Cloud of suspicion should be lifted

The Skagway Borough Assembly has ignored our pleas for a more open process during the historic tidelands lease negotiations. It has gotten to the point where these executive sessions have become normal business at the end of a meeting. This is frustrating for those who believe that the best government is open government.

Unfortunately, where there should have been a public outcry, there has been silence and an apparent trust in leaders to work on a deal that can be carried to the voters. To his credit, the mayor has been good about making statements to the public and the press after these sessions, and releasing documents that are being discussed or written based on those closed-door discussions. But missing in all this back-and-forth is a chance for the public to hear the debate. The White Pass tidelands lease revisions and new AIDEA lease may end up being good deals for the community, but we will never know if better deals were possible, or who or what stood in their way.

Opening up the discussions also would blow away a cloud that has always existed around these negotiations. Many of the men sitting at that table have some stake in the outcome. It’s a far cry from the “White Pass City Council” of the 1960s that negotiated the original lease, but there are still people at the table now who are employed by the railroad, or who work for those who sublease land on the property in question, or who service the mining and/or cruise industries. These are honorable folks who represent a cross-section of the community, but when there is an appearance of conflict, the right thing to do is explain and debate your positions in open session. The future of our port should never be decided in a cloud of suspicion, but sadly we are headed that way again. – WJB