Sitnews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska - Opinions



Three-hundred and fifty jobs to possibly move from Ketchikan
by Thomas Ferry


August 15, 2004

What is this? Three-hundred and fifty jobs to possibly move from Ketchikan to Petersburg you ask. Yes, that is a real possibility if the mayor and city manager have their way. And yes, also if the council votes for the southern option. They too will not escape their legacy as the ones who sold the fishing industry down the road. I would hate to be a council member and have as my epitaph, 'Here lies Joe council member, one of the fab four who voted to put the final coffin nail in to Ketchikan's fishing industry".

Here are the real facts. Right now the city is pushing the southern berthing option to build two cruise ship berths south of Thomas Basin under the guise that there are other options available and it is up to the citizens to make a choice. When in fact on paper there is no choice. The recent meeting at the Ted Ferry Civic Center was a complete sham! To the average uninformed attendee who listened to the scare tactic presentation by the fast talking fella from Florida you could have walked away with the impression that Ketchikan is facing a cruise ship crisis and if you don't act NOW, the ships will disappear to other ports and the city will turn into a ghost town. He and the city manager and the KPFF consultant were using a lot of scare tactics, misinformation, and yes downright mistruths to accomplish their goals.

Let me start out by saying that the city has a real lack of leadership. If it comes down to the ultimate scenario that we all fear where Trident Seafoods and Alaska General Seafoods move their operations to a fishing friendly town like Petersburg, some heads should roll from the top on down.

First let me explain the entire southern scenario. Soon after the T-pier was sent to the ash heap because of a grassroots campaign, that gathered over 1,600 signatures against it. That by the way, the city will not admit to this day. The next place to be studied was to be the north of the tunnel option, but that did not happen. Instead they worked feverishly with special interests downtown to keep the ships from coming north thus preserving the monopoly that the Downtown real estate moguls enjoy.

Now the city has spent over three hundred thousand dollars to study the southern berthing port, while they threw forty-seven grand our way. The city spent the three hundred grand and then, (yes, then) told the canneries about their plans! Now if you or I were the City Manager or Mayor or a high paid professional consultant the first thing to come to mind would be the thought that gee, "This might impact the canneries, why don't we go ask them for some input before we blow three hundred grand on a study?". The city didn't tell the canneries until two months ago, and just met with them 3 weeks ago!! This is just one example of the total incompetence that has plagued the entire process.

Both canneries as of right now have told the city that they "DO NOT WANT THOSE SHIPS IN FRONT OF THEIR CANNERIES". The two industries just do not mix. The price quoted by the City for the southern berths is acceptable to the cruise industry. But if you include the price of buying the canneries, re-locating the canneries, the economic impact to the community and the lawsuit that is surely coming, the price tag to the southern option now could be fifty million dollars over budget. Are we really going to put cruise ships over the fishing industry?

When our group met the first time with city manager Karl Amylon and Walt Ritchie from KPFF consultants, they wanted to see what we wanted and what our proposal was. We figured that they would gather information from us and then proceed to tear it apart. And we were right, they took our concept and moved the ships around to squeeze city float and make it unusable. They moved the southern most ship forward 50 feet from the Thomas Basin dolphin which in turn caused all ships to move forward 50 feet. They then moved the number 4 ship 50 feet south, and then they put a mooring dolphin smack dab in the middle of the tiny entrance they created to city float. Our blood was starting to boil! We thought that KPFF would have taken our concept and improved on it. Instead they sabotaged it. Before the meeting ended I told the City that the drawing should be changed to reflect our concept, and that the drawing that they came up with should not be shown in public. But I will show it on Sitnews so the people can see what they tried to do. At the most recent meetings, the Chamber luncheon and at the Ted Ferry civic center, the City did not show anything that we endorsed. Now I will get into numbers. The City says that the northern option will cost 18 million dollars more than the southern option. That is not true if you take out the 10 million that will go to the downtown core to make it more Disneyland-like, wider sidewalks, planting trees, moving power poles, more shrubs, all kinds of improvements to enhance the tourists experience in Ketchikan. Why does the Downtown always get millions poured into it while the north end is starting to look like a ghetto? Makes one wonder who's beholden to who. So if you did away with that pork, now we are within 8 million of supposedly getting into the multi-billion dollar cruise ship industry's little ol' budget for Ketchikan.

The northern property owners know that if the berths go north, their property will sell and maybe for more than they want. As of right now, most have agreed that the city does NOT have to buy them. The 8 million is simply not true, more like 3 million. If I were the mayor, I would be happy that Southeast Stevedoring wants to put in a private dock. I would say, what can we do to help and make private business thrive? This is where most people have a hard time trying to figure out what is the main motive where Amylon and Mayor Weinstein are involved. And I have an answer, I had heard that Karl Amylon was against private business, kind of a socialist., I had heard this but could not corroborate it until after my last meeting with him. As Axel Svenson and I were arguing with Walt Ritchie, Karl Amylon and another fellow from Florida about private versus public development in general and how it pertains to the berthing situation. What finally came out of Karl Amylon's mouth confirmed what I have heard..."The public sector does a better job than private enterprise." This is what is driving the whole thing. He does not want private enterprise building cruise ship berthing period!! He wants the government to control everything.

Next I will talk about various other aspects of this whole situation that are not true. These are not in any sort of chronological order.

(1) The "Tony Montana" character from Florida, a consultant hired by the city kept on telling everyone at the public meetings that cruise ship berthing should not be built in a residential area. He's trying to make it seem that the area north of the tunnel is a residential area. Who is he trying to fool? The Waterfront Storage, Taquan and Talbot's area where the new berthing will be built is zoned "HEAVY INDUSTRIAL". There are homes built above it all, like the neighborhood above the tunnel. It is no different than the current downtown situation. Now they act like they care about someone's view, when they spent 1.5 million dollars designing a T-Pier that would have ruined the aesthetics of our town.

(2) One thing that the berthing south of Thomas Basin will do besides decimate the fishing industry in Ketchikan is clog traffic. As everyone has noticed this summer's traffic is the worst I can remember. Now listen carefully, I know a lot of people moaned about the Third Avenue bypass in the beginning and now can hardly wait until it opens so they can bypass the downtown traffic. Well just think of how it will be to go over the bypass route and circle around City Park just to hit traffic backed all the way up to City Park from Tatsuda's. A traffic light will have to be installed at the bottom of Deermount to control the 60 or so busses that will be departing from the new ground transportation area right opposite the Deermount intersection. This defeats the whole Third Avenue traffic flow pattern as envisioned by the designers. This of course was one of the negatives that the City has never brought up.

(3) The consultant from Florida had a list of priorities that they came up with as to what they thought should be the main things to consider on this project. To show you how backwards and arrogant they are in their viewpoints, the consultant pointed toward the screen and read... the first consideration for the project is cost, cost, cost. I forget what the next ones were, but not one of them said "What do the people want"? That to me and to the three thousand people that signed our petition who want to see the berthing built north of the tunnel, believe that what the people want should be the top consideration - remember us? The people of the community! The ones who vote! The ones who live here year round. No mention of this ever came up at any public meetings either. The City never did an official survey.

(4) Finally, they went on to say that there will be all these air taxi operations that will either be displaced or go out of business. Again they are trying to make it seem that it would be somehow comparable to losing 2 canneries. One of which has been in operation for over 100 years. The floatplane situation could be easily taken care of and is a non issue. Only one operator has requested compensation and we believe that all his issues could be worked out.

To all the people that signed the petition, remember the only way to stop the madness of building a pier south of Thomas Basin is to vote NO on the bond! What the City should do is have a choice, because right now there is no choice. Why not have a vote? A northern bond or southern bond, sounds fair - right? Well, that won't happen because of who is running the show. They don't want the people to be in charge because after all the government knows better than the private sector. In closing I will say that you the people can prevail and stop the ill advised Thomas Basin pier. Please call, write or e-mail the Governor's office! Remember he is pro business and has fought hard for jobs in Ketchikan. I will be speaking with him next week.

All the fishermen and all in the fishing industry (cannery owners) must unite, stand firm and not be intimidated or waiver. Take a stand for your future. If the southern bond is our only option, please vote NO and send a message. Also any council member who votes to approve a bond measure to build the Thomas Basin berths should be voted out of office. If anyone wants to know more, please feel free to give me a call.

Thank you,
Thomas Ferry
Ketchikan, AK - USA


P.S. I'm not trying to win a popularity contest. I don't want to offend anyone by writing this truthful letter. I am just trying to get the people's business and wishes in the public arena. Our community is unlike any other down south. We take pride in our town and want and need many "LOCAL" people to prosper. Local business owners put much more back into the community than the summer time only downtown businesses. How many JEWELRY STORES does one small town need? Our historical, small town needs more businesses that benefit the community, like more clothing shops, baby furniture & accessories, shoe stores, more places for our YOUTH (a skating rink) just to name a few. There are a lot of talented people in this town who if given a chance could start up more small family oriented businesses. 90% of the shops downtown, have nothing to offer the locals.

This whole plan will affect our economy and our YOUTHS' FUTURE. Thank you Sitnews - The True Voice of the People.


Note: Comments published on Viewpoints are the opinions of the writer
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