SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Free Money is a distraction for local governement
By Michael Spence


October 25, 2006

Editor, Sitnews,

Interesting to read the remarks of Ketchikan residents about traffic, road repairs, and pedestrian safety. One can hardly argue with them, since our road system is in pretty tough shape. If anything, drivers and walkers in Ketchikan deserve an award for their patience in recent months.

I wonder if there is not a common thread in the road issue and several others, like the WhiteCliff Center, and the Gravina Highway. All of these issues are managed, to one degree or another by our local government. Local government consists of our elected officials, who are largely well meaning individuals who have made an honorable choice to serve the public. They are for the most part however, people that have other jobs and functions and limited time to focus their efforts on civic problems.

Anyone that has been here for a while can rightfully question how some of our roads are in such deplorable shape. Like the North Tongass Highway between Ward Cove and Refuge Cove and the South Tongass from Shoup Street to Mountain Point, or why the sections East of Herring Cove and East of the Ward Lake area are not paved after decades of use. Why are the sidewalks an afterthought when it comes to road repairs, or don't exist at all for vast areas of our road system? Or why there is not a single pedestrian overpass in a town which has deluges of pedestrian traffic during five months of the year crossing the main road through town? It isn't safe for cars to hydroplane over road sections that are riddled with potholes, nor for pedestrians to walk in the streets for lack of a sidewalk or a protected crossing. And it isn't efficient for people to be forced into their cars for a two block trip in town because the pedestrian access is so poor.

The answer might be right under our noses. If you read the news in the past month and a half, you might have noticed that the 12 million dollar Whitecliff Center failed to garner the thousands of votes necessary to pass, whilst the governor called a meeting of 27 individuals to discuss how Ketchikan is going to wrestle 200 million $ for the Gravina bridge. Shortly thereafter, the governor's office announced that it is not going to wait for legislative approval to get 30 million $ RIGHT NOW for the Gravina Highway .

No citizen initiative ever determined that Ketchikan NEEDS a bridge to Gravina, nor a highway on Gravina. Instead, its genesis came from Washington DC, and the elected officials of Ketchikan have marched in step to that tune ever since. The only rationale for the idea to begin with was that the money was there, but only if it would be spent on a bridge. Months later, the footnotes told us that the money was never really there, not for Ketchikan, anyway, and certainly not earmarked for a bridge. One could compare this motivation for civic process with a group of people finding a bag full of thousand dollar notes on the street corner, and then arguing with each other how to spend it.

"Free Money" has a way of distracting people. Even well meaning, dedicated public servants. Trouble is, it is not really free money , and the time spent by our elected officials chasing it isn't free either.


Michael Spence
Ketchikan, AK

Received October 25, 2006 - Published October 25, 2006

About: "A constituent, resident, and taxpayer in Ketchikan"


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