SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Questions for the Mayor
By Rodney Dial


March 22, 2009
Sunday PM

Dear Mr. Kiffer, you seem like an intelligent and gifted writer, and a decent Mayor. However, I am at a loss to understand two of the beliefs you seem to govern by: 1. That it is never a good time for government to build or buy something, so it is always a good time to build or buy something, and 2. Your apparent belief that quality of a thing equals quantity of cash directed at it.

I would respectfully argue that the economic difficulties faced by this country were started by those who followed your first tenet and bought a house they couldn t afford.

I certainly don't mean to imply that you are the only elected official in this community with these views, or even the worse (Mayor Weinstein has you beat by a mile), but address these concerns to you because you represent my family in the borough.

The following are a list of questions I believe would be a great topic for one of your future SitNews letters (yes, I realize that some of these are City issues, not under your control).

Reason for quadrupling the library in light of a declining population. Was this based upon an independent needs assessment, or the recommendation of supporters or some library association?

Justification for property tax increases to support the building of a new library to include the additional 150k yearly operational expense of a larger facility.

Why so little has been said to the public that if a new library is built, it is a stated plan (based upon legislative requests) to renovate the Centennial Building by issuing bonds for the local match. This will raise taxes yet again, correct?

Why when the entire Mall recently sold for about 3 million, a new library will cost almost four times as much? Yes, I realize the top floor of the mall is apparently not stout enough to support the weight of thousands of books, but did anyone look at ways to reinforce the structure and still save millions? Why doesn't someone talk to the new owner? Perhaps the Mall would be willing to make the renovations in return for a long term lease.

Same questions as above, only regarding the pool (except for the mall question). Also, has the borough vetted the pool proposal to determine need vs want? For example, concerning the 12 million repair estimate are you absolutely certain that no one is exaggerating the repair need to push for replacement? Un-sat car dealers do this all the time with inflated repair estimates trying to walk customers into a new vehicle.

Reason that per student costs have increased so much in recent years. I have heard that we have doubled, or even tripled our education costs over the last decade, that State education funding is at an all time high, but student enrollment is down significantly.

Why local governments put energy projects at the very bottom of the community legislative funding priorities? You ranked the library as more important than the hydro projects (one of which, the Met intertie, is ready to go now). We are about to be hit by months of diesel surcharges right? How are low energy prices for homes and businesses less important than a library?

Why are cruise ship funds appropriate for a performing arts center, but not a new library, expanded museum, or fire station? You do realize that you could transfer funds from the borough cruise ship tax fund to the City for the betterment of the community, right? How much was that bronze statue you guys recently bought?

Was the borough able to fund the purchase of the S.Pt. Higgins beach by the previously stated means? and if not why and how will it be funded?

What is the plan to deal with the mountain of sawdust at the veneer plant before the decomposing pile self ignites and burns down Ward Cove some sunny day this summer?

How will the borough fund the 500k given to First City Players if issuance of the funds is deemed improper?

How is the sale of the Reid building going? Are you likely to get what the borough estimated when justifying the move to Whitecliff?

The following are my concerns as a taxpayer and citizen of Ketchikan:

That Mayor Weinstein will get his way and raise the sales tax by .5 percent to fund infrastructure repair, so he can continue spending money on non essential functions such as pedestrian way finding projects.

That elected officials will increase the sales tax by .5 percent to fund a pool.

That 1 and 2 above will raise our sales tax rate to 7 percent; drive more people to purchase items online and hurt local business.

That a new library will be built, subsequently resulting in the renovation of the Centennial building and construction of a 200 stall parking garage. All of which will require millions of dollars of bonds to be issued by local government, significantly increasing property taxes. This concern is based upon the information local governments submitted to the Capital this year.

That new parking rules will soon make downtown Ketchikan like downtown Juneau a place where the locals never go.

That property taxes will be raised to fund the construction of a new downtown fire station. If the state funds this project it will require a local match of millions which will be bonded raising local taxes.

That the borough needs to find 9 million somewhere (more taxes?), before the lease runs out on the Whitecliff building. How do you intend to fund this if the state doesn't?

That local governments are engaging in a land grab for the above projects which removes valuable real estate from the tax roles forever, transferring the tax burden to home and existing business owners (more tax increases).

That tourist spending will be down this year, and perhaps for years to come, resulting in decreased sales tax revenue. Doesn't the proposed tax increases for the aforementioned projects fall short if revenue is down?

That we will lose several businesses this year due to the economic recession, including several jewelry stores. Am I the only one concerned with the number of vacant and for sale properties downtown?

That high energy prices could negatively affect the continued success of the shipyard, or future high paying manufacturing jobs. It is not enough to say that all will be well once the Swan-Lake Intertie is on line. Local government listed local energy projects as the lowest rated priority for state funding. We need an immediate effort to address energy concerns now especially in light that the President may soon impose a carbon-tax on our diesel power generation.

That some local officials are too close to special interests and give more weight to a friend whispering in their ear to fund X than consider the overall interests of the community.

That by this time next year local governments, especially the city, will be wailing and crying how devastated their coffers have become, that no one could have foreseen such an event, and asking for additional tax increases.

That we will continue to lose population due to a high cost of living.

That those left behind will have to pay an increased share for the spending proposed now.

Oh, and my biggest concern .that local elected officials are not listening to the majority who are saying, our taxes are high enough already.

Rodney Dial
Ketchikan, AK

About: " Local business owner"

Received March 20, 2009 - Published March 22, 2009


Viewpoints - Opinion Letters:

letter Webmail Your Opinion Letter to the Editor



Note: Comments published on Viewpoints are the opinions of the writer
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sitnews.


E-mail your letters & opinions to
Your full name, city and state are required for publication.

SitNews ©2008
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska