Free Money is a distraction
for local governement
By Michael Spence
October 25, 2006
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
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.
Received October 25, 2006 - Published October 25, 2006
Note: Comments published
on Viewpoints are the opinions of the writer
About: "A constituent, resident, and taxpayer in Ketchikan"
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sitnews.
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