2006-06-08 Letter From Hank Lentfer
Comments to the Gustavus City Council regarding proposed Harbor
I wish to thank all those volunteering their time to serve on the city council and the dock committee. I know there have been hundreds of hours spent hunched over computers and sitting in tedious meetings while the sun is shining and the garden waiting to be planted.
First a few general concerns:
Like many of you I am concerned about the size of government. Before creating a new city position we need to be damn sure the position is needed. I do not subscribe to the we’ll-need-the-position-some-day-so-why-not-create-it-now philosophy. If our adolescent government overeats now it may be fat for the rest of it’s life. My concern about oversized government is not limited to local expenditures. Our success at securing state and national funds requires that those bodies be fat as well. Do we keep sucking the government coffers as long as the money is flowing or do we act with some restraint and recognize that, at some point, we have swallowed our fair share of tax payer dollars?
Since homesteaders first settled here it’s been a do-it-yourself kinda place. It’s now becoming a do-as-much-as-you-can-with-some-else’s-money kinda place. The do- it-yourself road leads to some funky facilities while the do-it-with-government-dollars approach results in gleaming new docks and ramps. While I recognize the need for some gleaming new facilities I don’t want to see all the do-it-yourself funk run out of town. For years we have figured out how to get our boats up and down, in and out of the Salmon River without a paid person directing traffic. I like to think we have the common sense and mutual respect to keep doing so.
When I first read the Harbor Facilities ordinance I could not believe it was referring to little old Gustavus. It seemed to be describing Petersburg or Sitka or Wrangell or any of the other towns I have decided not to live in. I agree it would be nice to get a few of the derelicts out of river. But hiring a new, year-round position that will never go away is like making tooth picks with a hydraulic wood splitter.
Now a few specifics:
The Harbormaster is described as “a peace officer of the City of Gustavus”. This is a large, if not a complete step, toward a cop in town. That’s a huge step; one perhaps deserving a vote of all residents.
The tone of the ordinance is heavy handed and adversarial. Here are some examples:
“Registration must be conducted within one hour after such vessels enters the harbor facility.” Are we really going to have a harbormaster on duty 24/7? Do we need someone monitoring our movements that closely? If not then let’s ease up or eliminate the language.
There are several references to things being “neat”, “clean”, “sanitary”. Esthetics are personal. To give a harbormaster with a ticket book the authority to impose esthetics is creating a tense and confrontational situation.
“Inbound manifests may be required prior to or concurrent with the
vessel’s arrival.” This language is more suited for the TSA in the Port
of Seattle than the Lite Weight coming up the Salmon River.
“Disposal of seafood wastes may occur only from the Gustavus Dock and floats.” Does this mean I can’t gut a coho in the river? If not then we need to lighten up the language.
In summary I think the ordinance should be cut to about half of its length. Where possible we should adopt a friendly rather than an adversarial posture. We should question the need for each section and weigh its impacts against our vision statement. Does the city need to get involved in who is moving what type of freight? Are float planes really a problem? Does the city really want to get into the business of impounding vessels? Is there a problem with fish waste in the river?
I do not believe we need a harbor master. Sure we could charge fees to pay for a harbor master so he can keep collecting fees or we can decide not to create all that paperwork in the first place. We don’t need a permanent paid position to restore order in the river. I believe we can continue to work it out, neighbor to neighbor.
Again, thanks for all your time.