SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska



Some Thoughts on Consolidation
By Samuel Bergeron


August 13, 2006

The empirical weatherman looks out the window and sees what the weather is doing. He doesn't look at forecasts, read about the probabilities of rain or snow; he looks and sees with his own eyes what the weather is doing.

When I consider consolidation of the communities two governments I look to the nearby towns of Juneau and Sitka and see how they are doing. The first thing I notice is that no one in Sitka or Juneau is still yearning for the old system of two governments. I haven't heard "If only our governments were still as two, my life would be so much better". Maybe I missed that, but I don't think so. So we're off to good start.

The next thing to consider is the ability to change policy that could benefit all the resident of Ketchikan. Let's take sales tax for instance. When we talk about sales tax we can all agree that the current code is deficient in that it taxes food and rent and lets some users of the economy off completely from paying any sales tax. Now try to change that with two stand alone governments like the City and the Borough. The first place that would go is the joint sales tax committee that meets very infrequently and has never been able to come to a consensus on anything. Let's face it; these people don't like each other and they don't work well together. The City feels like the Borough has wasted the Disaster Relief money ($25,000,000.00) and continues to mismanage their current affairs and the Borough dislikes the leadership of the City immensely. How can we overcome that? We can't. We'll always be stuck in this turf war between the City and the Borough and that makes any substantive policy change nearly impossible.

When the Borough was formed and subsequent to that time, they wound up with the operations that rely mostly on taxes to function: parks and recreation, school facilities and school funding, planning and zoning, etc. The City on the other hand has most all of the revenue generating enterprises like KPU and Ports and Harbors. These City run enterprises generate millions of dollars and have accumulated huge budget reserves. The Borough has been forced to cut staff, reduce school funding, operate in offices that are substandard and drive old vehicles. The City, on the other hand, accumulates millions of dollars in the name of reserves and operates in relative opulence in comparison to their Borough counterparts. As a resident of the City who pays taxes to both governments, it makes me angry that we can't afford to educate our children, but we can afford to add to the City's savings account. I don't suppose that one government would preserve their bank account at the cost of the education we provide to our kids, but that is exactly what we are doing now with two governments.

Good policy is essential to good government. When we're unable to change old, cumbersome and sometimes unethical policy to preserve a turf war between the two governments we now have, I would say for that reason alone, it's time to consolidate.

Samuel Bergeron
Ketchikan, AK - USA

About: "I'm voting in the next election for change. I would encourage all of you to do the same."




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