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Long range planning group could dissolve

SITKA, ALASKA
Long Range Planning and Economic Development has been seeking guidance from city leaders for some time. And what was designed as a 30-minute conversation last week went almost an hour before the Assembly scheduled a special meeting for last night to continue the conversation.

That lasted nearly two hours. The end result of all the conversation is that Assembly members Thor Christianson and Pete Esquiro will co-sponsor a measure at a future Assembly meeting that would dissolve the Long Range Planning and Economic Development Commission.

After more than an hour of discussion over the commissions functions, Christianson asked the commissioners: If they were in the Assembly's shoes, would they say the commission needs to continue?

“As I hear what I hear tonight, and what I’ve seen in the last 20 months, my answer would be no,” said commission member Dusty Kidd. “I don’t think we have a clearly defined need or purpose.”

What Kidd says he would do, if he were in the Assembly’s shoes, is ask the municipal administrator if there’s anything the staff doesn’t have time to do that a citizen’s group could take care of.

“If he doesn’t have any need for that, then you don’t need this group,” Kidd said.

Commission member Bob Gorman agreed, and new appointee Jonathan Crouch didn’t argue against disbanding the commission, but DID say if the city decides to do that, he hopes the city finds some way to keep its eye on long-term goals.

Later in the meeting, Assembly member Phyllis Hackett echoed that idea.

“I think having a citizen’s group to be able to do the work and come back with it is a really important aspect,” Hackett said. “I guess I would be in favor for really looking seriously at rewriting it and renaming it and restructuring it, but not doing away with it completely because I’m afraid we would lose its function.”

Hackett says she’s not sold on the idea of disbanding the commission, but then, neither is Christianson, who proposed it.

“It could be one of those situations where I could be convinced to vote against my own ordinance, but it’d be a case of, let’s run it up the flagpole and see how it goes, and see what happens,” Christianson said.

There was also discussion of the city’s comprehensive plan – that’s a document used to guide Sitka’s long-range goals. There was disagreement about whether the comp plan, as it’s known, is adequate in its present form, or whether it could use some work. That is a topic that’s probably going to carry over to the first meeting in February, when the idea to dissolve the commission is likely to be formally introduced.

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