By M.L. Dahl
August 03, 2005
As a stock broker for many years and a certified financial planner for 21 years, I can assure you that an insured municipal revenue bond does not get paid for by the voters. It is paid for by investors who purchase units of the bond for tax-free income. An insured bond is exactly that; insured against loss of principal and against the timely payment of the interest promised by the bond. Insured bonds pay slightly lower interest rates but are more secure, so they are sometimes sought-after by conservative investors. The city will not insure the bonds; that will be done by the bond "underwriter", an investment firm that specializes in municipal bonds. So, now that it is clear that the bonds themselves are not going to cost the taxpayers of Ketchikan, let's get to the real issue, which is what the north/west end cruise ship dock proposal will actually do to Ketchikan. What the north/west dock will do is bad, not good, and that's the issue.
In short, it will further ruin the main part of town by eliminating the quaint and funky shoreline charm of a real southeast Alaska town. God knows it will probably also spawn even more jewelry stores, owned and run mostly by people who arrive in May one day before the first cruise ships pull into port, and leave before the real rain starts in October. People who rent apartments and houses for only 5 months out of the year, who have forced up the cost of downtown rental space so much that locally-owned shops and cafe's must move or close down. People with little interest in Ketchikan other than how much money they can make and take somewhere else, to wherever they really live. People who now "hawk" outside their shops in a tacky attempt to lure buyers inside.
The real issue is quality of life in Ketchikan. The north/west dock plan is flawed. The numbers being quoted now, for the August 16 election, are inconsistent with numbers previously published. The drawing is inaccurate, as others have pointed out. Inadequate planning and lack of full public disclosure are serious drawbacks to approving this proposed dock expansion. It is irresponsible to go ahead with it when there are alternatives that are better, less expensive, less detrimental to locals and which would not create an expansion of the jewelry store atmosphere we presently endure.
A better plan would be to consider dock space just south of Thomas Basin, near Trident Seafoods as previously suggested. However, instead of making it a dock for megaships, I would like to see the city build dock space for the small ships. These ships cater to visitors who are interested in the real Alaska, eco-tourists and adventure-tourists who rent bicycles and kayaks, who go on adventures while here and explore our wilderness in small groups. I suspect that these folks are not big on buying jewelry, but I'll bet that they do buy outdoor gear, clothing, foodstuffs, art and other items that our locals can supply.
With a southend dock, designed for the small cruise ships, the seafood canneries could continue to operate as they do now. Trident could get on with their own plans for expansion, which they told us that they had in mind prior to the proposed southend dock. How about selling cannery tours in a working, Alaska cannery, and retail sales of Wild Alaska Seafoods, right there on these docks? That end of town, which is now the only remaining part of town that is truly authentic to old Ketchikan, and which is, in fact, called "Old Town", would be very appealing to these kinds of vistors.
It's not the bonding that is at the heart of this issue; it is the destruction of small-town Alaska. It is the ruination of a quaint town where real people live. It is the loss of waterfront views, the proliferation of junk jewelry stores, the high downtown rents, the boarded-up windows all winter, the bus fumes and street congestion, the loss of waterfront access for locals and the hordes of frustrated tourists looking for the real Alaska that merits a NO vote.
I cannot vote in this election, but if I could, my vote would be NO.
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