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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

An Open Letter to Mary Kauffman

by Dan Bockhorst


September 26, 2021
Sunday PM

Mary, thanks for your years of valued service to Ketchikan as editor, publisher, and webmaster of SitNews.

For nearly a quarter century, SitNews has been the premier local forum for those who wish to share viewpoints about topics of interest to your readers. Prominently stated in your invitation for commentary is a 1949 declaration by U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas: “The function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger. Speech is often provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions that have profound unsettling effects as it pressures for the acceptance of an idea.”

SitNews provides ready access to weather forecasts, public records, tide charts, public meetings, federal legislation, public safety information, balanced news, local columnists (such as Dave Kiffer’s entertaining essays and Mary Lynne Dahl’s wise counsel on personal finance), and more.

Those aspiring for local public office are given a platform each year to express their views and qualifications. Readers can also learn which candidates have submitted statements by the timeline you set. (I find it telling that 40% of Borough assembly candidates and 40% of school board candidates didn’t submit statements by the deadline.) Candidate statements remain prominently available on SitNews for voters to review during the entire election season.

Moreover, SitNews provides what I believe may be coverage of some important contemporary issues that rivals, if not surpasses, the most widely read news media in the country – truly. Take for example the prominent topic of the national debt ceiling. Your readers can learn that the federal government’s statutory debt limit is $28,401,400,000,000, but at the time I wrote this letter, the U.S. Treasury Department reported that federal debt totaled $28,427,175,063,939.33 ($228,661 per taxpayer). At that point, debt exceeded the statutory limit; however, dwindling cash on hand allowed the federal government to still pay its bills.

SitNews reports that the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury indicates she is taking “extraordinary measures” to conserve cash. However, such measures simply add to the unfunded liabilities of the U.S. government which SitNews shows is $156,555,972,099,338 ($470,533 per citizen). I would be surprised if any other news source provides such complete information.

You round out the discussion of the federal debt limit with two political cartoons; one showing Uncle Sam being driven off the ‘Debt-Default Cliff’ by a politician, and the other showing one political party attempting to diffuse the ‘Debt-Ceiling Bomb’ while another party hinders that effort.

Elsewhere, SitNews shows that debt owed by the State of Alaska totals $10,297,182,997 ($14,019 per citizen). I note, however, that no summary is provided of the debt owed by our borough and city governments. I’m certain local officials would readily provide that information for your readers.

Archives of front-page stories, photos, and letters since August 1999 are also available to readers. SitNews offers far more than I’ve stated here – all of which is free to readers!

Thanks again Mary.

Dan Bockhorst
Ketchikan, Alaska


Editor's Note: In response to Mr. Bockhorst's excellent suggestion for including a category for local debt owed:

Ketchikan Borough's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report For the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2020

The Borough’s net position exceeded its liabilities by $185,048,748 for the fiscal year reported (2020). Download and read the full report.
Prepared by the KGB Dept of Finance
Released December 28, 2020

City of Ketchikan Most Current Annual Financial Report posted on the Financial Dept.'s web category(2019) (As of 09/26/21)

All City of Ketchikan Financial Documents:




Editor's Note:

The text of this letter was NOT edited by the SitNews Editor.

Received September 24, 2021 - Published September 26, 2021

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