Rather than debate the merits of the proposed mining ordinance changes, several citizens have asserted conflict of interest claims against Assembly member Randy Wanamaker. These citizens claim Mr. Wanamaker has forced through proposed changes to the city's mining ordinance and that he has a conflict as chairman of Goldbelt and as a former mining industry consultant.
I have worked with Randy Wanamaker on various employment, permitting and natural resource management issues. I attended a number of hearings on the mining ordinance so it is clear to me these claims are a red herring. The real issue is whether Juneau will have economic development.
The Assembly conducted strategic planning meetings in December 2002 and January 2003. As a result of those meetings, the Assembly adopted numerous goals to "Promote a Healthy and Growing Economy" for Juneau. The goals included "Revise Large Mine Permit Requirements" and "Facilitate Kensington Mine Development."
The Assembly assigned both of these vitally important economic development goals to the City Lands Committee of which Randy Wanamaker is chairman. It was the Land Committee's responsibility to carry out the Assembly's decision and to have the ordinance ready for Assembly consideration by April 30.
The Assembly chose well when they assigned these tasks to the Lands Committee because Randy is a certified professional geologist and a registered environmental assessor. Since 1976 he has served in the Department of Environmental Conservation; Environmental Protection Agency; U.S. Geological Survey; as chairman of the Alaska Water Resources Board; subsurface resource manager for Sealaska; president of OPAK Engineers, Inc.; environmental consultant for tailings disposal at the AJ and Kensington projects for the city of Juneau; a member of the committee that wrote the original mining ordinance; a cultural resources and environmental consultant to the mining industry; and now, as a permitting and environmental consultant to companies such as Kootznoowoo, Inc.
One of the claims of conflict of interest arises from Mr. Wanamaker's position as chairman of Goldbelt. Goldbelt, like all Native corporations, was created by Congress to promote the economic and social well being of Alaska Native people. Goldbelt has over 3,200 shareholders, most of them citizens of Juneau. The Assembly objective, to "Promote a Healthy and Growing Economy" for Juneau, coincides with Goldbelt's mission.
The proposed changes to the mining ordinance still require a long chain of events before any financial or employment benefit for Goldbelt shareholders and other Juneau residents might occur. These changes include a mine obtaining all of its state and federal permits; optimum economic conditions; and, a decision to proceed by the mining company's board of directors. All of these are clearly beyond the control of the Assembly, Goldbelt and Randy Wanamaker.
Another claim for a conflict of interest comes from Randy Wanamaker's former role as a consultant to the mining industry. This is a concern without basis as Mr. Wanamaker's relationship with the mining industry ended in December 2000.
Mr. Wanamaker was elected because of his background, which includes mining and Goldbelt. These facts were completely disclosed during the election process and are a surprise to no one.
The economic outlook for Juneau is not good. State and city employee reductions and property tax increases are quite likely. The Assembly's goal to "Promote a Healthy and Growing Economy" by revising the mining ordinance is vital and should be supported.
When Mr. Wanamaker worked to carry out the economic development goal of the Assembly, he was also implementing the intent of Congress with respect to Alaska Natives. Rather than a conflict of interest, Randy has a harmony of interests. Juneau will be well served by the adoption of the proposed changes to the mining ordinance.
Bob Hamilton is the president and general manager of Kootznoowoo, Inc. He served as the chairman of the Craig Planning and Zoning Commission and as a member of the Alaska Community Development Board.