SAVE THE KETCHIKAN BUREAUCRATS, KILL THE TOWN
By David G Hanger
March 29, 2021
But there really is no uncertainty about 2021, has been no uncertainty about 2021 since last summer. So Ketchikan City Manager Karl Amylon’s dropping this 68-page number on everyone at the 13th hour is just the first level of outright and complete BS. All of this should have been laid out and done last July.
This “memo,” of course, is not really 68 pages; it’s about a dozen pages with a ton of filler; i.e. the second level of BS. Please tell me they really did not discover there was not going to be a cruise season until they read an article in Forbes magazine? It also strikes me as extremely manipulative, as in much of our Ketchikan City Council is comprised of grade schoolers, some of whom have gotten pretty sharp as the years have gone by, but none who have the sophistication and the level of articulation of the City Manager Karl Amylon. Which is not to say in his case that that is particularly high.
What really we have here is the defense of Karl Amylon’s self-created empire at the possible expense of a substantial population contraction for the community. Basically, it is let’s finance all these overpaid bureaucrats despite the fact we don’t have any money to do anything. So while they ensconce themselves in their offices and make $100,000 to $150,000 plus a year, nothing is going to get done; hence, they have nothing to do.
So we cut an EMT guy and trash the meter maid, keep all the stimulus money for government workers only, and otherwise blame the private sector for all of our problems. Is that not more or less it? Sixty-eight pages to tell us this. Baffle them with, what is that word again?
Heaven help us.
Notice how even in the course of this report favoritism is demonstrated (as well as a very bad attitude) in how the information is reported and as it is consequentially perceived. For we have $83,000+ in KPU arrearages from (a) major user(s) (????) reported completely offline and annotated as “Oh, this is not really an arrearage because these folks are good for it,” but all the other arrearages reported monthly for the past four months are a bunch of deadbeats, many of whom will never pay. (I would say most of them are as good for it as Amylon’s buddies who owe $83,000 reported intentionally offline.)
This is classic Amylon. Abuse the little guy; abuse the ordinary guy; kiss the big guy’s rear.
Amylon’s plan is very simple. As the town folds around them, let the bureaucrats party.
Once upon a time there existed on this continent a world where bureaucrats were called “feather merchants,” semi-politely derogatory for a jobber content with a lifetime security blanket and a much lower salary than was available in the private sector. That really is how it should work. For the bureaucrat produces nothing, except possibly bad attitude on occasion. The private sector has to continually produce merely to continue existing, and the risks of business are such that even before the pandemic 50% of Alaska businesses fail in the first year and 98% fail by the fifth year. And the bureaucrat just keeps chugging along making two to four times on average what his or her peer in the private sector is earning.
This all changed right at 50 years ago when government salaries began annually to be indexed for inflation while minimum wage laws languished at the same level for years, sometimes decades. The indexing of government salaries did not in fact keep up with actual levels of inflation, and the 1% have used this to run off with most of the wealth, but government salaries nonetheless over time outran private sector salaries by a factor of two to four times what private sector workers are being paid. (Oh, those Davis-Bacon wages.)
The pandemic makes this contrast very stark. This despite the fact that last year’s stimulus was much more widely distributed throughout the community than what is readily apparent down south (by personal observation). Tourist businesses and certain fishing groups are among the entities that were doled out hundreds of thousands of dollars in many instances. The “$100,000 taxable grant” is relatively common about town this year. There has been gamesmanship and greed, sales tax reports amended to double and triple quarterly revenues, out-of-towners showing up only to tap into the free cash, and government involvement or neglect in much of this gamesmanship; but there have also been rental assistance programs, deferral programs, protection protocols, and speedy vaccinations.
The hope, indeed the expectation, is that this pandemic will be in the country’s rear-view mirror around Labor Day. That could yet be false hope, for what is going on with these variants and mutations is still very much a work in progress, and there could be reversals in fortune. Let us hope not.
But the timing of this stimulus stuff is such that the bulk of it will have dried up by Labor Day, and what remains for Ketchikan is a long uncertain period of nine cold months in which there in fact will be next to no money. Nor is there any guarantee that in the ensuing period of time there will be that much. That depends in the first instance on how many people want to get back on board cruise ships once they are allowed to do so, and those prospects depend on who you are talking to. The cruise lines assure us they are on their way back in force, but other studies tell us that anywhere from 88% to 98% of the population will never get on a cruise ship again. The immediate question there, of course, is did any of those 88% to 98% ever consider going on a cruise? I do not know.
Pent up demand is pent up demand, and there is a fair chance for a roaring twenties-style economic boom that will churn forward for several years; but the stock market is floating on $10 trillion of so-called “marginal liquidity,” which in fact is another name for so much hot air and vacuous space, and it will blow up at some point. ‘When’ is a sweepstakes question. (Currently all market activity is operating full-throttle under the precise premises of Stevens’ Corollary to Barnum’s Law, to wit, “So long as you are not the last sucker in line it is not necessarily that bad a deal.”)
Assuming ever so optimistically that the cruise ships return in force in the spring of 2022 even then our local economic problem is not resolved because of the introduction of the concept of “bubble tourism” in combination with the Ward Cove Bingham-Spokely scam. K-town makes money because merchants in town make money from the tourists, but “bubble tourism” guarantees that only a few “locked-down stores and tours” will be available to “bubble tourists,” and that, folks, is a scam precisely designed to play in to this Ward Cove scam that is intended to steal the work over 60 years of any number of other people on the false premise they have something better.
Failure to deal with that scam now will perpetuate the economic disaster with which the community is about to contend.
At which point the community has little need for a bloated bureaucracy.
Figure it this way tourist businesses: If one-third of the ship traffic ends up at Ward Cove and passenger numbers are two-thirds what they were before the pandemic, how many tourists will you have available to frequent your business? Assume you will get no traffic from Ward Cove because that will be the fact of the situation. There is not room on the highway to move 2000 people in buses. The buses don’t fit, and fewer buses simply compounds your timing problem. The premises of this project are an incredibly stupid lie. (It’s a market capture operation, not a relocation operation.)
There are, of course, a handful of shops and tours in town that make a lot of money for their owners, but those that make their owners $150,000 and more annually are relatively few. A very small handful generate seven-figure profits, but many of those are distributed to at least several individuals. Most of what you see out there gives their owners a net income of $40,000 to $80,000, if that. Local professionals are in most cases doing about the same.
Last time I looked there were at least 25 people working for local government making more than $100,000 a year, and that was several years ago, so I am sure that number is higher now, and there are a hell of a lot of people in government in the $90,000 range. On top of that is the standard tax-free to government employees maximum medical insurance program costing $25,000 to $40,000 a pop or more to which they all seem so maximally entitled (and also cause local doctors’ prices to be higher); and finally, of course, their insanely generous retirement programs proportioned at the rate of 20% to 25% of what their base salary is.
Nowhere in Amylon’s 68 pages is any of this discussed.
If it is a case of union contracts or any other such nonsense, fire every third or fourth employee with deeper cuts the further up the chain you go. That will save you millions, and you will then learn what the private sector has already learned from this pandemic; that there was a lot of dead weight on their payrolls (emphasis on ‘was’).
Rather than trashing EMT guys who actually might help someone or firing meter maids who generate some revenue while keeping the streets clear of derelicts, maybe $50,000 pay cuts across the board are in order for all these overpaid folks making more than $125,000 a year. They produce nothing. And smaller pay cuts up and down the line.
With medical insurance make a deal. You own the hospital. Find cuts.
Simply ice all retirement programs for now. They are undeserved. There are few retirement plans in the private sector right now because businesses are losing money; loans and grants don’t qualify for retirement funding.
There are plenty of places here to cut, and the savings are in the millions; so Amylon’s idea that he needs all the money for his bureaucracy, and come September the town can freeze and die, is truly nonsense.
Likewise these dock bonds, etc. Default, it is not complicated. Just do it. What are they going to do, take the docks back? Make a deal. This seems to be the one thing you people cannot do. Make a deal. Do something different. Not our fault, creditors, the cruise ships are not coming. It’s pay you or watch our people starve, so let’s cut a deal. Defer until the pandemic ends, how hard can that be?
Then there is this freak-out about reserve accounts. Well, reserves are there for hard times, and these are hard times. Spending down reserve accounts should not be a complete freak-out. But you do need to plan your way out of this pandemic, and if Bingham-Spokely is part of your plans, do let us know, because it is in fact over now if that is the case.
I know the rest of you can come up with more holes in this than I can, and with better ideas, too; but however you shake it Amylon’s financing his bloated bureaucracy at the expense of the citizens of the community is so much nonsense.
There are other solutions or courses of action, and this one man-itis is not acceptable, in result or in consequence.
David G Hanger
Received March 22, 2021 - Published March 29, 2021
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