The six candidates running for two open seats on the Haines Borough Assembly demonstrated divergent views on law enforcement, nonprofit funding and the proposed harbor expansion project at a Chamber of Commerce forum last week.
Chamber board president Kyle Gray asked candidates to explain what their slogans say about them.
“My slogan is ‘Haines: We Have a Problem,'” said Leonard Dubber.
The laundromat owner says the problem is that the current government doesn’t adhere to correct public process. He pointed to the minor offenses ordinance that stirred controversy because of what some saw as government overreach. Dubber feels the assembly tried to rush through the ordinance, saying ‘we’ll fix it later.’
“We have to respect all the code and not push through things for the expediency of pushing them through,” Dubber said. “If they’re not right we shouldn’t pass them. We should wait and get them right first.”
Dubber supports smaller government. For example, he thinks the police department could be cut from four to three officers.
Candidate Tom Morphet also supports downsizing the police force and putting that money into recreation programs and other potential crime deterrents. The newspaper publisher’s slogan is ‘Expect Results.’
“Because I don’t think we’ve expected results,” Morphet said. “And that’s how we’ve gotten where we are. We’re content to spend the entire winter arguing over where helicopters go for heliskiing. That should not be acceptable to us.”
Morphet criticized the assembly’s financial decisions, as well as its fixation on issues like nonprofit funding.
“I think cutting nonprofits is cutting our own throats,” he said.
Candidate and school bookkeeper Judy Erekson was on the same page as Morphet in regard to nonprofits. But she differs in her outlook on the municipal budget.
“I just don’t think the budget’s in as bad a shape as everybody seems to think,” she said.
Erekson’s slogan is ‘Common Cents.’ Erekson emphasizes her financial management experience. She brought a copy of the borough budget with her to the forum and referenced it throughout. Erekson also promoted her experience working together with people of different views towards the common goal of bettering the community.
“It’ll be exciting. I would like to be a part of it and I would like to help,” Erekson said. “I do like numbers, I like the detail and I will find out whatever you need to know.”
Author Heather Lende echoed Erekson’s optimism in her pitch to the audience, saying she sees a lot of good things happening in Haines. But she does have frustrations with the local government. Lende said her slogan, ‘Community First,’ means listening to everyone.
“And instead of seemingly throwing up roadblocks when people have an idea or a way to do something differently, to say ‘thank you, come on in, tell me what you’ve got going and let’s see if we can do it,'” Lende said.
She said one example where she thinks the assembly did not listen to the community is the small boat harbor expansion project.
“I would be for putting it through the public process in the correct way, and running through the planning commission, and having the proper hearings and getting the kind of harbor that Haines is proud of that our community wants and I believe, Ryan, needs,” Lende said. “But it has to go back the drawing board.”
Lende was talking there to fellow candidate Ryan Cook. Cook is a commercial fisherman and an adamant defender of the harbor expansion.
“We need the boat harbor, we really do,” he said.
Cook said he thinks the harbor opponents are afraid of change. He repeatedly emphasized Haines’ failing to provide adequate facilities for fishermen. His slogan is ‘Thinking about the Future.’
“I think change done the right way is gonna be a good thing for Haines,” Cook said. “More jobs for the younger generation growing up, bringing their families back to Haines.”
Where the other candidates are ambivalent or doubtful of the harbor project, Cook and incumbent Diana Lapham are firm proponents of the multi-million dollar expansion in its current design. Lapham also differed from candidates Dubber and Morphet about downsizing the police force.
“Interesting question, since we just had a break-in at the library last night,” Lapham said. “It depends on you, the public, do you want 24/7 coverage on your police? Dynamics have changed since 20-30 years ago. Even in our community they have changed. We have drugs here, folks, lots of different kinds of drugs.”
Lapham’s slogan, ‘I Want to Work for You!’ is a variation on what she said multiple times during the forum: her job is to listen to the people.
“I’m open-minded and I’m fair and I do listen to every one of you,” she said.
The last Haines Assembly candidate forum before the Oct. 4 election takes place Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the Chilkat Center. It is hosted by KHNS News. If you have a question for the candidates, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Listen to the entire forum below. (Note: The audio is interrupted for a short time between Ryan Cook and Heather Lende’s introductions due to a equipment error.)