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Quality of life should come before Industrial Welfare
By Michael Spence


June 17, 2005

It is the people who choose to live in this community that are its greatest asset. And contrary to where the political leadership seems to be leading us, it isn't construction projects or industrial welfare that attracts those people to Ketchikan. It is quality of life.

Every day we hear and read about some new construction project that brings or will bring (name a number) jobs to Ketchikan. Anyone who has been here a while, however, can tell you that we have had countless of these projects come and go, and like the runoff flowing from the their building sites into the sea, not much remains to be seen a few months later.

The result of this "make work" trend, is a landscape full of perpetually unfinished projects (take the South Tongass Highway, for instance) and an increased population of temporary construction workers. Meanwhile schools and existing road maintenance are under funded, and no consideration is given to the aesthetic qualities what will attract people to live and visit here in the future.

Unfortunately the culture created from this federally-funded industrial welfare has a life force of its own. Washington DC and the lobbyists that run it dictate to the community what projects come next, and all other community interests are put on hold. The public vote on the bridge, for example, only came AFTER the community was told by Washington DC that it was either the bridge or nothing.

If the community could instead direct public funds to parks, pedestrian access, school and recreation facilities and just maintaining the infrastructure that already exists, we could enhance the lifestyle that keeps and attracts people here. Where people want to live, long-term private enterprise will follow.

Michael Spence
Ketchikan, AK - USA



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