GLACIAL EXPOSE

Mt. Harding towers over Skagway, 80 years after its presidential namesake paid Skagway a visit. This year, Harding Glacier and others in the area have been exposed more than ever due to a lack of winter snow. See stories on Dyea Dangers and Global Warming. AC

Mayor Tim Bourcy, incumbents win easily
Beth Cline takes write-in race for City Council, but no winner declared

By JEFF BRADY
Skagway Mayor Tim Bourcy won a second term and veteran City Councilmembers J.M. Frey and David Hunz won re-election to their seats in the Oct. 7 election. All were unopposed on the ballot, as were Skagway City School Board incumbents Darren Belisle, Chris Maggio and Joanne Korsmo, who easily held on to their seats.
In the only race where there might have been a contest, announced write-in candidate Beth Cline won the most votes for a two-year seat on City Council. With no candidate on the ballot for this seat, this was the only one that had to be hand-counted by election officials. Cline garnered 154 votes, and Bert Bounds, who had repeatedly told media he was not running, had 37 votes. There were 42 more counted with no other write-in receiving more than three votes in this race. Election officials remarked that many votes were not counted because voters failed to put a mark in the oval next to the name. Write-in votes were not counted individually in the other races, because they did not total enough to alter results.

Click here for Official Election Results

Mayor Bourcy won re-election with a final count of 232 votes to 65 from assorted write-ins. He received support from about 70 percent of those who cast ballots.
Reached Wednesday morning, the mayor said he appreciated the support he received for his second term and is looking forward to the opportunity to work for the community.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Bourcy said. “The first order of business is to try to garner support from the cruise industry for the seawall-seawalk project, and moving toward getting the property and funding for the new clinic, and I’d like to see the AB Mountain development move forward.”
Bourcy left town Wednesday on a family trip, and on his return next week will stop in Vancouver, B.C. for the Alaska Tourism Industry Association convention. “On my own nickel,” Bourcy said, he plans to lobby the Northwest Cruise Ship Association for participation in the proposed seawall/seawalk.
The latest estimate for that project is $2.9 million, and Bourcy said he would like to see a 50 percent match from cruise lines that will see benefits from the project.
Tuesday night’s preliminary results did not include absentee ballots – 57 had been received by election day. Those and any others that came in by mail by a 4 p.m. Thursday deadline were counted by the Election Canvass Board after this issue went to press. Official results were certified by the City Council Thursday night.

UPDATE: The City Council certified the election Oct. 9 without declaring a winner for the two-year Council seat. Election officials determined that Cline did not file a conflict of interest statement after declaring her candidacy, and was not a valid candidate. Since none of the write-ins who received votes were deemed valid candidates, the Council elected to declare the seat vacant and will leave it up to the mayor to appoint someone to fill the seat for one year until next October's election. Bert Bounds, who finished second to Cline, sent a letter to the City asking for a runoff election, but by City Code runoffs are held in Skagway only in the case of a tie. More on this in the next issue.

Election official Mildred Meroney finds voter Marsha Columbo’s name on the Skagway voter registration list, as other members of the Canvass Board, Connie Conard, Barbara Brodersen, and Don Hather get ready to hand her a ballot, sticker, and an offer of a cookie for voting. JB

Voter list reduced to 879

State says number registered changes constantly

The Skagway voter list had been whittled down from 902 to 879 registered voters for the Oct. 7 municipal election, but it remains higher than the town’s population.
When asked if this was a direct response to a letter resident Bert Bounds sent in August alleging possible voting by non-residents, state election officials said no, adding that the list changes almost daily, and Skagway is one of many communities in Alaska who have more voters registered than population.
City Clerk and local election official Marj Harris said the list she used for the election was given to her by the state within the last 30 days. The total number voting as of Tuesday night was 326, including 46 absentee votes cast in person at City Hall, 10 absentees by mail, and one by personal representative.
The election was canvassed Thursday night after this issue went to press, and any absentees that were postmarked by Tuesday and arrived by 4 p.m. Thursday also would have been counted.
Reached by phone on election day, Pam Crowe, Southeast regional supervisor for the Division of Elections in Juneau, said the Skagway voter registration number dropped by the usual purging process.
“In no way was it a direct result of his (Bounds’) letter,” she said.
Crowe said Alaska has a “real time voter system” and the list of registered voters in a community can change hourly “because people are constantly changing addresses or moving.”
On the state website on election eve, the total number for Skagway was 883, slightly higher than the list at the polling place.
Crowe said voting legislation over the past 40 years has made it easier for people to register to vote, and the incentive is higher in Alaska with the Permanent Fund Dividend. But when someone moves out of state, the state doesn’t always get notified when a person changes registration to another state.
“The problem is getting other states to notify us,” Crowe said, adding there are counties in California that don’t even communicate with one another.
Every January, the Alaska Division of Elections is allowed by the Department of Justice to send out cards to people on the list with no voter activity over the past four years. If the notices come back twice as undeliverable, then those voters are flagged.
The division does receive notices from Vital Statistics on deceased voters, but if the person died out of state, they don’t always learn about it unless they see an obituary in a newspaper or magazine. Polling place officials are allowed to fill out a green slip if they see someone on the list who is deceased.
Crowe said she can understand the concerns of residents in communities like Skagway, Gustavus, Ketchikan and even Juneau – all with high seasonal employment and higher numbers of voters registered than residents – but they also must understand voter’s rights.
“I will agree that there are people on there who may have moved away but who have the statutory right (to remain on the list) because of their intent to return,” Crowe said. “We can’t judge that.... We can’t move people on a whim, we have to hear from them.”
What the state can do is improve its communication with other states “to make the list cleaner,” she concluded.
At the Oct. 2 Skagway City Council meeting, City Manager Bob Ward addressed the state’s response to Bounds’ letter.
“Because voting is a basic right, it does take quite a bit of exchange between the state and the voter before that name is actually withdrawn from the voter rolls,” Ward explained. “The state’s take is there has been no fraud on the part of any group, organization or the City of Skagway in terms of how these voters or prospective voters are being registered.”
He added that the issue lies with the voter, who signs an affidavit on the voter registration form declaring residency, and the state which manages the rolls.
Ward then got on a “soapbox” about the developments in recent weeks:
“It’s interesting to me that this attack is being premised on the protection of democracy, yet the intent of the attack is to limit the democratic right of someone to choose where they want to exercise their democratic right to vote.”
Ward continued: “If somebody believes Skagway is the most important community in their life, even if they’re only here for 160 days, and this is where they want to exercise that right, as long as they’re not exercising it somewhere else, then that is their right.”
Ward added that the state sent a copy of the statutes regarding what constitutes fraud, and it lies with the individual voter. “I hope we can move beyond this and have our election,” he concluded.
Mayor Tim Bourcy then asked Bounds, who was in the audience, for a response to the manager, and he had none.
Later, Bounds said he is going through the new and past voter rolls to determine if any non-residents may have voted, and would submit that list to the state Attorney General’s office.
Bounds copied his cover letter to boxholders last week after it had not appeared in The Skagway News due to a miscommunication between Bounds and the editor and publisher when he brought the letter and attachments, 25 pages in all, in for review. Bounds’ cover letter and the state’s response will be posted on the News Website as links with this story. – JB

It’s official
New benchmark for WP&YR: 348,559

The White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad as expected ended the 2003 season with a new annual ridership record of 348,559 revenue passengers – breaking the old record of 318,993 established in 2001.
The WP&YR broke the old record on Sept. 9 and kept adding to the new record until the season ended with the visit of the final ship of the season, the Veendam, on Sept. 24.
Gary Danielson, President of the WP&YR stated in a press release: “This new benchmark for ridership is testament to the many accomplishments of our team at White Pass and our brand value in the marketplace. We responded to changing market conditions with new and innovative marketing programs. And working with industry partners, our people delivered a unique and authentic experience to our riders and did it safely and efficiently.”
White Pass continues to invest in its future. For this season, the company completed a $3.5 million expansion of the Railroad Dock to accommodate the world-class vessels coming to Alaska and completed the restoration of steam locomotive No.73 at a cost of $500,000.
For 2004, White Pass has committed to purchase eight new railcars and begin restoring steam locomotive No.69, a 1907 Baldwin that was the largest steam locomotive ever built for a narrow gauge railroad, the press release noted.
“We’re expecting an even better year next year,” Danielson added. “The tourism markets are expected to rebound, the cruise industry is expanding capacity and we’ll have an additional eight passenger coaches to help meet the demand.”
In a follow-up interview, Danielson said the eight cars will be constructed by Hamilton Manufacturing, which won the contract, and they will be built in Washington. Hamilton completed the last new-builds a few years ago.
No. 69 was moved in mid-July from Colorado to Wisconsin, Danielson said. Steve Butler, who helped with completion of No. 73, is handling the restoration for Midwest Locomotive and Machine Works in North Lake , Wisc.
Danielson is optimistic the railroad can break the 350,000 mark next year.
He expects the same increase in ship numbers next season as this season, and “a stronger May than in recent years that should help us all.”
Danielson said the preliminary 2004 schedule, which won’t be released officially until March, has these changes:
• Princess bringing two new ships: the Diamond and Sapphire, and the Regal returning to replace the Pacific.
• NCL adding new bigger ship Norwegian Star, replacing the Wind.
• RCL replacing the Legend with the Serenade of the Seas, sister to the Radiance.
• World Explorer Cruises returning with the Universe Explorer.
• Silver Seas Cruises comes to Skagway for the first time with the upscale Silver Shadow.
Beginning May 10, there will be no empty days in the week until the end of September. The Saturday voids have been filled, with one-to-three ships on what this year was an “off” day.

Vehicle resolution changed to get more support statewide
Temporary permits would be issued for 175 days

After receiving input from the Alaska Permanent Fund Division and organized labor, the Skagway City Council has made changes to the resolution calling for the state to issue temporary vehicle registration permits for nonresident seasonal workers.
At its Oct. 2 meeting, the council unanimously passed an expanded substitute Resolution 03-23R, which calls for a change in AS 28.10.121, the current law which requires new permits after 10 days of employment and has caused hardships for many seasonals.
Mayor Tim Bourcy said the original resolution, passed in September, had received a lot of attention around the state. The mayor said former Rep. Peter Goll, now a labor lobbyist, had suggested additional language to address concerns the labor lobby might have.
The substitute, offered by Councilmember J. Frey, included this language: “To protect the State’s working people and contractors, the State of Alaska has a need to identify nonresident seasonal workers to ensure local hire and local contractor preference rights.”
It also has these provisions regarding the Permanent Fund:
• “To protect the finances of the state and its people, the State of Alaska has a need to identify nonresident seasonal workers to prevent Permanent Fund Dividend fraud.”
• “AS 28.10.152 was enacted before the creation of the Permanent Fund Dividend Program and before other employment-related resident benefits were established, and does not consider the law’s unintended result of providing incentive for false residency claims.”
The resolution’s original wording had asked for temporary vehicle permits of up to 180 days, but the Permanent Fund Division asked it to be lowered because residents can apply for the PFD after being in the state 180 days.
The substitute was written with 160 days inserted, but audience member Dennis Corrington pointed out that, with the 10-day window already allowed, seasonals may be able to “tiptoe around” the law. Council member Mike Catsi offered a compromise of 175 days, and it passed unanimously.
“The longer people can be here working and spending money, that is better for us,” Catsi said.
Audience member Kathy Hosford, who owns a Dyea bed and breakfast, said the resolution puts to rest suspicions about intent of residency and will eliminate confusion for seasonals and the resulting registration “horror stories” of the past.
“In light of the controversy in our community, the division and anxiety it has caused, and the importance of us all being on the same team...,” Hosford said, “this resolution is just awesome, a win-win situation for everybody.” – JB

OTHER STORIES THIS ISSUE

• FEATURE: Danger from glacial flooding still exists, global warming

• SPORTS: Wrestling and volleyball season previews

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