Let's get organized!

Posted: Tuesday, July 15, 2003

After reading the article in the Juneau Empire about Whittier being "reopened" to cruise ships once they had rescinded their head tax, I once again realized the drastic need for change in Alaska. All the communities in Alaska that are part of the cruise ship itinerary need to unite. Just as the cruise ship industry has created an organization to manage its interests in Alaska (the North West CruiseShip Association), our communities need to come together to manage and protect our interests. An organization needs to be created that will unify the various communities into a cohesive bargaining unit.

My first suggestion for such an organization would be to set a standard head tax, across the board - required, non-negotiable - that would be paid per passenger, per town. If the cruise line tried to avoid paying head taxes by pulling the smaller towns from its itineraries, the tax would simply be collected anyway and redirected back to the appropriate community.

This type of organization would allow the communities involved to have an equal partnership with the cruise industry in the creation of itineraries rather than allowing the cruise industry to pick and choose its itinerary ports on a whim. The resources that a community must invest in order to qualify as a cruise ship port are far too great to allow the cruise ship industry the luxury to later decide that "they don't want to go there anymore."

Cruise ship ports in Alaska should be protected through negotiated contracts that obligate both parties involved for specific routes and specific periods of time, and subject to specific regulations. This would allow both sides to legally recoup losses in the event of a breach of contract. Alaska needs to take control of its resources and this is one way we can do it.

The state government, I believe, attempted (or is still attempting) to create such an organization at the state level. I don't think this would serve the communities involved, however, as the state has already proved that they will quickly re-appropriate any moneys they have at their disposal to meet their own goals. This money needs to stay in the communities involved.

Patrick McGonegal


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