Of the 12 art submissions the city received, seven were considered at the assembly table. The assembly will review the top five designs at a meeting in September. (City of Sitka)

The redesign of the official seal of the City of Sitka is moving forward. Assembly members at their most recent meeting reviewed the work of local artists competing for the chance to update the 50-year old seal. But choosing art by committee is harder than it sounds.

Sitkans often get to hear assembly members musing on budgets- but not often on art. Assembly members donned their art critic hats recently when they reviewed a smattering of submissions for the city seal redesign project.

The current city seal is showing its age. It depicts a cannon pointing over Sitka Sound toward something that looks like a Tlingit fort. Many have said the seal represents historic and generational trauma for Sitka’s Indigenous communities. The Sitka Tribe of Alaska Tribal Council and the assembly discussed changing the seal when the governments met last year.

In January, the assembly launched the redesign process. City staff solicited submissions from local artists, offering a $1,000 prize to the winner. They received twelve designs. They narrowed it down to seven which were reviewed by the Sitka Tribal Council along with various city commissions and committees in a “roadshow” of sorts.

“Ranging from line art drawing with some color to some digital graphic entries,” described member Kevin Knox, who sponsored the project along with Steven Eisenbeisz. “No body knew the entrants who produced the art necessarily, but we got a whole range of people bringing entries forward,” he said.

Knox said that most of the entries were well-received in that process, though a couple stood out.

“People liked the design ideas, liked the intent, and liked the direction that many of them were going.”    

And most of the assembly feedback was positive too, members picked their favorites and also had some suggestions for changes, but no clear first-place contender emerged.

View the seven designs here

The seven designs varied, featuring depictions of Mt. Edgecumbe, the O’Connell Bridge. Some feature totems, canoes, and other Tribal imagery. Knox said some members of the public had expressed interest in displaying the name “Sheetka” on the seal, alongside Sitka. Assembly member Richard Wein said he would like to see one of the city’s more prominent buildings featured in more of the designs– the iconic St. Michael’s Cathedral.

“You know obviously you can’t have everything in there, but there are certain things within Sitka which are probably very identifiable,” he said.

Assembly members asked City Planning Director Amy Ainslie to take their feedback, along with that of the committees and Sitka Tribe, to narrow the list down to the top five designs. The assembly will review those designs and may make a final decision on a new city seal in September.

CARES Act Funds

There are only a few days left for local businesses and nonprofits to apply for the city’s CARES Act program. So far the city has received around 220 applications. In an email to KCAW from grant administrator Rob Allen, he wrote that 19 of the applicants are nonprofit organizations, 65 are fishermen, and 11 are deckhands. The rest are various local businesses.

But some business owners aren’t happy with how the city has decided to distribute that money. Marshall Albertson, who is a candidate for local assembly this fall, owns three businesses. And while he received federal Paycheck Protection Plan money for all three, the city’s criteria for CARES Act grants are different, so only one of his businesses will qualify. Speaking to the assembly, Tuesday, he said that he was considering suing the city. 

“When I first found out about this last week, I was livid. I went and talked to my lawyer. He thinks that because the feds paid the PPP, and now the city wants to hold back the CARES Act, he said I absolutely have a lawsuit. He said it’s one [we] definitely could win. The only thing is, I was informed if I filed this lawsuit it will hold up all the CARES Act money. So therein lies the quandary,” he said. “Do I do what’s right for me and my businesses? Or do I lay down and take it in the backside so everyone else’s money isn’t held up?”

Sitkans who file their business taxes on their personal IRS form 1040 only qualify for one CARES Act business grant through the city for the first round of funding. But city administrator John Leach said the criteria could be modified in the future.

“We started small in this first round to get more information, to find out just at least how many entities are out there without sales tax IDs for the city that would qualify,” Leach said. “As much information as we can get, who would apply for this thing. And then we can give a more targeted program to do as much good as we can and stay within our budget.”

Some assembly members shared Albertson’s concerns.

“If they have three separate city sales tax accounts, I think each business should be eligible for those credits,” said member Valorie Nelson. “I don’t think we should be making it harder for people.”

Member Kevin Knox, a member of the working group that developed the $14 Million CARES Act budget, said the group anticipated they would have some funds left over from the $5 Million earmarked for businesses and nonprofits. 

“After that, there was the thought that then we could have a more robust discussion or application period that would provide additional funding in the second round, that would reflect the economic multipliers or the number of employees that are serviced, things like that,” he said.

Leach said they would have a better idea of how much remains in the funding pool after all of the applications are returned. The deadline to apply for a CARES Act business and nonprofit recovery grant is August 31 at 5 p.m.

In other business Tuesday night, the assembly: 
  • Voted unanimously to promote Melissa Haley to the role of Finance Director
  • Voted unanimously to promote Antonio Rosas to building manager at Harrigan Centennial Hall
  • Voted unanimously to appropriate $1.3 million toward the rehabilitation of the Green Lake Power Plant