SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska



White Cliff -- well-researched, broadly-supported, and timely
By Sara Lawson


October 02, 2006

Dear readers,

I appreciate that Mr. Bergeron took the time to clarify his support for the efforts to renovate White Cliff, and for the community organizations involved, even though he has objections to the proposed funding method because of what he sees as long-standing shortcomings in Ketchikan's tax code.

It would be helpful to understand what solutions Mr. Bergeron would propose if he were elected to the City Council seat he is currently seeking, and what progress he was able to make toward those goals during his previous 3-year term on the Borough Assembly. If the sales tax on residential rent and food is removed because it places an unfair burden on one segment of the community, what does that mean in practical terms? How much revenue is generated by the sales tax on food, for example, and what would be the effect of losing that revenue? Does Mr. Bergeron propose cutting certain services, and which ones? Or raising other taxes, and by how much? I think we can agree that recognizing the problem is only part of the solution, and I would like to know more about what actions Mr. Bergeron would propose to address the problems he has identified.

All of these are important issues, in moral terms and in practical terms. The Joint Tax Committee, which is made up of representatives of Borough and City government, is the group that makes recommendations about the tax code to those two governments - about sales tax on food and residential rent, senior exemptions, point-of-sale definitions, etc. Mr. Bergeron recently suggested that making changes to the tax code is a challenge under the current system. >From his recent letter on consolidation: "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."

Although I've heard that the committee is meeting more frequently and amicably, and has a number of proposed changes in the works, Mr. Bergeron's assessment highlights the scale of effort necessary to reexamine the tax code. It may be that a proposal that solves one problem creates unintended consequences, and even changes that have merit could take years. In the meantime, the opportunity to renovate White Cliff, a worthwhile project that meets pressing community needs, would be lost. What would likely remain is the community's responsibility to determine the most just and equitable way to pay for the estimated $3.9-million in demolition costs.

It would be great if our elected leaders could work together to review our municipal tax system, to ensure that the costs of the programs, services, and infrastructure that the community wants and needs - schools, the hospital, roads, the rec center, port development, and the like - are distributed in a just and equitable manner. Without more information, I'm not sure exactly what changes are merited, but I applaud Mr. Bergeron's inclination to examine those issues, and if he's elected, I wish him every success in that endeavor ­ a challenging one, for sure.

In the meantime, we have an opportunity to support a well-planned, community-driven initiative to turn a great historic building into an asset that will have broad community benefits for residents of all ages. I'll be enthusiastically voting YES on propositions 1 and 2 on Tuesday.


Sara Lawson
Ketchikan, AK - USA

Received October 02, 2006 - Published October 02, 2006

About: "Writing as a local resident, and supporter of our community's investment in a variety of infrastructure projects that meet a wide range of community needs."



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Ketchikan, Alaska