My Turn: Right of comment, speech extends to all

Posted: Thursday, August 23, 2001

So, in rounding up the usual suspects, we find that the people to blame for the current capital move environment are one teacher and two Assembly members. Some local business people have indicated that there is a bad climate for business here, although they didn't state how it has affected their businesses. That leads me to wonder whether all business is the same, and should be treated exactly alike.

Mining and logging are two resource development functions which have been mentioned as suffering, although Greens Creek has been running for some years, as well as other mining enterprises. The AJ mine did not start up because the price of gold never got high enough to support it, plain and simple. If it had, I am sure that the AJ would be operating today. The Empire supported the opening of the AJ fully until the mining company stated that they would not continue their plans for the mine. Oddly, the Empire was very quick to condemn the mining company once it became clear that the mining company had, in fact, misled us about environmental concerns that local activists had pointed out for some years. A major cleanup was required. No letter writers pointed out that their vilification of the folks who had concerns about the mine was unjustified. It was, and continues to be easier to just label anyone as a troublemaker if they do not fall into line with each and every plan for resource development.

One letter mentioned that people were "even against a golf course." Just because you build a golf course, it doesn't mean that they will come. My friends who are golfers have not expressed any desire to come to Juneau during the rainy weather to play here.

Logging is continuing in this area, although, naturally, the local fishing industry does not want to see logging near streams that support the success of fishing. So what helps one business could hurt another. The local fishing industry is allowed to have opinions because they are not taxpayer-funded teachers or Assembly members. Apparently only privately funded individuals are truly deserving of the right of free speech.

The tourist industry has not done too badly here and part of the tourist industry, the cruise ships, are actually not a local business, nor a small business. They are, like many businesses, a huge multinational business which may or may not have local best interests at heart. The head tax passed here was not excessive. There are far greater head taxes in other ports, such as Miami. But apparently there can be no rational discussion of any aspect of business and how it affects the local environment because that would mean that the capital will move.

A tax-free environment for business is often mentioned as a way to lure business to an area, but it does not seem fair to me that I should have to pay taxes so that I can use local services and other folks would be exempt. This is not to say that multinational businesses do not pay taxes, but I don't think it unfair to debate what their fair share might be.

Finally, could someone please tell me what a wine and cheese kayak is? I personally have never been invited to any of the wine and cheese kayak soirees, so I don't believe that I can be held accountable if the capital moves.

Bob Mitchell is a computer analyst who lives in Juneau.

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