By Jos "Gus" Govaars VI
August 26, 2005
Last Tuesday was an interesting day for those lucky enough to live within the city limits of Ketchikan. As a community, a message was sent loud and clear. The residents are tired of getting taken advantage of, and sick of ideas getting shoved down their throats.
The city and borough need to stop fighting, consolidate, and make a long term strategic plan for the island. Then if it fits in our plan we can work on our existing docks, and build two new slips, one north and one south and develop Ketchikan as a whole, not just Newtown. Tourism is the one industry in this town with a future and it needs to be nurtured. Don't be fooled, tourism can support us, not just during the summer months, but maybe year round. Tourists don't just visit on cruise ships; they also come by ferry and plane. We need a comprehensive plan that will make the tourists visit and stay overnight.
As I see it Ketchikanites have had one idea after the next put in front of them, then told it wasn't going to cost them a cent finding out years later that the whole thing was a waste of money. Money that could have been better spent on our schools, roads or harbors blown away in the wind. From the veneer mill that was supposed to save the timber jobs, later a cold storage in Ward Cove, and now the cruise ship dock, our leaders are chasing the new hot idea, like teenage boys chasing the pretty new skirt in school. Maybe they are all still that smart, but how dumb are we for voting for them.
This is nothing new. Canneries started it with fish traps in the 50's. More recently Louisiana Pacific blamed the closure on the "hippies" and left us with Ward Cove (a toxic waste dump that eventually will need to be cleaned up.) Now it's the cruise ship industry. It's the same old song, take our raw materials (timber, fish, scenery, oil), don't invest in the community, and run home from the colony known as Alaska with millions each year. Like a battered housewife we come back and say "they didn't mean it, I did it to myself". The whole time they laugh and wonder how we can be so gullible.
It's great that people are waking up, and I hope this isn't the last time the people will speak up. At least this time we weren't left sitting at the table in a fancy restaurant looking at each other wishing that someone would pickup the check. What we need is a long term plan to revitalize our community, not this "gold-rush mentality" that helps the rich people get richer with the "new great idea" they have. There is too little long term vision in the city and borough governments.
Work on our existing dock is needed, but the bond proposal slaying was just what our local leaders deserve. A slap in the face. What is in it for Ketchikan? What is in it for the year-round residents? The Dock Expansion Plan was set in motion so business and land owners could just make more money, selling out another portion of Ketchikan's identity to "Tanzanite" with employees from Jamaica; not Ketchikan. What ever happened to the Governor's Alaskan hire initiative?
Show me a plan where the cruise lines step up and invest in the dock; where restrictions are set in place so we don't end up with more jewelry stores. Then show us how traffic congestion will be addressed. Put it all in a "long term strategic plan" and I guarantee the majority of voters will support it. This isn't rocket science, we want our town back. Ketchikan has lost its identity and we want to be a nice little town with a tourism industry that we can be proud of. Not a place where people get off the cruise ships and say where is the Alaska I saw in the pictures?
Jos "Gus" Govaars
P.S. If you want to discuss anything I have written in this letter please feel to email me anytime.
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