Emily Willis of Jewell Gardens waters one of the new pole boxes that were installed on Broadway and Congress Way for the city this summer. Flowers are blooming all over town with the extra sunshine this summer, and there should be great displays at the Flower and Garden Show Aug. 8-10 at A.B. Hall. See details on how to get ready for the annual event in the calendar link above or the arts and events link below. Jeff Brady
FBI investigates cruise ship ID offer
Security heightened with July 1 directives
By GREY HUDDLESTON
FBI Special Agent Eric Gonzalez has confirmed that the agency is investigating a potential July 7 cruise ship security breach in Skagway.
Gonzalez said the agency received a tip that two individuals in town were attempting to purchase identification cards from cruise ship crew members, and launched an investigation.
This is certainly unusual, so were taking it very seriously and investigating, said Gonzalez.
The investigation is under the jurisdiction of the Anchorage-based Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), a cooperative effort between city, state and federal law enforcement officials.
Gonzalez said the JTTF is working with the Skagway Police Department to investigate.
Police Chief Dennis Spurrier declined to comment on the incident. We cant officially release any information, because the investigation is still under way, he said.
Currently no arrests have been made.
The investigation comes as security on the docks has been heightened under a new directive from the Department of Homeland Security that went in place July 1.
Cruise Line Agencies has hired extra staff to run checks on all buses coming onto the Railroad Dock, as well as making routine dock patrols and checking identification on all docks.
UPDATE: FBI has announced that the case has been closed with no arrests. Details in Aug. 27 ediiton.
Judge rules off-premises canvassing ordinance overbroad
Despite controls on commercial speech; plaintiffs still want trial for damages
By JEFF BRADY
Superior Court Judge Larry C. Zervos of Sitka has ruled that although the (citys off-premises canvassing) ordinance is an appropriate way to restrict commercial speech, its sweep is so broad that it impermissibly affects protected speech as well.
The ruling came July 7 on requests for summary judgment in the case of Terry Robertson d/b/a/ Skaguay tour Co. and David Lee d/b/a Southeast Tours vs. the City of Skagway.
The case could still go to trial in Skagway Aug. 2, although the City Council, after an executive session, directed its attorney to try to get the judge to cancel it.
Robert Spitzfaden, the attorney representing Robertson, said this week that his client still wants a trial. They are seeking about $100,000 in damages for the closure of one of Roertsons three tour-selling sites last summer.
We want the trial to proceed ... to determine the amount of money lost that the city owes to him, Spitzfaden said, because the city shut down the site because of an unconstitutional ordinance.
After the citys initial attempt to restrict tour selling within 10 feet of a street or sidewalk failed a court test two years ago, the City Council adopted a new ordinance prohibiting off premises canvassing for the purpose of selling or offering for sale any goods or services of any kind for private profit.
The ordinance allows an exception the city may issue a permit to vendors for selling in a 200 sqare foot area. Robertson has such an area in front of the old Golden North Hotel, and his office on Seventh is okay, but Spitzfaden said a site in front of the old boxcar store (now removed) at Sixth and Broadway was shut down last year. Lees sales locations also were challenged. The two companies sued, and their cases were joined.
Robertson filed a motion for partial summary judgment arguing the ordinance was unconstitutional as it applied to his business activities, and Lee filed a motion saying the ordinance was overly broad because it restricts protected speech.
In his ruling, Judge Zervos had a problem with the rationale for the ordinances, adopted after the city consolidated much of the tour selling in town by offering a spot to a vendor/broker.
It is not clear why moving the selling to a different location in town or to a 200 square foot parcel off the sidewalks will do anything to advance the Citys stated interest in lessening misrepresentation, Zervos wrote. Also it is not clear why prohibiting solicitation among the thousands of tourists each year will preserve the small-town character of Skagway.
He also challenged assertions in affidavits by the city manager, tourism director and some business people that the alleged aggressive selling tactics were creating a negative image of Skagway. He said the concern seems to be based on rumor, supposition and personal distaste, and, in any case, the effect of selling tactics does not seem to have lessened the number of cruise ship passengers, who have been the primary target of the tour solicitors in recent years.
Lisa Holloway of Skaguay Tour Co. (by A-frame) sells tours from her post outside Golden North Gifts. JB
However, the judge did agree with city concerns about disturbances and obstructions on city streets and sidewalks caused by tour sellers, which have been alleviated by the new ordinance.
The statements of the city manager and the tourism director make sense, Zervos wrote. ... The ordinance directly advances at least one substantial government interest; the 200 square foot requirement protects residents and visitors from obstructions on the streets and sidewalks.
Citing the Central Hudson case and other cases that allow cities to restrict solicitation by a means narrowly tailored to achieve the desired objective, Zervos concluded that the ordinance was a reasonable compromise for the purpose of restricting commercial speech, but it did not go narrow enough.
Where it failed was in its overbreadth by restricting noncommercial speech as well. Examples cited were the possibility of restriction on selling a newspaper or a bible, which are protected under the First Amendment.
The ordinance has a legitimate purpose to the extent it regulates commercial transaction, Zervos wrote. But as long as the plain language of the ordinance prohibits activity that involves protected speech, it is substantially overbroad. Nonetheless, the court may still uphold the ordinance if a limiting construction can avoid constitutional problems or if the city has placed reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on the activities regulated.
He added that it would take more than striking a word or phrase from the ordinance. Crafting appropriate exceptions will take careful drafting, balancing of interests and selection of appropriate methods. This is legislative work best reserved for the city assembly, not for the court.
He then approved the plaintiffs request for partial summary judgment on the facial overbreadth claims, but denied their motion with respect to commercial speech and the motions brought by the city.
City Manager Bob Ward said the city has asked for a reconsideration of the overbreadth ruling, and if denied that, may look at redrafting the ordinance.
But Spitzfaden said the city has tried twice and failed twice and is unlikely to come up with a new ordinance that would work. He added that the court left it up in the air whether the city acted nefariously in restricting commercial business.
Ward said the city has asked the judge to rule on a pretext issue raised by the plaintiffs, who allege the city crafted the ordinance as a pretext to get back at tour sellers for losing the first court case.
Ward said the Council was not trying to be punitive, they were just trying to exercise control of commercial speech.
As in the first case, it may come down to a jury trial to determine if damages should be awarded.
UPDATE: The trial did not occur as scheduled on Aug. 2, details in next issue.
Pat Moore Bridge proclaimed by mayor
Skagway now has two Moore bridges - one for a pioneer settler and one for a modern-day inspiration.
At the July 15 Skagway City Council meeting, Mayor Tim Bourcy proclaimed the new pedestrian way over the Skagway River at 23rd Ave. the Pat Moore Bridge.
A petition circulated around the city this past winter asking the mayor and council to name the bridge for Moore, a proponent of recreational opportunities for young and old, even after being diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrigs Disease) in 1999.
The proclamation cites Moores 44 years in Skagway, being valedictorian of the SHS Class of 1976, and his employment with the National Park Service from 1980 to 2000.
Pat has raised his family in Skagway and introduced them to the thrill and wonder of Skagways outdoors... the proclamation continued. During Pats time in Skagway he has been a tireless advocate for improved recreational facilities and stewardship of Skagways recreation opportunities, serving on many committees and boards dedicated to this purpose.
The new footbridge was a joint city and state project completed last year to provide safe pedestrian and bicycle access to the new ball fields west of the river at Seventh Pasture Recreation Area. Moore is a spectator at many of his kids games there.
In spite of his condition, Pat can still be seen around town, on the docks, at the ball field and elsewhere in his wheelchair, often accompanied by his children, the proclamation continued.
Signs will be erected at both ends of the bridge, and a dedication ceremony will occur at a later date. Now, along with the Capt. William Moore bridge over Moore Creek on the Klondike Highway, Skagway will have the Pat Moore Bridge for a man who has contributed so much to the community.
Bourcy added that the proclamation honors Moores work and his struggle: I think Pat is definitely a role model. I dont know if I could personally do what he does every day.
Council members then gave the proclamation their approval, and the audience applauded. JB
Proposed AMG helicopter tours spark noise concerns
Permits temporarily on hold before P&Z
By GREY HUDDLESTON
A July 8 public outcry against new helicopter tours proposed by Alaska Mountain Guides and Climbing School (AMG) prompted the Citys Planning and Zoning Commission to postpone a vote on permitting the tours until the company offers more information.
The new tours would use ERA helicopters to transport cruise ship visitors to either Mt. Cleveland and Mt. Carmack or Harding Glacier for ice climbing, alpine hiking and glacier trekking.
The flights would originate from the airport, and the proposal calls for 27 departures (each with two helicopters) on most weekdays, with 36 departures on Wednesdays numbers which many local residents found unacceptably high.
Over 20 citizens spoke out against the tours to the commission at its July 8 meeting, citing concerns about increased noise, environmental impacts and safety issues. AMG must receive a conditional use permit from the commission for commercial operations on municipal land to begin the tours.
Most noise concerns were voiced by citizens living near the airport or near the proposed flight paths. Mavis Henricksen, who lives near the base of A.B. Mountain, said helicopter flights over her property are extremely disturbing. The further you get up there, the more resounding it is, she said.
Eric Coufal, who is considering buying land off Dyea Road, said he would have to reconsider the purchase if the tours were approved. This is a noisy community in the summer, do we really need that extra rotor wash? he said.
Jan Wrentmore said there are times she cant talk on the telephone in her home even with current helicopter traffic in the community. This will have a huge negative impact on my life and on my property, she said.
Other citizens voiced concerns about the environment. Cory Thole said the tours would result in a spiderweb of new trails emanating from the landing sites, trails that would damage a fragile mountain ecosystem.
I do believe that people should be brought into wild lands, but you have to adhere to wilderness ethics. Over-flooding our airspace and last remaining wild areas makes Skagway one step closer to an amusement park, Thole said.
Andrew Beierly, who lives at the corner of First Avenue and Main Street, said increased air traffic from the new tours could create a public safety issue. If theres a medevac, will there be room for the helicopter? he asked.
But AMG will continue seeking a permit for the operations in light of public sensitivity to the issue. We really appreciate the community input ... but we hope to be able to move forward with this, said Jason Gaffney, director of AMGs cruise line programs, in a July 12 interview.
Gaffney said increased traffic at the airport would not cause any safety problems. We have contacted all the fixed-wing operators, and theyre all convinced that any safety issues can be resolved by mitigation between our companies, he said.
Gaffney also said the company anticipates seeing demand for the large numbers of proposed flights. We feel that the volume is appropriate to the need, he said. AMG had originally planned to begin the tours this year, but has postponed them until 2005 pending the receipt of a permit.
The Commission has laid out a list of further information required of AMG, and will reconsider the permit applications at a regularly scheduled meeting Aug. 12.
The list of required documentation includes written statements on the proposed operation from the other local air operators, airport management, ERA, the National Park Service, and the Bureau of Land Management, as well as an impact overview of all proposed flights originating at the Skagway airport.
The commission first considered the new tours in February. Since then, AMG has split its proposal into two separate conditional use permit applications: one for operations on Mt. Cleveland and Mt. Carmack, and one for Harding Glacier.
Gaffney said AMG did this so the commission could consider the distinct geographical locations separately, but the company is only seeking to have one of the permits approved. The proposed tour operations would be identical at either location.
CITY: Ray Leggett hired as police chief, due to arrive in early September
Ray Leggett of Texas will be Skagways new police chief.
The Skagway City Council on July 15 voted to approve City Manager Bob Wards selection of Leggett, based on the unanimous support of the hiring committee. Leggett has accepted the position and plans to be in Skagway in the next two months.
Leggett is an administrative lieutenant with the Denton, Texas police department. He has experience as a SWAT and dive team commander, hostage negotiator with a child response unit, and has done a lot of work with a citizens academy in Texas. He also is a graduate of the FBI academy. Skagway will be his first police chief position.
Even though Leggett was only able to be in Skagway for a few hours early this month, he made a great impression on the committee and the department.
It was definitely advantageous to have face to face interviews, Ward said.
The hiring committee consisted of Ward, Public Safety Chair Monica Carlson, retiring Police Chief Dennis Spurrier, and former mayor Stan Selmer. Mayor Tim Bourcy and Council members Mike Catsi and Mike Korsmo also sat in on interviews. The committee also interviewed William Frank McLendon III of Kansas, a former chief of the Sitka Police Department.
Ward, Bourcy, Selmer, Carlson and Catsi all said both candidates were well qualified, but that Leggett was more community-oriented.
Ward said that in light of the recent dog shooting and a certain amount of angst about the police department now, Mr. Leggett had a poise (that would) help the community see the department in a different light, as well as, if necessary, have the department see the community in a different light.
Carlson said Leggett will bring personality and energy to the position. Hes very people-oriented. He wants to move out in the community.
I think hes going to be a good fit, added Catsi.
It may take Leggett a couple months to get here, Ward noted. He has to find housing for his family and sell his home in Texas. In the interim, Spurrier will continue as chief on a part-time contract. JB
UPDATE: Ward reported at the Aug. 5 City Council meeting that Leggett is in the process of securing a house and will be on the job Sept. 8.
Skagway Police Chief Dennis Spurrier directs traffic on the Klondike Highway while the Skagway EMS squad and Sgt. Brent Moody assist a man who fell from a bike Monday afternoon. The rider was loaded into the ambulance, treated at the clinic, and sent to Bartlett Regional Hospital for further treatment. The City Council is considering whether to have the Fire Department pursue a grant for a third ambulance. Spurrier, who retired at the end of June, will remain chief under a part-time contract until the new chief arrives. JB
Dog shooting continues to divide community
A loose dog, a sleeping owner and a Skagway police officers split-second decision to use force the June 25 shooting of a bull terrier in the school ball field has created a community debate that has continued for nearly a month after the incident occured.
The citys Public Safety Committee found that Officer Hoyt Stepps decision to shoot the dog was appropriate at a July19 meeting after hearing comments from Police Chief Dennis Spurrier and concerned citizens.
These are standard operating procedures used around the country, and as long as the police follow procedures, thats the best we can hope for, said committee member Mike Catsi.
But the committee only took up the issue on Mayor Tim Bourcys recommendation after several citizens spoke out on the shooting at the July 15 City Council meeting.
Donna Snyder and Cindy Karsten, both of whom work with Paws and Claws, the local animal shelter, raised concerns about the implications of the shooting.
There seems to be a lot of unanswered questions as to why a gun was discharged to stop a canine. A lot of community members would like to see a more comprehensive report made, said Snyder.
Karsten said the shooting frightened her, and that there was no proof the officer was attacked. Were not setting a very good precedent here, she said.
But local resident John Harris spoke in support of the officer. If a dog attacked me twice, and I had a gun, Id probably shoot it too, he said. What about the officer?
Karsten spoke again at the committee meeting, and asked why the use of a gun was necessary. To me, not using pepper spray or a taser first seems like excessive force, she said, while Spurrier said that these non-lethal methods may not have stopped the dog.
Committee members asked about the dog poles carried in each police vehicle. You can only put those to use if the dog is in a relatively confined area, said Spurrier.
Dan Fangmeier, the dogs owner, requested to meet with Officer Stepp to discuss the incident, but Stepp declined to meet with him, seeking to put the incident behind him, Spurrier said.
But Fangmeier did get the opportunity to meet with Spurrier and City Manager Bob Ward July 14 to discuss the shooting.
Other than Dan, theres no one in the community that wishes this didnt happen more than Officer Stepp and the rest of the department, said Spurrier.
Committee members concluded the shooting was the result of an unfortunate set of circumstances rather than an act of negligence.
This affects everyone in the community, and we can only hope that it wont happen again, said committee member Monica Carlson. GH
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
TAKE THAT! Taiya Inlet Watershed Council Coordinator Amber Bethe attacks a patch of invasive White Sweetclover along the airport fence. See story on the arts and events page, which covers the garden beat this time around. Grey Huddleston
OTHER ONLINE STORIES THIS ISSUE
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