City: How to spend head tax

Assembly to look where money should go, how it will be calculated

Posted: Monday, January 03, 2000

An ordinance defining the scope of the cruise ship passenger fee passed by Juneau voters last October is to be introduced to the Juneau Assembly tonight.

Among other provisions, the draft ordinance specifies how the fee will be calculated, imposes criminal liability for delinquent payment and limits the uses of fee revenues.

The measure establishes that the city manager decides where the money will go, but gives others a say as well.

The ordinance sets up a seven-member Passenger Fee Proceeds Committee to review the city manager's plans for spending the money and then to forward its comments to him.

Members - appointed by the city manager - would include two representatives of the cruise ship industry, two from the city, two representing the general public and one representing design professions.

``The committee was my idea,'' City Manager Dave Palmer said. ``We're trying to fashion it after the passenger facilities charge at the airport, set up by federal law. The tenants and users at the airport are given a draft copy (of planned expenditures) for comments, which are then forwarded to the FAA.''

Funding would go to projects chosen from existing, long-term harbor, transportation, parking and other plans, Palmer said.

Greg O'Claray, co-author of the original passenger fee initiative, didn't like Palmer's plan.

``They're trying to committee the thing to death,'' he said.

The city already has a committee dedicated to addressing tourism impacts and concerns, O'Claray said. ``This looks like a maneuver to pull the teeth of the Tourism Advisory Committee now that it has some reasonable people on it.''

O'Claray cited the recent appointment of Downtown Neighborhood Association President Kim Metcalfe-Helmar to the TAC as a case in point.

``Now that the industry doesn't have control of the TAC anymore, they want to disband it,'' he said.

North West CruiseShip Association spokesman John Hansen said he recommended to Palmer that the committee be limited to five, including two industry representatives and two members from the city's Docks and Harbors Board.

Assembly member Tom Garrett echoed the sentiment: ``The committee is a good concept. Five members would be better, a couple from the harbor board and one or two from the industry.''

Cruise ship industry representatives in the past have claimed first dibs on the passenger fee proceeds.

After 70 percent voter approval of the $5-a-head fee, Hansen said ``it was clear in the wording of the initiative that the funds would be used for the industry itself.'' Hansen cited airport passenger fees that are reinvested in airport facilities.

Assembly member Jim Powell said he liked the idea of the committee, except for its size. He said he thought the body might work more efficiently if its membership were reduced to five.

Powell also expressed concern about the absence of wording about comprehensive planning for managing tourism growth in Juneau.

``There was no provision for a plan in the ordinance forming the TAC, either. We definitely need something about a comprehensive plan in this ordinance,'' he said.

Also before the assembly tonight is an ordinance appropriating $25,000 to the manager for a consultant's services to measure the financial impact of cruise ship passengers on city operations. The money would come from the cruise ship passenger fee.

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