On February 9, the Assembly's Committee of the Whole will look at a proposed hike in the port development fee paid by cruise ships. I support the proposed hike in the port development fees. My work with Collaboration Juneau has shown me that the cruise industry anticipates continuing increases in passengers coming in to Juneau. There is no getting away from the fact that our infrastructure needs improvement and support if we are to provide a quality experience for visitors. In addition, we must make sure that our efforts to support this industry are not made at the expense of local people and their use and enjoyment of downtown.
The cruise industry has shown their agreement that downtown Juneau needs to implement the Waterfront Development Plan and needs to lessen downtown congestion. Surveys have shown that local people support the major feature of the Waterfront Development Plan - the seawalk. Let's face it, we would not need to deal with South Franklin Street congestion if it were not for cruise ship passengers. Even vehicle traffic would not be a problem were it not for cruise ship passengers. City studies have confirmed this.
The seawalk will ease downtown congestion by diverting pedestrians to an alternate walkway. We need to increase the cruise ship tax and spend the money on the seawalk.
I must also note that the industry's insistence that they see an actual budget before they "agree" to a tax hike holds some interesting possibilities for all of us who pay local or federal taxes and whose "agreement on a budget" is not required prior to tax increases or decreases.