My turn: Harbor users shouldn't be singled out for fees

Posted: Wednesday, May 18, 2005

I am sure we all have seen the ads on television for the video "Girls Gone Wild." It appears that we have our own version here in Juneau. Today it's being played in every household in Juneau. The new video should be called "City and Borough of Juneau and the Harbor Board Gone Wild" with the outrageous increases in local property taxes.

Let us not forget the out of control Harbor Board "Gone Wild." Boat owners just received their first billing for this coming year. It is really shocking how they treat us, being both a consumer and tax payers. "Customer service" is certainly not in their vocabularies. Where else would you find a landlord collecting rent for a year in advance? No such thing as first and last is there? They try to soothe the bleeding by offering an olive branch. "Well, we will only ask for six months up front on July 1 and then charge 10-plus percent APR per month until you pay up the rest by the end of December."

The Harbor Board says it has to establish these Gestapo tactics to generate new revenue, because "we have failed to keep up with routine maintenance." I wonder what they have been meeting about for all these years. Also, now they have decided that they will spend some real big money. What? Buy out a private marina? (Is it a standard practice for government to buy out a private business like DeHarts?) Kill the competition. Is Fisherman's Bend next? Maybe Tee Harbor is under consideration?

But the big question one must ask is, how the heck are they going to handle additional facilities? They can't handle and maintain the ones they've got now. Oh I know, bleed us some more with this rate increase. How much more will it be when they complete the buyout of the competition? We sure do not have many choices and I am tired of these draconian tactics used against the good citizens of Juneau.

I sure hope that the elected officials in our community see what kind of unfriendly "people place" Juneau has become. It is really irritating to think that the average wage earner could easily be charged 5, 10 percent or even more of their net annual income on moorage fees. Talk about hidden taxes.

The harbors and everything about them are vital to all Southeast communities. Their costs to maintain should be borne by the community as a whole, and the direct users should not be required or burdened by the current misdirected attitude to carry the whole load. We will soon see that only the most affluent in our community can afford to own or moor a boat. The rest of us will be relegated to having skiffs, canoes or kayaks, parking the empty trailers halfway back around the Loop Road, after we struggle to get a place in line to launch them out at Auke Bay.

When it comes to community and how we define the term, it surely doesn't apply to the way the city treats the harbor users. Let's take a quick look at the services we support as a community and not wholly placing the burden on the prime user: schools, Eaglecrest, Parks and Rec., the ice skating rink, hospital facilities, library, airport, fire department, police, bus transportation, road maintenance, tour ship facilities, etc.

I could go on and on. If we take the approach for the consumer to pay as he uses the service, we would have nothing here in Juneau. The question must be asked, why are the harbor users singled out here?

My first suggestion to bring expenses into line is that we cut back on nonproductive staff. For example, the administration. Let the city manager do his job and manage the city as a whole. I only have kudos for all the "worker bees" out there, and nothing but disdain directed toward the boards and administrators who create nothing but grief for us common folk.

I long to see the day when Juneau becomes a people place like it was years ago.

• Mark Burgoyne moved to Juneau in 1971 as a teacher and worked for the Department of Education as a consultant for three years. He founded and was the first executive director for Southeast Regional Resource Center. He has been employed by the Department of Labor since 1997 as an unemployment specialist and has lived aboard his 46-foot sailboat for the last 14 years.

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