Passengers return to the Norwegian Sun on Oct. 25, the final day of this year’s cruise ship season in Juneau. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire File)

Passengers return to the Norwegian Sun on Oct. 25, the final day of this year’s cruise ship season in Juneau. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire File)

My Turn: “Partnering” with cruise ship industry isn’t in Juneau’s interests

Regarding Jim Powell’s lecture at the Evening at Egan event on Friday, Nov, 10, on partnering with the cruise industry to solve the problems of overcrowding tourism: According to the article in the Empire, he suggests that only in socialist countries do people look to government to solve problems. In our country, he suggests, people go to industry and “partner,” because the industry has “knowledge” that is apparently beyond the common residents’ pay grade.

I’d like to point out that the cruise industry didn’t come to us to partner when they went from 600,000 pilgrims to 1.6 million. They sell the tickets and announce how many we must accommodate. They asked no permission when they doubled the size of their ships. They aren’t asking us if they should bring even bigger ships online. It seems partnering with the cruise industry is a one-way street.

I’ll also point out that Americans, in a democratic republic, also look to our government to solve problems. That is what that big building with the granite pillars is for, uptown, government for the people, by the people, and of the people. That is why we have antitrust laws, speed limits and pollution laws.

He suggests it would be illegal to limit the number of tourists the cruise industry can bring into Juneau as it is limiting Americans’ ability to travel from state to state. Hogwash, they can fly in, drive, take a ferry, or a private vessel if they want. If we can’t limit the tourists how about one ship a day? Or no ships carrying more than 1,000 passengers?

The cruise industry has bullied, bribed and lied to the people of Juneau since the early days. Our infrastructure is not only full, it is overstuffed like the tourists who waddle down Franklin Street. Juneau looks more like New York City than the sleepy town I found here 40 years ago.

Powell says he likes to look at things in a sustainable format. Nothing in the history of the cruise industry is sustainable. They are a growth-centric, ever-expanding energy vacuum. Not a drop of oil consumed by this industry, or its peripherals, is used for a sustainable purpose. It is the epitome of conspicuous consumption wrapped in a royal palace facade. Look at the ships, they are opulent. Juneau, with barely 30,000 residents, is forced to accommodate 1.66 million cruise tourists. How is that sustainable? The cruise industry didn’t come asking us to partner, they sold the tickets.

Nor do the local vendors ask locals how we feel. Take, for example, the whale watch operators looking for ways to reduce their impact on locals and whales. They formed a task force, but did not ask for any public comment. How can they mitigate public impact when they don’t ask the public? They haven’t asked if we mind if they double their fleet size every couple of years. Or, if we mind if they go screaming by, waking us and cutting us off on the water.

Just look at Juneau on a normal ship day, it’s crazy. Crazy creep, it started out slow with 300,000 tourists and gradually the numbers creep up until it’s nuts, like boiling frogs. The glacier closed down, the streets are choked, the shops are elbow-to-elbow, Statter Harbor is overrun, Egan Drive is clogged with buses. I thought the AJ Mine would create a negative impact on Juneau. It would have been clean compared to the cruise industry. The cruise industry has captured Juneau. We are no longer a city navigating our own destiny, we are a carnival sideshow for an industry with more financial resources than we could ever have.

Now the experts want us to “partner” with the cruise lines. It is hard to take seriously someone who recommends partnering with a robber baron holding a gun to your head. This is a master-slave relationship. If we can’t rely on our government to help us control these multinational corporate behemoths ruining our city, what are we to do — partner, and help them ruin it?

Sorry, I’m not their partner. RIP Juneau.

• Rick Bierman is a Juneau resident.

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