About 20 people gather in Marine Park at midday April 9 for a rally calling for a ban on large cruise ships on Saturdays in Juneau. Some of the participants are members of a committee planning to gather signatures for a petition to put the question on the ballot for local voters. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)

About 20 people gather in Marine Park at midday April 9 for a rally calling for a ban on large cruise ships on Saturdays in Juneau. Some of the participants are members of a committee planning to gather signatures for a petition to put the question on the ballot for local voters. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)

Opinion: Cruise ship free Saturdays seems like a reasonable compromise

Three years ago, I opposed the local initiatives to limit cruise ship traffic. On Sunday, I signed the petition that seeks to establish Saturdays as a day without any. While I expect to support if it’s on the ballot in October, I won’t decide until after the pros and cons have been thoroughly debated.

However, I won’t be influenced by opposition arguments based entirely on the dollars tourists spend here.

That said, it’s impossible to argue it won’t have a negative financial impact on our city. But not so much that it “threatens our financial stability,” as the co-chairs of Protect Juneau’s Future argued in their My Turn a few weeks ago.

That’s true even if it reduces the total number of cruise ship passengers from 1.67 million to the 1.3 million that were here in 2019. Three years before that it was barley over million. Back in 2011 it was only 850,000.

That rapid growth has certainly added a lot of money in the city coffers and boosted the bottom line of most businesses. We should be concerned about to decline of revenue to both if cruise ships aren’t in town on Saturdays.

But the impact on the many downtown shops owned by the cruise ship industry is a different story. Most of the money tourists spend in those doesn’t stay here. It’s also fair to wonder if the competition from all their jewelry stores is the primary reason The Jewel Box, Fire and Ice, and Pioneer Jewelers aren’t there anymore.

Just as it’s wrong to argue the business case as if it’s all one big positive, the disruption to Juneau’s neighborhoods varies from a lot downtown to almost nothing in the area where I live 13 miles north.

I can choose to avoid the big crowds downtown. And at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center which I go to occasionally in the evening. The increased helicopter noise I hear as they pass overhead on their way to Herbert Glacier is a bit annoying. And even though some of the whale watching boat pilots aren’t considerate enough to slow down when they pass, I still enjoy my afternoons out kayaking.

But being able to tolerate how cruise ship tourism affects me doesn’t give me the right to dismiss the complaints of downtown residents. Or the frustration Thane residents feel when navigating their way through downtown to get anywhere else.

The co-chairs of Protect Juneau’s Future suggest that if we “take emotion out of it, the decision becomes clear.” They want “a balanced approach that accounts for both the economic benefits and the quality of life in our city without compromising our financial health.”

Their idea of balance is clearly to skewed to economic outcomes. Not once in the four times they used the word health it was in relation to anything else. The message I got from their uncompromising position is they expect others to sacrifice a significant piece of their mental health.

Up till now, the industry hasn’t given an inch. Sure, they’ve agreed to limit the number of ships to five each day. But it wasn’t that long ago that there were multiple days each week with three or less ships in town, Now, there’s five almost every day, at least a few of which are much larger than Holland America’s Rotterdam.

Launched in 1999 with a passenger capacity of 2,650, the Rotterdam was once among the largest ships that sailed the Inside Passage. Now it’s dwarfed by several Princess ships that come to town with 4,000 or more. Their Majestic Princess, which will be here this week, could have over 5,000,

They daily passenger limits under consideration isn’t a concession either. It’s merely putting a lid on future growth.

Whether you live on Douglas Island, the Mendenhall Valley, or anywhere out the road, the proper way to balance community concerns includes asking ourselves under what conditions, if any, would we be agreeable to having hundreds of tourists passing by our neighborhoods every day. And if it’s a reasonable compromise to have one day without any cruise ships in town so that downtown residents can enjoy their Juneau homes and neighborhoods the same way most of us enjoy ours seven days a week.

• Rich Moniak is a Juneau resident and retired civil engineer with more than 25 years of experience working in the public sector. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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