Letter: In response to Gruening on the whale sculpture

In his June 24 column regarding the whale project lawsuit filed by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), Win Gruening suggests the City and Borough of Juneau should strive to reach an “amicable agreement” with CLIA because “the industry was merely trying to achieve certainty in how marine passenger fees are spent and only resorted to federal court after its pleas to resolve the issue were largely ignored by the city.”

According to Gruening, CLIA sued the city because “CBJ is spending fees collected from its passengers on projects and services unrelated to any direct benefit to passengers and their ship — a violation of state and federal law and the U.S. Constitution.”

The whale project is a project that will be of direct benefit to the cruise industry. We locals will be proud of it and will show it off to visitors, just as we do Skip Wallen’s bear sculpture, but it will be a lasting benefit to the tourism industry. Tour operators will benefit monetarily by making it a stop on local tours.

I have thought for years that the limits on passenger fee spending are far too restrictive. Cruise ship passengers impact all areas of Juneau, from the docks they disembark at to attractions from Thane Road to Douglas Island to the Jensen-Olson Arboretum and points beyond.

Gruening states that City Manager Rory Watt “has been openly dismissive of industry concerns that unbridled taxes make the city a less competitive cruise destination.” I’m not sure what “unbridled taxes” Mr. Gruening is talking about. Because they are foreign flagged, the industry pays virtually no U.S. taxes. The roads built and repaired to transport tourists are not paid for by the industry. The Coast Guard, local police, search and rescue, ambulance and health care providers are not supported by tax dollars from the cruise lines. Cruise lines do not abide by U.S. labor or environmental laws. They do not have to pay a minimum wage or abide by U.S. safety regulations. It took Juneau residents and state government years of fighting with the industry to stop such vile practices as dumping raw sewage and chemicals in our harbors and waterways and to insist they stop steaming into port belching heavy diesel fuel.

The industry lawsuit is over passenger fees — paid for by passengers, not the industry. I would like to see a court rule that passenger fees can be spent areawide because it is as plain as the potholes in our streets that cruise ship tourism affects every part of our city and borough. But what I’d really like to see is the cruise industry paying real taxes to compensate for their impacts on U.S. communities, our oceans, our air quality and our infrastructure. After all, they are making billions of dollars in profits every year by marketing Alaska and other American attractions.

Kimberly Metcalfe,