago, the committee agreed to recommend scrapping the traffic law section of the local ordinance in favor of just going with state laws. For example, citations written that have to do with skiing on roadways, parking infractions or pulling a U-turn in the wrong spot, would fall under Alaska statutes. That also means that any fines collected for those infractions would then go to the state.
But acting police chief Josh Dryden had a change of heart, and so that section of the minor offenses ordinance is back on the table for discussion.
“There’s some value in keeping it in our ordinance and when we do, we have to tweak it a little bit because some of the controversial ones are actually our own,” says acting committee chair Ron Jackson.
The committee decided this week to recommend adopting a paragraph into the ordinance that explains its purpose and intent, so that the public is reassured that the borough isn’t policing for profit. The introduction states that the ordinance is there to protect the lives, health and safety of residents as well as protect locals’ rights’ under national, state and local constitutions. The preamble finishes with “Under no circumstances shall revenue generation be used as a motive to enforce the provisions of this Title.”
“This purpose of this is not to get rich,” says Jackson. “Policing for profit is something that’s come up over and over.”
It was suggested that one or several bank accounts be set up for those fines and then used for education, like bicycle safety signs. But borough staff said that would be too convoluted, so instead the fines would mostly likely go into the general fund and be available to the appropriate parties to use for educational purposes.
After a recent ruling in favor a Haines’ Paul Nelson against the borough for a citation and subsequent fines, the committee also decided to recommend some changes in wording so that a situation like that doesn’t arise again. Nelson was fined several times for the same infraction, but he won a recent appeal in court and will get his money back.
“We’re clarifying that it is a daily fine that needs to be cited each day that it occurs.”
Jackson says he’s pleased with how far the committee has come since it set out on the minor offenses journey late last year.
“We’ve really toned it down a lot and changed some things to make it a little more reflective of our community.”
He says he thinks next week will be the last meeting. After that, the committee is hoping to schedule a town hall forum to get input on the revamped document before it goes to the assembly for final approval on April 26.