The cost of lost opportunities
It’s no wonder borough formation efforts have taken more than 10 years to culminate in a determining vote in December. Initial council discussions over borough formation began about 2002 as the body debated whether to annex land into the city’s corporate limits or to establish borough boundaries.
This week a letter writer charges that this newspaper and the city failed to correct information that was printed, challenged and corrected over two years ago. There is certainly enough information in the city’s borough petition that provides fodder for discussion and debate without rehashing issues that clearly were settled two years ago.
One topic ripe for debate is what happens if the borough is voted down?
Certainly, the City of Petersburg remains intact, and life will go on. But voters need to tally the cost of lost opportunities.
A significant benefit of incorporation is the opportunity to select municipal entitlement lands that could be developed for future economic development or other borough purposes. These lands could hold significant financial and lifestyle benefits for all residents of the borough.
We have already experienced occasions when Kupreanof residents have come before the Petersburg council to argue for or against specific issues. The most recent case involved the state’s proposal to build a road to Kake along Kupreanof Island’s northern shoreline. There is a value to having a significant government entity to speak on behalf of regional residents when heavy-handed bureaucrats push proposals that locals may not want. At the same time, that government can also advocate for region-wide projects, such as hydroelectric projects and transmission lines that can benefit the area residents.
Residents within Petersburg’s proposed borough also need to imagine what life could be like should another government expand into our neighborhood. Juneau has just such a proposal pending before the Local Boundary Commission that is on hold until after Petersburg’s vote is taken. What if Juneau sought to expand their proposal to include future hydro project opportunities we know exist in Thomas Bay?
Should mineral exploration reveal significant deposits on lands south of Petersburg, would it not be unreasonable for Wrangell to incorporate those lands into their borough to gain tax revenue that Petersburg’s borough could benefit from?
There could be a benefit to the native villages of Kake and Angoon to join with Goldbelt, Inc. to organize to form a borough that could allow them to cooperatively develop land and build infrastructure that further their collective goals.
Personally, we’d like to see the Petersburg Indian Association go to work on some regional projects within the proposed borough.
The list goes on, but our point is that the voters need to evaluate the cost of opportunities lost should the borough vote fail.