SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Salvaging the Status Quo
By Gregory Vickrey


January 29, 2008

In the political arena, it has become commonplace to proclaim victory and success after salvaging the status quo. The Reagan Administration brought this tactic to the fore, and the apparatus was further refined during the Clinton years.

Salvaging the status quo is a pretty simple and straightforward tactic. In the face of challenge and change, one simply describes (or manufactures) an attack on current reality (related to the issue where change or progress is sought), thwarts the perceived attack, and claims responsibility for saving society (or an element of it).

The Reagan Administration, for example, faced a significant challenge with minimum wage earnings. Instead of taking the congressional bait and significantly raising the minimum wage, the Administration instead manufactured a set of circumstances where the already scheduled increases could not be met. As conversation around the United States swelled and the working poor squirmed, the Reagan Administration stepped in with a new plan, and saved the day. Scheduled minimum wage increases were going to happen after all. It was a great victory.

And the status quo was salvaged.

For the Clinton Administration, one can look at the machinations of nuclear arms or his administration's economic sanctions on Iraq.

Closer to home, salvaging the status quo plagues our progress as well. Sometimes we catch it, and other times it zooms right past us without notice. What is currently happening with the Alaska Marine Highway System is one example. I will attempt to highlight another in a later letter.

Things have been sputtering along for the Alaska Marine Highway for a few years now, with no significant improvements, and no major designs for a brighter future. Except for one thing: the Southern Gateway Shuttle was quietly tucked away in the state's transportation plan (STIP), complete with dollar signs, a designated run to the expanding port at Prince Rupert, and real potential for economic progress in Ketchikan.
Then, just as quietly, it disappeared just over a year ago. Gone from the STIP, the Southern Gateway Shuttle never made it to the lips of our local governments for advocacy, and those associated dreams of economic progress for the First City seemed to vanish as well.


Finally, beginning last year, we got uppity about it. Folks in town, particularly Mike Round, some TCS supporters, and others began to tell the Borough over and over how important the Southern Gateway Shuttle could be to our local stagnant economy - and ultimately, if reluctantly, the Borough took up the call. The Chamber of Commerce did as well. All of a sudden, the Southern Gateway Shuttle mattered to the community, and we wanted the state to make it happen.

We still do.

But, instead, we find ourselves fighting to salvage the status quo.

Instead of the Alaska Department of Transportation adapting for the sake of progress, we find them manufacturing a retrogressive change for our community, cutting runs and running cuts throughout the system. Instead of getting creative in order to tie in to the benefits of the expanding port at Prince Rupert, we find ourselves having to argue vehemently just to maintain the second run to Bellingham.

Fighting to salvage the status quo.

Will we lose sight of the Southern Gateway Shuttle during this battle for mediocrity? Will our local government and the legislature declare victory should the status quo and the second run be salvaged? What will be the end game? Time will tell, of course, but my hope is that as a community we can continue to push for progress beyond the status quo.

Gregory Vickrey
Ketchikan, AK

About: "Gregory Vickrey is the director of the Tongass Conservation Society, and believes fervently in the Alaska Marine Highway System as well as the community of Ketchikan."

Received January 28, 2008 - Published January 29, 2008



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