To save the ferries, stop electing Republicans
I’ve lived in Haines 34 years and worked here as a news reporter, newspaper publisher and elected borough representative.
There’s a common belief in our town that the state’s ferry service has been intentionally gutted. The logic seems to be that only by deliberate action could a transportation system that worked well for more than 50 years become so thoroughly dysfunctional.
Theories I’ve heard backing up this belief include that the ferry system is being wrecked to create pressure for building more roads in Southeast Alaska, to privatize and thus monetize public transportation in coastal Alaska or to build support for dismantling the state’s Permanent Fund.
A good rule of thumb is to follow the money. Money drives most Republican Party politics and it has been Republican governors and Republican majorities in the Alaska Legislature who have presided over this travesty.
The attack on our ferry system seems to be following the decades-old Republican playbook that goes like this: Gut the budget of a worthy public service or agency. Then, privatize it and parcel it out to your friends. Because the demand for the service or agency remains, the new, private owners can charge usurious rates and provide only the services that are the most profitable.
The result is that a few campaign contributors or special friends of politicians make a killing. The rest of us lose.
It’s already happening. Instead of a $135 fare to get a car from Haines to Juneau aboard the ferry this week, travelers faced a private barge bill of $570 for the same service. This is the kind of Russian oligarch economics that apparently appeals to the Gov. Mike Dunleavy and his cronies.
What can we do? A first step is for coastal Alaskans to stop electing Republican state legislators. Our region is in a battle for its survival, and Republicans are on the wrong side.