Voters certify cruise ship passenger fee initiative

Posted: Monday, January 15, 2001

KETCHIKAN (AP) -- A special election will be held now that a petition seeking a fee on cruise ship passengers has gotten enough support from Ketchikan Gateway Borough voters.

Borough clerk Sue Bethel certified the initiative petition on Friday. Her office received petitions containing more than the required 469 signatures of registered voters, or 15 percent of votes cast in the last regular borough election.

Petition sponsors John Cote and Ralph Mirsky had until the end of February to turn in the petition signatures. State law requires a special election be held within 75 days.

''We don't believe this will hurt the industry. We think it will continue to grow,'' Mirsky said of the proposed fee.

Cote said it is time for the cruise ship industry to give something back. He suggested, for example, the industry help pay for improvements to Tongass Avenue.

''The industry really does stretch our resources,'' Cote said.

Several groups, including the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau and the Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce, are expected to vigorously campaign against the proposal.

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Overall Economic Development Program Committee on Wednesday decided to develop a resolution to oppose the proposed fee.

''We're 100 percent against this thing,'' said Committee chairman Joe Johnson. ''It's bad for business.''

The Ketchikan City Council last month decided to solicit an attorney to look into the legality of the petition.

John Hanson, president of the Northwest Cruiseship Association, said his group plans to keep tabs on the proposal.

''We'll be reviewing whether there's any activity we should engage in, or if it's only a local issue for Ketchikan residents to deal with,'' he said.

If the measure passes it would be up to the individual cruise ship companies to decide whether or not to pull out of the Ketchikan market, Hanson said.

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