SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Racism and the death of Newtown
By Tom Ferry


August 26, 2007

The final nail is being driven into Newtown's coffin with the petition to limit jewelry stores. The old Marine Bar will never be rebuilt, the building next to Johnson Glass will keep deteriorating and basically nothing will be done to fix anything up.

The new planned 30 million dollar cannery style development on the old waterfront storage site will not go forward. But, I guess that is the way Charlie Arteaga and company want it. They want to stifle people's hopes and dreams for a better life.

Charlie can sit back on his juicy retirement (that is a PERS/TERS 5 billion dollar bailout ) and crush everyone else's retirement plans. Tax revenues will go down while Newtown's creaky old building pilings keep crumbling. So what, says Charlie as he opens another retirement check and sips on some champagne.

It sure is nice to live in a country like the good old U S of A where you can open any kind of business, work hard and finally retire someday. Oops, except here in Ketchikan where the rules are changed in the middle of the game. If I were to start a petition to limit who Charlie could rent to and how much he could rent his apartments for he would blow his cork!

I and other petition organizers would explain to Charlie who owns a few apartments up on his Lund Street empire. Hey, you know Charlie, rents are just too damn high in your area with the great view of the narrows and all. Locals are having a hard time finding affordable housing and they need a great view too, so we're just going take it upon ourselves to manipulate free enterprise and decide that YOU are just going to have to lower your rents from 800 a month to 200 a month. Yes, I know you want to replace that sagging deck and worn out door and leaking roof but you know what ? TOO BAD, we are going to interfere with your retirement and your income. Sorry that's just the way it is. It's for the overall good of the citizenry, you do understand don't you?

Charlie Arteaga, Charlene Dima and crew have a vision of what they think Ketchikan should look like. But, when asked what their plan is you get no answer. All they say is, there should be more diversity in the business community for Downtown and Newtown. How is that supposed to happen? They cannot tell anyone because they have no plan, but to shaft current commercial property owners. The cruise ships increased their presence here just at the right time when the mill shut down and Ketchikan was hurting The Downtown started catering to the ever increasing tourists who came here . The same stores who follow the cruise ships around the world also came here and set up shop. The cruise ship season is just that, a seasonal business. But Charlene and Charlie want year round businesses here. Do they have a plan for that? NO, they have no plan. They just hope someone will open a year round business in an empty husk of a former jewelry store after they have been run out of town. When the jewelry store demand heated up here 5 or 6 years ago there started a price war for premium space that was the closest to the ships. The price escalated to where non jewelry stores could not afford the rent for these premium frontage spaces. Some businesses and locals got shut out and have an axe to grind.

What Charles and Charlene want is to force the property owners of these spaces to rent them to locals for a buck a square foot when they're actually worth 10 times that much. I say a buck because again if you ask them what a fair price or an affordable price for commercial rental is they will not tell you. Go ahead and ask them and if anyone gets an answer please tell me because I have asked Charlene, what this magical affordable for locals number is and she says, well you know something affordable, you know. Well, I don't know! I have also asked these petition sponsors to give me one phone number of a local who is seething to open a store. One phone number and they cannot come up with one! The fact is, like I said before there are no people trying to open local businesses. Everyone wants a juicy government retirement like Charlie! And there are plenty of vacant spaces downtown to open a business, but no one is doing it.

To make an analogy, what if I got on my high horse and said I am sick of Californians driving up the price of beachfront in this town so I am going to get a referendum on the ballot to limit the buying of beachfront to where a Californian can only own every fifth lot on the waterfront. Therefore all the other beachfront lots would be cheaper because Californians who are willing to pay top dollar and to them a bargain compared to California, thus the remaining lots would be bought at half that price by locals who cannot afford the California price. This is the same theory that the anti business -socialist- communist -anti free enterprise -rent control- Gestapo, hopes to install in Newtown. Now, how would you feel if you were an old timer who bought a piece of beach front on north tongass in the 40's for 2 grand. On the open market a Californian outsider wants to buy it for 500 grand and you the 80 year old lady on a fixed income with no retirement was jumping for joy and telling her kids she would finally be able to move to their little community in Arizona to be near the grand kids and great grand kids and live out her life in comfort. But then, some idiot with a misguided notion of freedom passed a new law and her lot was right next door to someone who just sold his lot to an evil Californian then her realtor tells her she now only has offers from a couple locals who can only scrape together 180 grand. So she calls her family and tells them she cannot live out her dreams because she wasn't in the "RIGHT ZONE". This is an example of how twisted their way of thinking is.

Charlie and Charlene and everyone else that signed the petition are nothing but pickpockets. They are picking my pocket and make me and hundreds of other entrepreneurs ill. This is also a case of racism. Now I will tell you I am not one to play the race card, it makes me sick when liberal democrats seem to always play the race card. But I will tell you after actually talking to many of the eastern Indians who own 80 % of the jewelry stores, I can understand how they feel. So I will try to explain the race angle in all of this. First off, the petitioners had a tacky booth at the Blueberry Festival that showed photos of not local jewelry stores but of ethnic eastern Indian owned stores. How would you like it if you and your family were out enjoying the atmosphere of the great festival and come around the corner to see YOUR store displayed at the booth staffed with retired folks with slogans like aren't you tired of these stores. That is a direct attack on someone's livelihood, someone's whole life's work. If all the jewelry stores were owned by either local white people or Alaskan natives there would never have been a petition. But since it is middle eastern Indians and their race does not fit in with C&C's historic rustic so called Alaskan image they want to run them out of town. At a meeting up in the Chamber of Commerce between the petition group and the petition opposition, Charlie Arteaga was asked if he could get rid of more jewelry stores than just the ones targeted, would he? He said, yes if he could he would get rid of most of them! And there were 20 witnesses to him saying this before he stormed out of the room in a tantrum. Anytime you target 60 or so jewelry stores and 80% of them are owned by a certain ethnic group that is racism. That is why the N.A.A.C.P. IS GETING INVOLVED ! The ACLU is also climbing on board and lawsuits will be flying everywhere. The sad thing is that the Borough will have to shell out the money to defend this foolish scrap of paper which means the taxpayer gets soaked.

In my family archives of photos from the goldrush in Dawson City, there were jewelry stores as far as the eye can see. And merchants were standing out in front of their establishments draped in gold chains chomping on cigars and spitting snoose into the streets. So it is historically correct to have jewelry stores in a frontier town. I doubt that anyone wants to get rid of the great gold nugget stores on Creek Street. Maybe if the bad jewelry stores hired white people to run their stores and changed their signage and to look more rustic they wouldn't be driven out of town. After speaking to some people who signed the petition it was easy to talk them out of voting for it, as most who signed just did it as a kneejerk reaction without thinking it through. Funny how one main backer who was on his high horse about supporting local businesses was seen with two pallets of goods from Costco in his garage, so much for buying local. I urge everyone who reads this to not vote on this ballot measure . Already free enterprise is at work adjusting rents and as soon as the birth 4 is online rents Downtown will fall as more space in Newtown comes available. I believe the jewelry store high rent bubble has burst, but please let the free market work. It never works when nosy people interfere. If the backers of the new Waterfront Storage Taquan development get the feeling Ketchikan is anti-free enterprise and pull out, this will have the exact opposite effect that C&C want. There will be less spaces to rent and the rent prices will stay high. I just don't think they have thought very deep about what they are really doing. All you have to do is ask them and it is that apparent they have no idea how capitalism works.

If I were Charlene I would concentrate on making sure the state doesn't take their whole building when the sidewalks are widened 6 feet inward to accomodate wheelchairs around the dangerous S curve corner all sidewalks will have to be ADA compliant very soon. They'll probably take half the building anyway.Most of the Newtown commercial property owners are looking forward to a historical overlay and fixing up their property, but this will have the opposite effect as no one will have any capital to work with if this draconian measure passes. I can see no cooperation from the commercial property owners at all and it will become a free for all area and be a big mess. One bright spot is how will this be enforced? Is there going to be a special gestapo organized with a measuring system like football referees . What if they stretch the tape and you are 1 inch inside of the 200 ft limit will they give you a break?

The borough can't even enforce the out of control Bed and Breakfast mess. For example you are only allowed to have three rooms in a B&B and there are some with 5 rooms. You have to live on the premises to be called a B&B and some people do not live in their B&B. You can't have ovens in the rooms and people do. You can't cook for guests, like make muffins or scones or sell t-shirts and other items, plenty of violators there. Some folks have apartments above a detached garage and call it a B&B. It is against the regs to do this. B&B signs have to be attached to the house and be a specific size, plenty of violators there. You should have fire extinguishers, exits marked, outside lighting that stays on at night, special B&B insurance, code compliant handrails and adequate parking. So if the borough and city can't even enforce this how the heck can they enforce a jewelry code.

If anyone has anything to say about this letter pro or con just give me a call. My phone # is 617-1527. I will be happy to fill you in on the real truth of this whole debacle. I don't want to offend anyone with this letter. I just want the truth out about how if affects real people trying to earn a living, enjoy the pursuit of happiness and equal opportunity guaranteed under the United States constitution.

Good Day,

Tom Ferry
Ketchikan, AK

Received August 24, 2007 - Published August 26, 2007


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Ketchikan, Alaska