by Keith Smith
September 09, 2004
I am not refering to their vote to reneg on their contact with Mr. Dawson to purchase the downtown Art Center site through the expenditure of the much discussed Ward Cove properties. Despite their bad sportsmanship and legal bumbling it is within the duties of conscience to resist an expenditure for a vision, no matter how necessary, progressive and dynamic, that they utterly fail to fathom.
No. I am referring to how their motion to reneg was able to pass. They voted to exclude Mr. Landis from the decision. They voted that Mr. Landis has a conflict of interest and excluded him from the Art Center vote. Mr. Landis served for a matter of weeks on the Art Center Steering Committee before resigning two weeks ago. His brief term on the steering committee was after the Borough entered into its contract with Mr. Dawson.
The process for the Art Center Site Purchase, and the Ward Cove Property Auction, commonly called the "land swap" took months of Borough Assembly meetings to accomplish. I personally attended at least eight since last November. Through each meeting "conflict of interest" was a constant subtext. As a result I was able to hear each assemblyman and the mayor define it several times. There was potential conflict of interest with Mayor Salazar's son acquiring Borough property for his hatchery bear tour Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary. There was potential conflict of interest of Mr. Lybrand being a sub-contractor in the Schoenbar debacle. There was the potential conflict of interest of Mr. Bergeron's personal interest in a woman who by virtue of being an architect has a theoretical opportunity to benefit from any of the present or future Borough capital debacles.
These potential conflicts were insinuated pointedly and some were discussed thoroughly. What was universally understood then, and is still universally understood throughout the rest of the planet, is that conflict of interest has a narrow definition refering to the potential of financial benefit or loss to oneself, one's mate or one's children through a given decision. Tipton, Lybrand, Salazar and Sarber have said as much several times.
Half of Ketchikan who votes has, will or does serve on some committee or board or other. You know yourselves that all you stand to gain is a good community conscience, a little camaraderie, and a community worth living in, and all you stand to lose is sleep and precious family time. Serving on a committee isn't conflict of interest, it is just plain flat interest. The Assembly is only different in that unlike other boards and committees, assemblymembers, Lybrand excepted, receive $150 a month and $75 per meeting.
But the Borough has now established a new standard for conflict of interest. Too bad Ms. Sarber voted on the Schoenbar Debacle. She once served on the School Board. Mr. Tipton should recuse himself from any further votes on the Rec Center, because back in his more visionary days, he was on the committee that created it. Poor Mr. Shay has established and served on so many boards and civic minded projects he will be unable to vote on anything. Not that its obligatory in your basic decent human being, but someone please tell me what Salazar has done for anybody anywhere in his past.
Mr. Lybrand, next year, will be serving on both the City Council and the Borough Assembly. The good news for Ketchikan is that Mr. Lybrand is generally recognized as a generous man and an asset to the community. If he is not a hypocrite as well, he will recuse himself from any vote on the City Council that affects the Borough, and any vote on the Borough Assembly that affects the City, which means he wouldn't vote at all. That would spare us at least one small wrecking ball through progressive visions for Ketchikan's future.
There will be a Ketchikan Art Center, but Tuesday night's vote undermined years of planning and hard work. It would be acceptable if it were a result of a basic democratic majority. Ketchikan is a diverse community, and we can't expect to agree on everything. Every public official represents his or her constituencies. The art center would have had enormous returns to substantial expenditures, but it is only one option out of several jewelry stores. It is unacceptable that the jewelry stores have won out through a hypocritical slimeball maneuver of the minority.
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