By Chris Parks
August 10, 2005
Please vote YES on Proposition 1 for the Port Expansion Revenue Bonds.
The people who naysay this plan say it is being crammed down our throats, the plan is an incomplete rush job, or it hasn t been given enough time to be thoroughly researched.
The fact is that the city and concerned citizens have been researching, studying, and debating the need and plans for port expansion since October 2002, with town hall meetings, city council meetings, newspaper articles, letters to the editor, and more. I have attended almost every one of these public forums to express my opinions, but most of the people now criticizing this plan did not involve themselves until recently. During these public forums there were a lot of ideas on how to expand the port to properly accommodate our cruise ship traffic, but more importantly there was overwhelming majority of people who were FOR the port expansion. Based on this input, the city moved forward with its planning.
Since the start of this process, many options were considered, including a T-pier. concept, a Thomas Basin pier, a two berth option farther north, and even an extension of the current berth 1A. All of these options were eventually ruled out because they either created problems with the shipping lanes or harbor safety, conflicted with other industries, or created the potential for severe access and congestion problems. This spring the Ketchikan City Council approved the current plan as the best plan of expansion, because it is the best compromise of all the factors and issues involved in a port improvement plan of this magnitude.
First, it accommodates four full size world class cruise ships, which in turn expands the current tourist shopping district instead of dividing it in two. This is to properly accommodate the cruise ship traffic we already have, plus some moderate growth beyond that.
Second, it does not adversely affect any existing industry or businesses, it only provides more opportunity for them and many more would be entrepreneurs.
Third, a significant portion of this project is for uplands improvements that relieve congestion, improve parking, safety, and beautify our city for both locals and tourists.
And fourth, most importantly, this project is being funded entirely by cruise passenger berthing fees (a head tax), which legally must be used for port improvements and/or to mitigate the impacts of the cruise ship industry on our city.
This plan accomplishes all that, and in doing so it also makes it one of the largest port expansion projects ever, to be 100% funded by the industry.
Remember, the city council voted to approve this plan after almost three years of research and debate, with a lot of input from business, industry, and citizens. The Revenue Bonds are insured, non-recourse bonds, which means the citizens and businesses of Ketchikan will never pay a dime of the $70 million. In fact, in most states, a public vote is not required for the issuance of revenue bonds.
The city of Ketchikan and our elected officials have been driving this process from the beginning. The cruise industry has said we will bring our ships here if you improve your port facilities, and we ll pay for it. We as citizens have elected our officials to do their jobs, and have given them our opinions. They did their job in research and soliciting public opinion, and made the decision that is the best compromise of all issues and views.
As we have no other major industry that can generate economic growth, jobs, and tax revenues to support our infrastructure and our way of life, I believe it is time to take action and vote YES on Proposition 1 for the Port Expansion Revenue Bonds.
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