The dairies of Juneau are long departed, yet there remains one cow in town — a sacred cow that grows fatter every year. Our cow-to-be-worshipped is the cruise ship industry. No elected official, no government representative, no news reporter, no business leader is willing to speak to this beast in any but the most reverential tones.
We, the citizens, hear only of the tremendous economic benefits this bovine bestows upon us: “Each passenger spends $160 in town!” But how much of that actually finds its way into city coffers to offset all the impacts?
For many Juneau residents, the one million, and counting, cruise-ship passengers have exceeded the number that our city can comfortably handle. Downtown shopping and trips to the glacier are curtailed by many locals. Those of us with friends in Thane cringe at having to run the gauntlet of South Franklin simply to visit our neighbors. A multitude of tour buses clog our roads, emitting the same toxic mix of sulfides and particulates that emanate from the ships’ smoke stacks.
I suggest it is time to put a halter on this sacred cow. Our CBJ Assembly should start a serious evaluation of carrying capacity. What is an appropriate number of passengers to ensure a balance between the jobs the industry touts (the vast majority of which are low-paying, seasonal positions) and the impacts to the citizens and our city?
Our Assembly members could pass an ordinance that simply states: “No more than three cruise ships in port each day and none on Saturdays.” I’m sure the CBJ Law Department can counsel the Assembly as to the appropriate wording, as soon as our attorneys are done defending the city in the cruise ship lawsuit.