Initiative overkill

One need look no further than the State of Alaska’s Primary Election Voter Pamphlet in your mailbox last week to understand the main reason for voting down Ballot Measure 2, the Cruise Ship Initiative. The full language of the measure and its accompanying pro and con viewpoints take up nine pages of the 24-page booklet. It’s simply overkill. Measure 1, campaign finance reform, a complicated issue, takes up just four pages.

Measure 2 is not a one-topic initiative, it’s a conglomeration of everything that a small target group feels should be slapped on an industry. The proper place for debating the several issues packed into this measure is the Alaska Legislature, with input from the Attorney General’s office, cruise lines, the Alaska business community, local governments, and the public.

One might be inclined to vote for the $50 per passenger tax portion of this measure without looking into the rest of it. The cruise industry is a big target – an easy one, you might say. But most communities that need the ships’ tax dollars already receive a fair share for port projects and other infrastructure needs. The ships already pay a huge chunk for the state’s advertising campaign. So where would the rest of the money go? Four dollars a head for “Ocean Rangers?” We have a heightened Coast Guard presence following the ships. Even our local police and fire departments are watching. And the ships know it; they have cleaned up their act. When something does goes wrong, like the recent engine problem on a ship that spewed soot, by law it must be reported.

On another hot topic of interest locally, we will be the first to say there should be more visible disclosure about advertisers who pay to be a “recommended shop” on a cruise ship map. But to extend this disclosure to the myriad of tour company commissions is overkill. The public needs to know what is advertising and what is not (see our “Downtown Map & Advertising Directory” in the Skaguay Alaskan visitor guide), but tour commissions are part of an operator’s private cost of doing business.

If this measure passes, it will float right into court. No question. And the state will waste money trying to defend it. How it made landfall on the ballot is beyond us. – WJB