Three-Year Term - Three Seats Open
Published: September 25, 2008
I am John Harrington and I am again running for the Borough Assembly. I introduced myself to you on this site three years ago. So now I will take the space and talk about the last three years on the Assembly.
- Three years ago the Borough was going through a difficult period. With the hiring of Mr. Bockhorst, and his astute hiring of key personnel the morale in the Borough is at an all time high and the productivity of the staff is excellent. Mr. Bockhorst is doing a fantastic job.
- Historically the Planning department was viewed as a barrier to development. This Assembly has removed the fees on simple zoning permits and signs. We hired a new planning director and are trying to make the borough more business-friendly.
- When I joined the assembly we were in the middle of the Schoenbar mess. Thankfully it is over. The building is in use. The state has reimbursed us. And the Assembly learned some valuable lessons.
- On Ward Cove: We thought we had a good chance at retaining the veneer mill. Jerry Jenkins had a team with several decades of knowledge and experience in veneer. I talked with Ted Falconer and was impressed with him. And I voted in favor of the sale. But with the foreclosure it is now a major loss to the community.
- With construction of Berth 4, Newtown was going to become a tourist area. We discussed how we could avoid the problems of downtown. The commercial owners group got worried that 'Big Government' was getting involved-so they went off on their own and developed a zoning overlay to maintain the Alaskan character of the neighborhood. The Borough Assembly enthusiastically endorsed and passed into ordinance that overlay.
- On Economic Development: Ketchikan is too dependent on the tourist industry. We have begun looking at what we can do to develop our economy. We know what HASN'T worked. (Hopefully we will never again try to be a bank.) But there are some things we can do. We will be looking at them over the next year.
- The borough has thousands of acres of land. This Assembly has been successful at putting some land on the market. Two years ago, I asked about the waterfront property at mile 16 North Tongass. I was told it was identified as a future borough park. I said that it was not very usable as a park. But the issue died, for awhile. Then the beach problem arose.
- For years South Point Higgins Beach has been used by locals as a park. Mental Health Trust wanted to sell it. We (the borough) offered to exchange land for the beach. They said, 'no' but they said we could buy it. After several Assembly meetings it was decided to ask you, the voters, for permission to purchase the beach using grants and proceeds from land sales and including the land at Mile 16 North. If you agree with me that it is a good idea, the borough will be able to buy the beach for a borough park and sell 14 acres of waterfront property for people to build homes. It will expand the tax rolls and we will continue to be able to use a great beach. And it won't raise taxes.
- Speaking of taxes: Property values have been going up in Ketchikan. The assessed value of property went up almost 10% last year. I pushed to lower the mill rate, and LOST that vote. Because we did not lower the mill rate, you, the citizens must pay almost 10% MORE in property taxes this year. I failed to get the needed votes this year. But if re-elected I will continue to fight to keep taxes down.