Act on ferry system before we lose it

Letter to the editor

Posted: Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Grief, shock and loss. These feelings are natural to losing a loved one. Then anger will set in; you will be mad at yourself for not being there in a time of need. Your current ferry system is not dead yet, but unless the good citizens of Southeastern Alaska wake up and show they care about the only highway they have, it will be gone forever.

The ferry system as you know and rely on it today will be gone. The Marine Transportation Advisory Board has set its wheels in motion to privatize the ferry system. On Dec. 17 they called it a transition into a "business model" which should be completed within 12 to 18 months. When this BM is completed your ferry service will look nothing as it is today.

Ask yourself, "Why do I not hear this MTAB group speak of generating additional operation funds or work groups finding alternative means of funding needed to balance the 51 percent of subsidy the system currently receives?" Instead, they plan to provide service only to the communities generating revenue and when the revenue dips, it will be up to your local tax dollars to offset operating costs.

You say, "How can this be? It is a highway and no highway pays for itself." We have all heard these threats in the past. You think this cannot happen; think again. Gov. Frank Murkowski is backing MTAB and the dismantling of your ferry system. He and his fellow Republicans would love nothing more than to push the cost of operating the ferry system on its users.

Therefore, you ask, "What does this mean?" Look no further than the Webster's Dictionary for a layman's meaning: Private, secluded from the sight, presence or intrusion of others, or not available for public use, control or participation; Privation, to deprive, without, or a lack of the basic necessities or comforts of life; Privatism, the social position of being noncommittal to or not involved with anything except one's own immediate interests and lifestyle.

I challenge the current Alaska Marine Highway management at shaping a new, leaner ferry system. I further challenge the Marine Transportation Advisory Board at doing just that - advise this AMH management team. I challenge Gov. Frank Murkowski and the Republicans in charge of finance to find the funding needed to keep the Alaska Marine Highway serving this great state. Finally and most importantly, I challenge all Alaskans not wanting to lose more ferry service and its jobs in their communities to speak up and let the governor and all the legislators in Juneau hear from you.

Richard Patteson

Petersburg



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