Summary: Most people who provided testimony to CBJ’s Visitor Industry Task Force favored limiting tourism in some ways, but some mentioned it’s indispensable to Juneau’s economic outlook. About 25 people gave testimony.
The meeting is now over.
“I want to thank everyone of you being here and everyone spoke today,” Triem said. “We have another meeting like this scheduled for 5:30, Thursday.”
“The iceberg above the water for me is that there are just too many tourists downtown,” said Martha Stey.
She said for tourism to be sustainable in the long run, year-round local residents need a seat at the table when regulations are being discussed.
“I’m here asking for representation and some relief,” Stey said.
Stuart Cohen is now delivering testimony.
“I think that overall, I think going forward, what you should ask is, ‘Is more tourism going to make Juneau a better place for those of us who actually live here?’” Cohen said.
He said CBJ should consider what Europe and Canadian ports do to regulate tourism.
“When making decisions about tourism, we should be comparing ourselves to other first-world ports,” Cohen said.
James Houck, owner of Juneau Pedicab, is giving testimony.
He’s mostly touting the benefit of pedicabs. He said locals will ride for free and find themselves singing the praises of pedicabs.
Laura Fleming is now speaking about over-tourism.
“We sold off our downtown to the cruise ship industry long ago,” Fleming said.
McLaughlin said he agreed with Metcalfe about the makeup of the task force.
“I just worry we’re putting profits before the health and well-being of people in the community,” McLaughlin said.
He said tourists cause city buses to be over-crowded.
“It’s difficult for city buses to get through town in the summer,” McLaughlin said. “The traffic downtown is just absolutely horrendous.”
Jamie Letterman said she doesn’t feel Juneau has the authority to deny people the right to travel to Juneau. However, she said regulation is important, and operators should be vigilant and make sure their employees are following Tourism Best Practices Management guidelines.
“We are participating in the community as well,” Letterman said. “So don’t come after us with pitchforks because we do care.”
Dawn Wolfe said she may be in the minority, but her opinion is a new cruise dock built by Norwegian Cruise Lines at a recently purchased subport property could be a positive for the community.
“I do believe if Norwegian is able to develop that dock, that might be one of our solutions,” said Dawn Wolfe. “I don’t think we should just narrow our thinking.”
Don Habeger’s comments are focusing on the international impact of local decisions.
“The point is do not cap the industry,” Habeger said. “The other point is I do agree with the folks who said we ought to manage.”
Greg McLaughlin is next up.
Brian Flory said helicopter noise is the No. 1 problem with tourism.
“I can never get a day where I can hike one of those beautiful ridge trails,” Flory said. “I would myself favor one day off a week without ships. If I could just have a day like we used to have.”
Flory has not been the only one to opine that Juneau could benefit from a one-day per week pause in cruise ships.
Mike Ward whose family business is Taku Glacier Lodge is giving testimony.
He said the tourism industry allows his family business to operate, and the business is cognizant of its community impact.
“We’ve made great strides over the years to minimize our footprint in the community,” Ward said. “At the lodge, we practice sustainability in any place we can.”
Judy Crondahl said she has almost no reason to venture beyond the flats in the summer.
She requested CBJ consider not allowing construction of more cruise ship docks, prohibit loitering near docks, doubling sales tax for seasonal businesses and applying sales tax to tours sold on board cruise ships when they are sold in Juneau.
Bob Janes is now at the mic.
“Opportunity is what I want to talk about right now,” Janes said. “We need to grab onto this opportunity right now. What we really need to do is find ways to hope. I have two very simple thoughts. One is to up tourism management. We need to plan and build infrastructure.”
He said Juneau needs money coming in to maintain a vibrant community.
Former CBJ Finance Director Bob Bartholomew is now giving testimony.
“I think the benefits of tourism, which are many exceed the cost, which is huge,” Bartholomew said.
He said CBJ is not on a sustainable path or actively managing the industry.
“On the days that we’re receiving six ships, we’re over capacity, period,” Bartholomew said. “We are going to totally stress our capacity. I think it’s critical we get back to local control.”
He said CBJ shouldn’t worry about what the Coast Guard or courts allow Juneau to do. Instead, he said a community vision should be identified and pursued.
Kim Metcalfe is now speaking, she’s been a frequent critic of the cruise ship industry.
She said she would have preferred if the 10-person task force included more “community activists.” Metcalfe said she counted only one among the task force’s ranks.
She did not identify the member but was likely speaking of Paula Terrel, who along with Metcalfe and others helped organize Juneau Neighborhoods Affected by Tourism.
Bill Leighty is the fifth person to deliver testimony. He said congestion of roads and waterways, helicopter noise and carbon dioxide emissions are the main tourism-related concerns, and that special attention should be paid to the last item on that list.
Linda Blefgen was the first person to deliver testimony.
She said Juneau’s hospitality has been taken advantage of by the tourism industry and she said tourism has negatively impacted Juneauite’s lives.
Cam Byrnes is the second.
He said he is a 40-year resident of Juneau and has been working on the docks, first for Princess Cruises and then for Gastineau Guiding for 26 years.
“I thought a million would be a good number for a cap, and you know what happened,” Byrnes said.”Top of the list for this task force has to be dealing with the numbers. An ything else is just wishful thinking.”
Robbie Janes’ testimony is focusing on the benefits of tourism.
He said they are “immeasurable” in a way.
“It’s clear that tourism isn’t going away,” he said. “What we can do is work together to manage how tourism works. I think that’s what we need to focus on. Focus on the issues, but focus on how can we solve these issues.”
Task force chair Carole Triem said testimony is expected to be courteous and personal attacks will not be allowed.
Triem also said the three-minute time limit will be strictly enforced.
Public comments have been submitted to the task force via letters and emails, too.
A compilation of those can be found through the task force’s webpage.
Largely, the letters and emails are critical of the heavy tourist presence in Juneau during the spring and summer.
“I was wrong,” wrote Sarah Wilson. “When the cruise ships started to come to Juneau, I thought it was a positive event for us. And it was – for a few years! Now, however, we have exceeded our carrying capacity:I was wrong! When the cruise ships started to come to Juneau, I thought it was a positive event for us. And it was — for a few years!”
There are a few defenders of the visitor industry in the compilation, too.
“Managing the visitors will always be a concern for the community,” wrote Denny DeWitt. “For a few, it will never be satisfactory, in spite of the benefits they and the community receive. TBMP has succeeded in managing the growth for the past many years. It is the model we should continue to use into the future.”
City and Borough of Juneau’s Visitor Industry Task Force is holding a meeting specifically to receive input from the public.
The task force was created by Mayor Beth Weldon to consider how Juneau manages the tourism industry and what should be done to ensure Juneau remains an attractive place to live as well as a desirable destination.
So far, the task force meetings have been focused on presentations from industry-connected people and discussion among task force members.
Comments are supposed to stick a three-minute time limit, so it will be interesting to see what information and sentiment people prioritize.
The Assembly Chambers are filling up, and a quick head count puts attendance at about 30 people, so far 15 people have signed up to deliver testimony.