Drew Transkei, of Ketchikan, holds up a pin before a SOS Rally at the Capitol on Tuesday, May 7, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Drew Transkei, of Ketchikan, holds up a pin before a SOS Rally at the Capitol on Tuesday, May 7, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

As final budget decisions approach, ferry supporters flood Capitol steps

Governor, Senate have proposed major cuts to system

Joyce Landingham has been riding the ferries since the marine highway was founded in 1963. She doesn’t want to see the service end.

Landingham, who turns 87 in August, was one of more than 200 people who showed up at a “Save Our System” rally Tuesday at the Alaska State Capitol in support of the Alaska Marine Highway System. Leaning on her walker, with her hood pulled down to stave off the rain, Landingham joined in with those around her to make their support for the system clear.

She used to ride the ferry regularly when she worked for the National Marine Fisheries Service, and now just rides the ferry for leisure.

“It’s a wonderful experience,” Landingham said. “Sometimes you just want to get on a ferry, go out to Pelican and come back, just for the joy of riding on the ferry.”

Most of the talk at Tuesday’s rally, which was organized by the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU), was focused on those who absolutely need ferry service and what would happen to them if the ferry service were reduced.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration proposed cutting ferry service off at the beginning of September for the winter. The Alaska Senate has a proposal to keep the ferries running in the winter but with reduced service. There have been multiple rallies for ferry funding at the Capitol and elsewhere, and the IBU also recently gathered more than 1,000 signatures in three days on a letter asking the Alaska Legislature to fully fund the marine highway system.

Lawmakers are currently in the final push to finish the state’s budget, which is due to the governor next Wednesday. The Alaska House’s budget proposal is the kindest to the ferry system, cutting $10 million compared to the Senate’s $44 million cut and the governor’s proposed cut of about $98 million.

Graeme Johnston, the provincial president of the British Columbia Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union, gave attendees a look at an unsettling future. Sixteen years ago, he said, British Columbia privatized its ferry system. In the next 10 years, rates for riding the ferry rose a stunning 70 percent, he said, and the move cost the province an estimated $2.7 million.

[Amid concerns about ferries’ future, hundreds show up to gree new ship]

Attendees gasped at each number Johnston read out, and he issued a chilling warning and call to arms.

“Using BC ferries as a test case, your government is in the process of dooming your coastal communities to a shallow, watery grave,” Johnston said. “Your Alaskan way of life is under attack. For the well-being of your families, communities and Alaska, you must stand up and fight back.”

Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau, spoke to the crowd with the same kind of fervor, saying that even if the ferry system survives devastating cuts this year, the Dunleavy administration might try to impose the cuts in future years.

“This is only round one,” Hannan said, “and we’ve got three more years of fighting the same fight. So everybody here, make sure you’ve got your boxing gloves, because we’re in this for the long haul.”

Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau, speaks in favor of the Alaska Marine Highway System during a SOS Rally at the Capitol on Tuesday, May 7, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau, speaks in favor of the Alaska Marine Highway System during a SOS Rally at the Capitol on Tuesday, May 7, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

People all over the political spectrum were in attendance Tuesday, all finding common ground on the importance of the ferry system. Despite the rain and chilly temperatures, they were animated and vocal. Nancy Barnes, the leader of multicultural dance group Yees Ku Oo, led a dance at the beginning of the rally that resulted in a few of the attendees joining in and dancing in a circle. Juneau singer Jocelyn Miles — who told the crowd she took the ferry up to Alaska when she moved from Maryland — sang Andra Day’s “Rise Up.”

Those on hand were especially loud when Ed Ferris, the international secretary for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, was speaking.

“It’s imperative that the people in this building,” Ferris said, his voice rising with each word, “hear our voices.”

With that, the crowd began to roar. Barnes banged her drum, and dozens of voices rose in a chorus of shouts and yells.

“This system is too crucial (to be cut), and it must be protected,” Ferris said.


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


More in News

Mickey Prescott checks the smoking process. (Vivian Faith Prescott / For the Capital City Weekly)
Planet Alaska: Lessons from the smokehouse

Dear Readers, here are Lessons from the Smokehouse, things we’ve learned in 2021.

“Fireweed is a gift from Tlingit Aaní,” writes Yéilk’ Vivian Mork. “In our Lingít language it’s called lóol.” (Yéilk’ Vivian Mork / For the Capital City Weekly)
Planet Alaska : Ten lessons from the fireweed

Yes, I’m thinking about fireweed in the middle of winter.

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Police arrested a 20-year-old for a variety of charges stemming from a string of incidents where he shot passersby and other vehicles from a car with a BB gun. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Man arrested following BB gun attacks

He allegedly shot both passersby and other vehicles on the road.

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
COVID at a Glance for Monday, Jan. 24

Numbers come from reports from the City and Borough of Juneau Emergency… Continue reading

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Float of ducks off Pt. Louisa with Eagle Peak, on Admiralty National Monument around dusk in Juneau winter.
Wild Shots: Photos of Mother Nature in Alaska

Reader-submitted photos of Southeast Alaska.

Most Read