December 6, 2012 | Vol. 39, No. 49

Letters to the Editor

The key to unity is listening

To the Editor:

I’m glad that Petersburg has a new asset in its toolbox, called “Let’s Talk”.

Half of communication is listening, and since so many of us, myself included, want to talk about just what’s important to us, we could all use some lessons in listening to others who’re normally outside our personal comfort zone, expanding our understanding of the full current, that flows within our brotherhood.

Let’s Talk provides us with that deeper connection, just as iron sharpens iron so one person sharpens another. This not only produces tolerance for others, but surpasses it with acceptance, friendship, and a mutual understanding with bonds that last lifetimes. Come. Let’s Talk.

P.S. Petersburg let’s listen.

Dona Laubhan

Cesspool of foolishness

To the Editor:

I continue to watch with somewhat amusement the endurance of a few people and their attempts at making a laughing stock of the very Tribe they call their own. For sake of winter time sanity, I feel I must yet again don the boots to wade through the cesspool of foolishness in attempts to bring the light truth.

Let me start off with a cultural lesson. Traditional Tlingit’s live by a value system. Many of you have seen and experienced these. Some of these values are: dignity, integrity, honor and respect. These are values that give our culture strength. Ironically, it is also these values that hinder and cause hesitation when called upon to respond to ridiculous allegations and claims for fear of invalidating these ingrained morals. It is unfortunate that these values were not taught or learned by everyone.

I was surprised that an unsigned letter was submitted onto record as this has never been the practice of the Tribe. However, as the Tribe never releases applicant names, nor their qualifications, I soon realized that this was choreographed, as was the entire meeting. I will say, that as I’ve just returned from being a presenter at a Federal Tribal Transportation Conference, I am proud of my experience and furthermore the projects and program growth of the Tribe during my 11 years of leadership within the Tribe.

What is most troubling is how viciously these attackers villainized certain board members. Both Ron and Derek had their reputations called into question with no basis of fact or truth. Here are two board members who stuck it out when others decided they had not the fortitude to do the same. Furthermore, Chris Lopez and Mary Ann Rainey have also stepped in when the Tribe needed them most, during a time when it wasn’t easy to size and sort through piles of information to get to the truth. They fought to find the truth. And what is the truth?

PIA has three years of clean audits. Allegations against the Tribe have been unfounded. Federal Program Reviews over this last summer have found PIA to be a model Tribe. PIA has, and will continue to provide infrastructural support for this community in a variety of ways. Mind you, not just because of the expertise of the Council members, but because of the work of the employees who have the tenacity to continue their jobs even when some of these naysayers seem to enjoy distracting from PIA’s hard work with petty complaints.

These are the facts. What was perpetrated at the last Council meeting was not only choreographed, but distasteful. Instead of attempting to discredit the Tribe, celebrate our successes and help us find resolution to areas of improvement. I’ve said this recently before, but it deserves saying again, “catch your breath, and enjoy the Holiday Season.”

Will Ware

Democracy is messy

To the Editor:

I think we can all agree on that.

Borough formation has stirred up an unprecedented response of letters to the editor, radio commentaries, debates, call-in shows, signs, and informational mail. The public is participating in the political process and waking up to the fact that their voice and their vote can affect the working of government. The Reid warehouse defeat last election proved that people of many different political persuasions can work together for a common cause. This is good.

The Petersburg city government as usual has taken a rigid, authoritarian position, assuming that they are entitled to bulldoze, intimidate, and even violate basic rights of opponents in order to silence them. Freedom of speech has taken a big hit. The City removed “No Borough” signs citing a littering law. Opposing information sheets were not allowed in public buildings. Opposing bulletin boards were removed in order to “present a clear message to the voters” – the City’s message. The City’s “broad powers” evidently trump federal constitutional rights. This isn’t good.

There are also differences in the election process. The voter registration rules are different from all other elections and ballots cannot be forwarded to folks on vacation. This seems designed to prevent many people from voting. This is wrong.

Make it right. Vote no on borough formation.

Democracy works best when government remembers that they are the servants of the people.

Thea Dybvik

Green Rocks

Nice to have road graders and squad cars

To the Editor:

Petersburg has been my home for many years. I have been part of community, participating in organizations and enjoying relationships with other residents of all types, whether inside an artificial line that is called “city limits” or other locations in this area. To me Petersburg is a unit. That is one of the reasons I’ve been dismayed by all the rhetoric and rancor generated by those who think of themselves as outside of our unit. Now that our vote is imminent, I’m willing to go on record to persuade voters “of all types” to codify what already seems apparent and to vote to become a borough.

Sometimes, perspective helps. This writer and wife have been gone from their Petersburg home most of this fall. Traveling by road through B.C. and seven U.S. states in the “lower 48”, we reconnected with family and old friends, especially a lot of them living in rural areas. I particularly wanted to quiz people living in the country about their lifestyle and associated costs, especially that portion they pay to their local governing bodies.

Most Pilot readers know about counties in rural America and that county budgets are funded by the residents living within each county’s borders. County roads are plowed and repaired, lives and property are protected by sheriffs and deputies, disputes are settled in county courts, etc. Yep, you get what you pay for. Also, your neighbor who can’t or won’t work is supported by welfare, crackheads and meth addicts living over in the woods get a chance to straighten out by you helping pay their medical bills. Yep, this is also what your property tax goes for. Then there’s the “county seat” with staffing of many departments, buildings to light and heat, rolling stock to maintain or buy new. Yep, this is part of the deal you get when you live outside of a city limit. It’s nice to have these road graders and squad cars to meet your needs as a rural resident. Yet, also you’re funding the retirement plans and salaries of county employees with your property tax. Government exists in both town and country because this is what Americans want. Everybody this writer asked gave me about the same story, no matter which state they lived in. There is no “free lunch” to live in rural “Lower 48”.

In Alaska we do it differently. First of all, Alaskans are the least taxed of any U.S. residents. Another point is: -whether in town, “out the road”, Kupreanof, or Beecher Pass, Alaskan residents got checks for $878 recently. Where has that ever happened in the United States? Then, pertaining to our current question - when our state constitution was built, Alaskans planned that government for both rural and community residents would be consolidated into one unit instead of two. Thinking a half century into the future, to offer local jurisdiction and service over sometimes hundreds of square miles instead of just two! Less buildings, $40,000 squad cars, salaries, etc, to meet the common needs of Alaska’s residents. That’s good administrative and financial planning.

So, here’s advice to the folks upset over borough plans and the vote. If you’re that worried over the deal you think you’ll be getting, check things out with your family and friends “outside” and get another perspective. And to those of you who would claim that becoming a borough would ruin you enough to leave and go find somewhere else to live, - good luck. But don’t forget and leave your checkbook behind in good ol’ Petersburg. You’ll need it!

Grant Trask

No half facts, please

To the Editor:

Want to know the truth? Go to city hall and get four documents: 1. The original Petersburg Charter that the petitioners said they’d approve. 2. The present Borough Charter (look for the changes between #1 and #2. 3. 2003 analysis of Borough options. 4. 2006 Petersburg Borough analysis. Check the “conclusions” pages in #3 and #4.

Once that’s done, you’ll conclude, as very many in the community have: The organized Borough only deserves a no vote. Hopefully, the vast majority will see or at least hear the whole truth and vote accordingly.

Gerald Laubhan

FERC has no position on borough

To the Editor:

I have lived in Southeast Alaska all my life, and the last 12 years in Petersburg’s outlying area. My sons graduated from Petersburg High School, and both are lucky enough to participate in and benefit from Petersburg’s commercial fishing industry. I am currently employed by the City of Petersburg as its Deputy Clerk; however, this is MY commentary. I am a proponent of the Petersburg Borough. I believe we must protect our interests in our backyard and wish we could do so as a united group.

With the upcoming borough election many views have been aired on KFSK and in the Petersburg Pilot. I would like to address some of the incorrect or skewed information given.

First: CCUB members say the Director of the Division of Hydropower Administration and Compliance at FERC in Washington, DC told their club president if there were any preference between a borough and a municipality in the FERC permitting process, it would more than likely go to a municipality.

I spoke with the same FERC Director, Edward Abrams, who disagreed with the statement attributed to him. He said that he shared much more information and that the gentleman he spoke with must have, “picked out what he wanted to” from the conversation. Mr. Abrams indicated that he had not stated and would not state a position on whether or not the Petersburg Borough would have a preference over other communities if a project were within the borough boundaries. He cannot speak for the Commission.

Because both a city and a borough are classified as municipalities, CCUB’s suggestion is apparently that a city would have just as much say, or preference, regarding a development that is far outside city limits as would a borough, where the development would occur within borough boundaries. This idea defies common sense and practical experience. State and Federal agencies typically provide much greater involvement to a municipality – city or borough – where the proposed project is to occur within, rather than outside of the municipal boundaries.

Second: CCUB states that a proposed annexation “must be approved by a majority of … voters residing in the area proposed to be annexed”. This is known as the “local action” method of annexation. Local action is not the only method of annexation. The “legislative review” method of annexation, by statute and LBC regulation, requires the borough or city government to file a petition for annexation with the Local Boundary Commission and, if approved by the Commission, the annexation becomes law unless disapproved by the legislature in the first 45 days of its next regular session. With the legislative review method of annexation a Local Boundary Commission hearing must be held in or near the area affected by the annexation, but no vote of the people in the annexation area is required. Both methods of annexation have been used in Alaska.

Third: it has been stated by CCUB members that if the City and Borough of Juneau’s petition to annex from their southern border to Cape Fanshaw is approved, a potential CBJ fish tax on fish harvested in Stephens Passage can be avoided by delivering the catch in Petersburg. This is not true. It is true that the state raw fish tax, which is shared with the local municipality, is based upon the location where the catch is sold, but a borough may impose an additional tax, called a severance tax, on fish harvested within the borough, regardless of where sold. This is currently a major source of funding for the Lake and Peninsula Borough. If the CBJ were extended south to Cape Fanshaw, fish harvested north of Cape Fanshaw could be taxed by the CBJ even if the fish were sold in Petersburg.

If the borough petition fails, it is logical that the Local Boundary Commission will approve the CBJ annexation petition moving Juneau’s southern border to Cape Fanshaw. What will stop the City and Borough of Wrangell from the thought that if Petersburg doesn’t want LeConte Bay, Frederick Sound, Thomas Bay, etc. in a Petersburg Borough, why shouldn’t they annex the area into their borough? The truth is, if the Petersburg Borough petition fails, eventually every inch of land outside of Petersburg’s current city limits could belong to someone else’s borough.

Please read the proposed Petersburg Borough charter and transition plan and ask questions of the Local Boundary Commission and/or Petersburg’s local government. Dig into the questions you have to find the truthful answers. And please cast your vote in this important election by December 18.

Debbie Thomson

Both sides not presented

To the Editor:

It seems that the City of Petersburg has lost sight of democracy, freedom of speech, and the fact that the elected Mayor and City Council represent all of the residents of the City and not just a single special interest group.

During the borough hearings conducted by the Local Boundary Commission, Jim Brennen, the City’s lawyer, stated “In any event, the personal financial circumstances of the 297 outside the city residents is irrelevant”. Jim Brennen’s response was in reference to other testimony that indicated there are several families owning property in the proposed borough that do not have the financial ability to pay property taxes.

This past Tuesday the City sponsored an Ice Cream Social with the theme “Our Community-Our Vote”. At that City sponsored event there were pro borough citizens available to answer questions. Those that oppose the borough and who could offer details why they oppose, requested that an appropriate space be provided for those citizens that oppose the borough so they can answer questions. The City Manager responded to the request that the City Council voted to support the borough and the event is a part of that promotion. He did say that he would pass the request on to the Mayor and he could decide if he wanted to put it on the agenda for the 3 December Council meeting. It was not on the agenda or discussed at the Council meeting. It appears that the Petersburg City Council considers those outside of the current city irrelevant and if you are a Petersburg resident that does not support the borough, you are not a part of Our Community.

The democratic process presents both sides of an issue and then lets the voter make up his own mind and vote as they see fit. The City of Petersburg has made every effort to suppress any anti-borough information in public spaces and public gatherings. The City Council was elected to represent all city residents. They are failing to fulfill this mandate.

Tom Reinarts

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