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There they go again! Five-to-four.
Why is this CBJ Assembly so intent on proving to the cruise ship industry that the city is indeed friendly to the industry? Why does the Assembly choose to roll over and wait for the North West Cruiseship Association to let us know how much they would prefer to pay and for which projects? And how much the NWCA would like the Juneau citizenry to come up with, and from what source? Why does the Assembly choose to defer collecting tonnage fees or any other port fees from any cruise ships for an indefinite time? Until the Assembly knows how best to accommodate the cruise ship industry in exchange for $3.6 million? Why?
Monday night, at a special session, the Assembly addressed "A Resolution Imposing Port Dues on Vessels Carrying Passengers for Hire." At this mixed-up meeting, in a convoluted parliamentary process at which this body excels, amendment after amendment was offered, subsequently amended itself, tabled, removed from the table, voted down, taken behind closed doors in executive session and re-voted! Finally, the resolution was tabled until Monday, May 6, even though the first ship arrives today! It will be given a "pass" on port dues. No revenue will be collected until a satisfactory contract is accomplished. Whenever.
With all the comparative figures in front of them, the Assembly stalled. Marc Wheeler moved to set a $0.16 per ton fee be set (down from last year's $0.23), so that the city would collect something from arriving ships while "negotiations" with NWCA continue for a project-funded contract. This went down to defeat even when he offered an amendment to subtract any revenue collected through such a tonnage fee from the ultimate contract figure! Basically, to give the cruise ships back their money, rather than to use it for dock repair, maintenance, land acquisition (for alternate bus staging areas) or other CBJ harbor-related needs. Wheeler even came up with a one-week sunset amendment to his tonnage fee proposal! The idea being that would offset concern for flexibility and good faith in the "negotiating" process which the cruise ship industry is sincerely supporting. (Trust them?)
As he did at the last Assembly meeting on port dues, Dale Anderson led the opposition to imposing tonnage fees, or the $2-per-passenger-per-day equivalent, also suggested last night. Previously, Anderson said that there was no urgency and that the city manager should go ahead and meet again with NWCA to negotiate a project-funded contract. He argued that April 29 would be just fine as a time line to vote, since it would enable CBJ to collect from the first cruise ship of the season on April 30. Why the further delay? Who does Anderson view as his constituency? And Koelsch? And Wannamaker? And Etheridge? And Johnson? If a $0.23 tonnage fee was again imposed, the Assembly could pay for any projects, now and in the future, cover the various regular repair and maintenance costs and manage use of the marine passenger fees (known to the rest of us, as the passenger head tax.)
The City and Borough of Juneau should maintain control of port dues and projects. The Juneau public should be alerted that the passenger fee fund is about to be raided, as mandated by the cruise ship industry, via the 5-4 leverage of Anderson, Koelsch & Co. Don't miss the next act in this political farce, Monday, May 6.
Dixie Hood has lived in Juneau for 27 years. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist who ran unsuccessfully for an Assembly seat last fall.