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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions


By Byron Whitesides


September 28, 2022

I  would like to thank Dan Brockhorst for your letter of Sept. 26th on Sitnews, pointing out the arrogant disregard by the borough assembly, of the voters they claim to “represent”.  This is among the many reasons to vote NO on proposition #1, on whether we want to maintain our present form of government.

I do not like the present way we pick our assembly members, by area wide elections, and would like to go to a designated districts form of electing assembly members.  I feel this would be a superior form of assembly, more representative and democratic, and where the residents of these districts would have their issues and concerns able to be represented by assembly members voted on only by their district.  Some of you might say “why do you want this new form of government”.  Well, it isn’t a new form!  What I suggest is we return to the original form of government we had here when our borough government was instituted.

After we became a state, there were officials sent here to get the boroughs organized.  I was 11 years old, and attended meetings with my parents, and was with my parents when they had many discussions with other outside the city residents, from north and south Tongass, about the issue of forming a borough government.

The citizens outside the city limits told the state officials they didn’t want to become an organized borough with the city.  They had many concerns, that the city would just wrongfully tax them to pay for the services inside the city limits and force them to pay for things they did not need or want.  They told them they had concerns that the city would just dominate them and have no regard for their concerns, and were very worried about this.  

So the state officials told the residents of North and South Tongass, that they understood these concerns and would form the borough in a way where they would always have representation by having districts and 3 fixed seats for the residents out of the city limits and 4 seats in the city so the people of the non city areas would have fixed representation, which would make it extremely difficult to be steamrolled by the city, and the out of city residents reluctantly agreed to this system.

This system was in place and how we conducted borough business for years, I’m not sure exactly when it was changed to the present system.  When I was a young man I worked out of town and also lived two years in Juneau.  I asked my father and he told me that the city had proposed it, with the excuse that it was too hard to get acceptable candidates from the out of town districts so they proposed the area wide candidate elections, was voted on with a simple majority vote and just like that, we had the form of government that the state had promised us we would not have.  You could ask some of the old timers, from Ketchikan that were here and involved about what transpired to evoke this change in our form of borough.

This present system of borough government is also is one of the reasons that supporters of proposition #2 say it’s taxation without representation.  Even if assembly people live out of town, they are still voted on and “selected” by votes of the city residents!  These areas that were promised by the state when they agreed to form this borough, no longer have actual representation where they select and elect someone who lives in their district/area to represent THEM, their values, issues, and concerns.  No one gets elected now, unless they are “acceptable” to the voters of the city, seems to be more important than representing the issues and concerns of the residents who live outside of the city limits.

This brings me to why I support a YES vote on proposition #2.  First this is a non area wide property tax, it ONLY applies to the residents of the borough and not the cities of Ketchikan or Saxman.  When this issue was on the ballot, it should have only been voted on by the areas it applied to, but was not, as voters from areas not being taxed were allowed to participate in the election which was wrong, but considered passed anyways.

The citizens initiative that put this proposition on the ballot was sparked by the library promoting and using taxpayer monies to promote a contentious and divisive issue, being drag queens reading to small minor children, promoting a “pride” month, and having what many parents considered offensive and inappropriate displays out where the minor children could see them.  When the main sponsor of the petition, urged by parents who objected to the drag queen reading and offensive displays, went to the library and attempted get them to make some changes,(he wanted them to stop sexualizing the small children and put the offensive displays somewhere the small children couldn’t see them) and he was told ABSOLUTELY NOT, and they were not even going to negotiate!  This absolute refusal is a display of the attitude of the city to the outside the city residents, “we’ll take your taxes and do with them as WE like and decide” 

No discussion of the concerns of the taxpayers, many who view this support and promotion of an objectionable, contentious and divisive agenda with taxpayer monies, which many of the taxpayers view as an INAPPROPRIATE use of taxpayer funds.  

WHERE is the compelling community interest for the local GOVERNMENT to promote and subsidize these issues, the promotion of the gay agenda and sexualizing our minor children?   I see none, and this has provoked anger, resentment and has been proven to be extremely divisive to our community, who most of us here are very tolerant of what consenting ADULTS do in the privacy of their bedroom, just leave our minor children alone and let them grow up innocent as long as possible.  We don’t want our children being made to worry about what gender they are or being sexualized and, it’s not the function of government to do it, it’s the responsibility of parents to instill the values THEY want in their children. 

This brings me back to proposition #1, why we don’t have real representation on the borough assembly, and being forced by the city government, to pay taxes and fund promotions and agendas we find objectionable and an inappropriate use of taxpayer funding. 

When I recently participated in an online debate on proposition#2, and expressed opinions similar to what is in this opinion letter, one of the responses to my comments said. 

“ I am completely sympathetic to your perspective that characterizes the current relationship between the City and Borough as paternalistic bordering on Colonialist on the part of the City—“we’ll happily take your taxes and then we’ll tell you what WE think constitutes ‘civilization’. If you don’t like it, you can bring your concerns to the ‘advisory’ board where there is no requirement for us to redress them.”

In my opinion, we will never have actual representation until the original form of borough government is restored, they way it was set up by the state, where we had designated districts who elected representatives who lived in those districts to represent the issues and concerns of those particular districts!

I DO view the city government as acting as a colonial power, just there to extract funds and use them to the benefit of the residents in the city, and I think I can prove this assertion.  Some years back the city did a hostile takeover called annexation of the area on north Tongass from city limits to just short of the former Ward Cove Cannery.  The borough residents of this area did not want this and fought it to no avail.  Now the city has collected property taxes, said to be almost three times what was paid before annexation, and sales tax from businesses in this area, the main one being Walmart.  What has the city done with these funds they’ve been collecting all these years?  Have they put the sewer and water into Walmart, who requested the city supply these services to them before they built and the city refused?  Have they put sewer and water into Shoreline and other areas?  How about sidewalks, and paving the unpaved roads in this annexed area?  I think not.  I think they get “fire protection”, which they already had a volunteer fire department as I recall, snow removal which they already had the state dept of highways doing, and police patrols and protection which was formerly provided by the Alaska State Troopers.  Annexation is supposed to be beneficial to both areas, please show me how this was, or how it would be any different under a unified city borough, as the city has tried to do many times?  What would we save by being unified?  Well we could get rid of 7 assembly seats and one mayor, and then have to pay for all the services provided by the State of Alaska, losing the Troopers and Dept of Highways and who knows what else? (head tax to both city and borough governments comes to mind)

I think we would have been much better off if we had remained an unorganized borough and allowed the state to build and fund the schools and education and other expenses as they do on Prince of Wales communities and other unorganized areas of our state!

This is why I urge all of us in this community to vote NO on proposition#1 and YES on proposition #2, let’s make a statement and restore our borough government back to the way we were promised by the State of Alaska when we formed the borough, it’s a more representative and democratic form of government, and let’s stop the taxation of our borough residents who then have NO SAY on how these funds are spent!


Byron Whitesides
South Tongass Alaska outside of the city limits of Ketchikan
Ketchikan, Alaska



Editor's Note:

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

Opinions expressed are solely those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Sitnews.

Received September 26, 2022 - Published September 26, 2022

Related Viewpoint:

letter Prop 2 - A Civics Lesson By Dan Bockhorst


Representations of facts and opinions are solely those of the writers and do not represent the opinions of Sitnews.


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