A good, healthy debate should be out in the open

In the past year, the community has played a huge part in the debate over several key issues: firearms, school funding, and smoking. The debate has been robust and emotional at times, but it has given local leaders valuable input for helping them make decisions that affect all of us.

The recent smoke control debate has been as charged here as it has in communities across the land. At stake are what are perceived to be the private liberties of those who want to smoke and be around smokers, and those who point to the growing public health statistics that say being around any amount of smoke will shorten your life. The assembly was poised to make a decision as this issue went to press. It may take the bold step to ban smoking in most enclosed places, limit it to private clubs whose members don’t mind the smoke, or let the voters decide. Regardless, they have heard the debate. It has come to them, and they have welcomed it.

The reverse has been happening regarding the future of our port. For several meetings, the assembly has gone behind closed doors to address the tidelands lease. It’s no secret that the municipality wants control of the ore dock/terminal portion of the tidelands to secure state funding for much-needed port expansion. White Pass, which leased and developed the tidelands years ago, has stated it would rather have a lease extension and partner with the municipality on port improvements. Both are poised for negotiations and are talking strategy that we cannot hear. The reason: it could affect their finances.

Well, both parties need to understand this: these are the public’s tidelands, so they need to let the public in. Current and future community jobs are at stake, as is the viability of our successful cruise and industrial port and the financial health of our school and other community institutions.

We are encouraged that the mayor wants to have a public work session on the lease soon.

This issue, more than any other, should be a community-driven decision supported by a significant amount of public debate. Not only does the municipality need to open up its tidelands lease discussions, but White Pass should send its ClubLink board of directors here for a public meeting. They might be surprised at what could be accomplished with community participation. – WJB