SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska



by Ken Bylund


October 01, 2007
Monday PM

The rhetoric of the Chamber of Commerce/City/Borough would be amusing if it weren't so quarrelsome; none of the "No on Jewelry Store Initiative" articles has offered any compromise... interesting? These bellicose claims against the JSI range from "shutting down Jewelry Stores" [implying they will be bull-dozed off the dock]... to open intimidation, much spent on raising property taxes on home owners. This argument is disagreeably dishonest and threatening, especially since the COC owns and operates our government. The attraction to this initiative for citizens of Ketchikan [to the JSI] have been overlooked, ignored by an arrogant panic of them who have direct benefit or support; they see potential for leveling off of self-interested profit margins. Guess what? Saturation of Jewelry stores will accomplish that anyway, and looks like we are probably reaching that level. Existing [grand-fathered] jewelry businesses will continue to require facelifts, refurbishment and they [Jewelry Store Operators] will benefit from stabilizing competition.

Okay, why don't our politicians and entrepreneurs look at the 'concerns of the non-invested citizen.' Seems a bit late, but why? The ugly plywood covered doors and windows with graffiti, hailed by distracters could easily be resolved by investment in real [conservatively painted] shutters; and then there is that sense of shame at the image of our city when each summer many thousands of strangers per day, look down on and decide, "this is a decidedly mercenary enterprise"? I've heard there is a strategy for high density/proximity jewelry stores; that tourists will walk past the first store, a bit frightened to even look in, then might glance into the second one... and then go inside the third. Sounds like a predator vs. prey paper that should be studied and published by some social anthropologist or biologist [probably a done deal].

And, it is certainly not racism [another distraction]; most residents don't even know [I didn't] that East Indian merchants own and operate some of these stores. It is about a town and borough of honest citizens who have a sense of shame at blatant mercenary practices - "front and center" - representing our collective personality. Tourists are afraid of us when they see this carnival atmosphere waiting for them on the docks... and this is something you might sample in a poll of [the braver] visitors coming off the gangways of them cruise ships next summer; that number with negative views of our image might be more if you polled them who refused to leave the safety of the ship's decks. Think about it... but you won't, and that's why the initiative.

A more even plan would've been palatable, such as integrated storefronts that provided a quality bookstore [could be run by/and support our public library], art, local and commercial, and even a tasteful bar with a bit of that Last Frontier flavor, like the Red Dog Saloon in Juneau; an open air coffee shop for those sunny days and covered area for hot cocoa when not. These are low cost planning compromises that might considerably improve our reputation; with that comes more respect and trust, and trust leads to interest and positive recommendations to friends from regular folks coming here to see Alaska. The Dockside Gallery is an example of what I'd like to see - "in the front row " - for our ship-bound tourists, an excellent first impression of Alaskan culture and hospitality, and would certainly gain significant support from local residents.

What injures our tourist market and our image, is this "whatever the market will bear" mentality; the Chamber of Commerce has the will, the motivation and energy to finagle loans and draw investors but appears blind to any negatives beyond simple gross profit... and of the inevitable saturation of this predatory course. It isn't blasphemy or un-American to disagree with politicians and merchants who hold strong positions, and shouldn't be dangerous... but sometimes it seems necessary to remind them it is foolish of them not to listen to the un-washed masses, and consider a beneficial compromise.

Ken Bylund
North Point Higgins
Ketchikan, AK

Received September 29, 2007 - Published October 01, 2007



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Ketchikan, Alaska