Petersburg Pilot -


To the Editor


Borough will benefit surrounding area

To the Editor:

I believe formation of the borough is a good thing for the people of Petersburg and the surrounding area. The people living in this region want a say in what goes on around us. We’ve seen many instances throughout Alaska of activities by State and Federal government and private industry that have definitely not been to the benefit of the people. Having the area’s important resources within the Petersburg Borough gives us a stronger voice over how those resources are managed.

Borough formation opponents state that they will be getting no increase in benefits for the taxes they will pay. That’s partly true, but they will be paying for benefits they have been receiving in the past, at no cost. The most important service they receive is the immense benefit of an educated populace. Most of the new borough taxes will go toward school funding. People living in the outlying area enjoy the benefits of the harbor, library, clinic, hospital, schools, swimming pool, recreation areas and Mountain View Manor. Not everyone uses these facilities but the opportunities they provide keep the teachers, nurses, postal workers, mechanics and store clerks, whose services we all need, from leaving town.

It’s true that many of these City facilities charge for their services or are funded with state and federal funds. What we should remember is that these facilities are maintained and staffed by the City, that the grant funds to build these facilities are applied for and administered by the City and that the City pays lobbyists to make sure we get those funds.

I think that once the Borough is formed we can all work together to improve infrastructure at Papke’s Landing and Point Agassiz. The State of Alaska has already promised funds to improve the small boat harbor at Papke’s. With the Borough’s effort and the use of our lobbyists we should be able to get additional federal grants to make some much needed improvements in the area.

Many people from town have property at Point Agassiz. The boat mooring facilities there could be improved. The Borough could do a lot in securing funding and managing the design and construction of those improvements. The City is already doing work improving infrastructure at Green’s Camp, Wilson Creek and Banana Point.

The time to form a borough is now. Juneau is hoping our borough vote fails. They have already petitioned the Local Boundary Commission for a large portion of the land that is within our proposed borough. If our borough vote fails it is very likely that the Juneau Borough will extend south to Cape Fanshaw.

Vote yes and we can all work together to make a better life for everyone in the new Petersburg Borough.

Rick Braun

Four boroughs don’t charge property taxes

To the Editor:

During the KFSK Call-in show concerning the proposed Petersburg Borough, I made a statement I would like to correct. I said that I was unaware of any Alaskan boroughs that levy no property taxes. In checking on this, I learned that there are actually four boroughs that charge no property tax on any real properties, whether the properties are in or near cities or are in remote areas.

The reason there are no property taxes is that ail four of these boroughs, located in northern and western Alaska, are able to fund their entire budgets from severance taxes charged against resource removal associated with each boroughs base economy. Northwest Arctic Borough receives nearly all its revenues from taxes on mining activities, principally the Red Dog Mine. Denali Borough is funded nearly entirety from a severance tax on gravel and coal extraction, in the area. Two boroughs- Lake & Peninsula Borough and Aleutians East Borough, are primarily funded by severance taxes on raw fish harvested within the borough, which is separate and distinct from the state tax on fish processing (which is shared with the cities and boroughs where the fish are processed.)

All of the remaining fourteen Alaskan boroughs levy real property taxes. There is no borough in which taxes are levied upon properties within or near cities, but not in the more rural or remote areas. Most, but not all boroughs impose a higher milleage rate in areas close to cities or towns than in remote areas; this would be the case in the proposed Petersburg Borough. The petitioners for the Petersburg Borough have not proposed to fund any of the Boroughs budget through a separate and additional raw fish severance tax.

James T. Brennan

Attorney for Petitioners for Petersburg Borough

Petersburg will gain financially

To the Editor:

Many of us have stayed out of the Borough debate but things have heated up so I feel it is necessary to speak up. The truth is that if you are a resident of the current City of Petersburg, Borough formation will benefit you. The Borough will give us a larger tax base to help pay for all the things we enjoy here in Petersburg. You can argue about exactly how much more the State will pay to Petersburg in Revenue Sharing and exactly how it will benefit the schools. Truth is Petersburg will gain more financially from Borough formation than it will cost us.

The tax system in the United States is set up in such a way that those who pay more do not receive more benefits. Those who pay more are those who have or earn more. I might have a larger house than many of my neighbors but the property tax I pay reflects that. I currently pay property tax to the Borough of Wrangell for property I own on the Stikine River. I receive no benefits for that tax and don’t expect to. It is my responsibility as a property owner to help pay for the greater good of the Borough of Wrangell. I’m a strong supporter of Borough formation even though I own property in Farragut Bay and will have to pay property tax on that.

Personal property tax: it has been stated by those opposing Borough formation that the Petersburg Borough will tax boats and vehicles. It is more likely that the City Council of Petersburg will impose a property tax on boats and vehicles than the Borough Assembly will. Think about it. Larger property tax base = less need to tax boats and vehicles.

Special interest group: I’ve noted that the strong anti-borough argument is coming from those who live or own property in the proposed new Borough area. The anti-Borough group obviously is a special interest group. I find it startling that they are accusing others of being a “special interest”. Some have even inferred that the City of Petersburg is not to be trusted and that a Borough will really cost Petersburg more than it will receive. Truth is Borough will financially benefit Petersburg.

Some say they like Petersburg just like it is and don’t want change. For current City of Petersburg residents the change will be increased State Revenue sharing and an increased tax base to help pay for all the things we and those living in the nearby areas currently enjoy. Petersburg is a financially conservative community and will remain a financially conservative community. Those who think the new Borough Assembly will become an uncontrollable tax and spend Assembly have not paid any attention to the financially responsible actions of our City Council. We can and will argue about some expenditures but all in all we are a financially conservative town and will remain so.

Now is the time for the Borough of Petersburg. Vote yes on Borough formation.

Jean Ellis

Petersburg land grab?

To the Editor:

I’m Marjorie File, and I was born and raised in Petersburg. My father, Hjalmer Martinsen, kept his dairy cows up Petersburg Creek during the summer where my family still owns property, and you’d better believe I care about the land around here.

There is a huge misunderstanding among my friends about Juneau’s role in Petersburg borough petition.

Is Juneau making a land grab for Petersburg and it’s fishing grounds? No- this is a problem that the City of Petersburg invented.

Can Juneau annex Petersburg? No- this is story- telling, pure and simple. (Alaska Statute 29.06.040(c)(2))

Looking at a map of the model borough boundaries, you can see that it is Petersburg that tried to make the land grab, far inside Juneau’s model borough boundary.

Beginning in 1989, the state drew up potential boundaries for all the future boroughs, after hearings in 88 communities where public comments, costs, and other factors were considered. These were called the “model borough boundaries.”

Quoting from the state’s 1997 “Model Borough Boundary Study”: “Municipal governments and other public and private local and regional organizations helped execute the model boundaries project. Many hundreds of interested parties provided written comment or oral testimony.”

Juneau’s model boundary came just south of Hobart Bay, and Wrangell/ Petersburg’s began there. For years Juneau didn’t extend their borough all the way south because their own Borough study showed the costs outweighed the benefits. The area is mostly wilderness.

Then along came Petersburg and poked Juneau with a sharp stick by making a grab for land far north of the Wrangell- Petersburg model boundary. That’s why Juneau is fighting back, not because of some hidden agenda or the desire to rob our fishermen.

I’ve lived Petersburg’s past and I care about Petersburg’s future. The City of Petersburg’s appetite for more money and more power won’t be solved by forming a borough that is 97 times larger than the current city of Petersburg. The money problem would only get worse. Petersburg could be facing its own “fiscal cliff”. Please vote “no” to this borough.

Marjorie File

Take a positive step forward for the future

To the Editor:

My name is Susan Flint and I am running for Petersburg Borough Assembly. Today is the day we’ve all been waiting for – the ballots are in the mail. We will all be going to the post office to get them in a day or two; for or against we all have Petersburg addresses. We are all neighbors.

My family first came to Petersburg 100 years ago. We have always served in local and state positions while creating businesses that have provided jobs and growth. My grandparents worked hard for statehood and now my generation is working for borough formation. My husband and I started Rocky’s Marine 32 years ago and this is my 16th year as an elected official.

I am voting for borough formation and I want to share a couple of important reasons why. First and foremost, I want us to have a say in the future development in our area, our backyard. When a Bellingham company wanted to develop hydro in Thomas Bay, that seemed so wrong to me. Yes, FERC does want to deal with local government with its projects and as it stands now there is no local government in Thomas Bay. With borough formation the Petersburg Borough will be the local government for Thomas Bay.

Secondly, borough formation really does mean more money for our town but most importantly for our schools. We have one of the best school systems in the state and we want to keep it that way.

As we heard on the KFSK call in show last Monday, the caller had over 40 acres on Knig Slough in the Wrangell Borough taxed at 4 mills. That costs him about $180 per year. Our borough is proposing 4 mills for the newly acquired land. All those running for borough assembly are committed to 4 mills. No one is going to lose their land or have to sell it to pay taxes.

The unorganized borough is fast disappearing. Prince of Wales Island and many villages are exploring forming or joining a borough.

This is not more layers of government – it is the same level of government. It will be the Petersburg Borough with the City of Kupreanof within it. Two governments – just like now. Residents of the new areas can now participate in Petersburg government, serving on the assembly or boards or commissions they are passionate about.

I read in the news last week that Alaska is the #1 state in the nation for retirees. Think about all the benefits we receive – permanent fund dividend checks every year, no state income tax, seniors forgiven the first $150 thousand of their property tax value, sales taxes exempted in many places, Petersburg merchants even give extra discounts to seniors on groceries and other merchandise. And don’t forget Medicare and Social Security. Aren’t we lucky?

So I ask you all to vote and get those ballots back in the mail. I hope you support borough formation and take a positive step forward for the future of the area we all love.

Susan Flint

Anything of value has risks

To the Editor:

I was listening to the Sunday news programs and was reminded that the U.S. Presidents we admire most took strong moral stands to help us all have a brighter future. They championed the Louisiana Purchase, migration out West and the Alaska purchase, all of which made us a better and vastly larger country with unlimited potential. Forming a borough which will increase Petersburg’s area close to 100 times is reminiscent of the actions of these great men. They knew that these bold actions were necessary to guarantee a better future for generations to come, and they were right.

Our forefathers were not naive. They knew that anything of value has some risks, takes a lot of work but will eventually yield enormous returns; so will this newly proposed Petersburg Borough. I know that some people are afraid of change and don’t want to pay the financial or personal costs related to a larger Petersburg, but where would we be if our previous leaders hadn’t stepped up? Our country would be one third its size. France and Russia would be calling the shots on our western and northern borders.

The Petersburg Borough is a great opportunity for our area. Vote “yes” to growth and opportunity.

John R. Havrilek

It’s not all about financial gains

To the Editor:

This message is my opinion of the advantages of voting to incorporate the area around Petersburg into an organized borough. If passed, in the short term we would receive money from the State that would cover the transition costs. Our yearly funding for schools would increase, as would our State revenue sharing. This funding will be an ongoing income source to help fund schools and support our infrastructure.

Our neighbors, Wrangell, have seen a smooth transition to an organized borough with financial gains without growth in government. I would think we would experience the same situation.

It’s not all about financial gains. We would also gain a stronger voice in the development of the lands within the proposed borough. Who knows what this might be, but I could see hydro development along with mining, tourism, recreation, timber, and keeping our fisheries strong. I feel this is an important political strength for our future generations to have available to them.

It’s my opinion this could be the only chance we have to form a borough where we will have some control over this much area- lands and waters that we have used for years. Others are seeking to gain control over much of our proposed borough area; roughly half of our proposed lands and waters are being sought by the City and Borough of Juneau in their current annexation petition. This petition is being held until after our vote and will be addressed by the local boundary commission if our vote to form a borough fails.

The ballots are in the mail. Vote and send them back by the 18th of December, 2012. Absentee voting will also be available at the City offices starting December 3rd.

Again, these are my opinions. I support the formation of an organized Petersburg borough.

Mark Jensen

Saying so doesn’t make it so

To the Editor:

The Tonka Timber Sale Record of Decision, signed in March 2012, culminated a multi-million dollar, three-year planning effort on Lindenberg Peninsula, just a short skiff ride from Petersburg. The protected waters of Wrangell Narrows allow safe access for local subsistence deer hunters during our notorious fall weather. Regionwide, one of the greatest threats to deer hunters is from boating accidents.

And one of the greatest threats to deer populations is from loss of low-elevation winter habitat. Currently, deer populations are crashing on Lindenberg Peninsula, just as they did 40 years ago on Mitkof Island, which was closed to hunting for 17 years and even today still has the shortest deer season in Southeast. Recently, the Petersburg Fish and Game Advisory Committee voted to recommend a reduced deer season and bag limit on Lindenberg due to conservation concerns.

The Petersburg City Council, Kupreanof City Council, and residents of Lindenberg Peninsula outside of city limits have expressed their concerns for further impacts on winter deer habitat crucial to maintaining local availability of huntable populations of deer. 

Seemingly to address these concerns, the Petersburg Ranger District (PRD) initiated “collaborative stewardship” workshops which they claimed would enable the public to have a say in restoration of deer and fish habitat. But only three, of thirty-eight culverts currently blocking fish passage and degrading fish habitat in the project area, are being repaired. Standard precommercial thinning is being termed, “wildlife habitat restoration” but such thinning is well known to have only temporary effects for providing forage.

It was recently discovered that the PRD prepared an extensive “Change Analysis” of the Tonka Timber Sale, adding impacts that were not in the EIS, and incorporated those changes in the Tonka Stewardship Contract without the public’s knowledge or comment. So, while the PRD was conducting collaborative stewardship workshops, key decisions had already been made but were not revealed to public collaborators who believed that their voices would matter. 

These extensive changes to the Tonka Timber sale and stewardship contract decisions, outside of the public purview during collaborative Stewardship workshops, constitute a breach of good faith in the public process.

The 100 page, “Change Analysis” tripled the original size of the Tonka log sort yard, and added additional clear cutting on 113 more acres of crucial deer winter habitat. The USFS claims these extensive revisions were “minor deviations” to the Tonka Timber Sale.  

This discouraging evidence demonstrates clearly, the present era of “Collaboration and Stewardship” on the Petersburg Ranger District is not living up to agency promises. 

The old adage, “Saying so, doesn’t make it so.” is as true today as it ever was. 

Rebecca Knight

A helpful hint

To the Editor:

On the upcoming borough election ballot, do not add any words or make marks of any kind outside the places provided on the ballot. Even a write- in candidate for any office. To do so would possibly void and nullify your entire ballot. There are no write- in candidates running for any office.

You may leave the block blank for any candidate you don’t wish to endorse, however. That will not void your ballot, but will let the candidates know how well they’re liked.

A word to the wise is sufficient.

Jerry Laubhan

Unique and independent

To the Editor:

I hear and read that 90% of Alaskans are in organized boroughs. I hear Petersburgites say that we’re unique, independent, and not like the people in large Alaskan cities so I thought about it and did some research:

Alaska has 722,718 people. 90% of that is 650,446 with approximately 432,864 in cities larger than Petersburg; 291,826 in Anchorage alone. So, depending on the statistical formula used that leaves just 23.3 to 33.33% of the cities of Petersburg’s size (or smaller) in an organized borough.

So why would this unique and independent community of ours want to get in the big high maintenance yacht, like big Alaska cities and boroughs with different economic bases? Those big city/ boroughs have large tourism economies, government seats, military base presence, huge budgets to maintain, and costly environmental nightmares.

With an unstable economy stuck in a doldrum, I can’t support venturing into waters too big for any small boat to safely handle with weight that reduces freeboard to “calm seas only” putting our community in danger of sinking with all hands on board.

I’m voting no on the huge, unstable Petersburg organized borough, but I want the City Council to revisit annexing lands on the road system on Mitkof Island.

Dona Laubhan

Fellow neighbor on both sides of the Narrows

Democracy in action?

To the Editor:

I was not at all surprised at the way my friends against the borough were treated by the council, mayor and manager at the last meeting, but I am really disappointed.

Is this Petersburg democracy in action?

Sigrid Medalen

What legacy shall we leave?

To the Editor:

Short term planning seems all too prevalent in the city these days. The city has paid for professional opinions on borough formation and received some honest hard answers; answers they have refused to believe and now actively suppress (2003 & 2006 studies).

During the last election, we the residents of Petersburg told our representatives what we thought of their reckless spending with our votes, and they lambasted us and our choice to consider the long term, following fiscally sound policies. They acted like spanked children, perhaps rightly so?

Bob Prunella, retained by the city largely to deal with the issue of borough formation stated his opinion to the council, June 7th 2010 that if borough formation is about the money, stop now (he questioned their resolve). The city hasn’t and won’t listen to any long term thinking, even when they have used your money to pay for it. Transitional monies will, in my opinion more than cover the short-term costs associated with borough formation.

Long term however the story is much different. Shall we ignore it as the city has chosen to? We all know Petersburg has a spending problem, that’s news to no one. New bond issues every election show that well, as do the lineup of proposals planned for future bonding.

What we refuse to recognize is what the long term foreseeable costs associated with that will be. What percentage of outliers are 50 years of age or older? In town it’s 46% of the population. Petersburg and the outlying areas have an aging population, notwithstanding our big kindergarten who won’t quite age fast enough to bail us out. The median age has increased significantly every census for decades, in Petersburg and outlying areas.

Ask yourself what happens when that population moves on? Ask yourself if the government they leave behind will be sustainable for our children. Ask yourself what is Petersburg to become? And to those in that demographic ask yourself if the monument you wish to leave behind will be a foundation of stability or the equivalent of cement galoshes on your children’s feet?

Will all of this new infrastructure befit a smaller population? How will they pay then, what we cannot afford outright now, even with massive outside State and Federal support that will surely disappear when the population of the entire U.S. ages into convalescence? Isn’t the prudent course of action to plan now for the inevitable? Is it time to expand government or begin shrinking it? Shall we race the reckless spending of lower 48 municipalities that bankrupt them even now? Will our immunity to these globally hard financial times continue indefinitely? Shall we be a model of prudence or of lemmings? That choice is yours, the reality of its consequences is not.

Jeremy and Lana Parker

“Smart“ Start Interlock Device, not so “Smart” a machine

To the Editor:

I recently had the “smart” start interlock device installed in my vehicle. It has done nothing but give me problems. Starting with several early abort hums to violation and fails for no apparent reason. (I had not been drinking at any time that day or several days prior.) After I got the first violation I went immediately to the police department to do a breath test with them, my BAC came back .00000 (I was told by the officer that they have heard that these machines violate people some times for no reason.) After 4 violations the machine goes into a 48 hour lockout mode, in which you then have to have it unlocked and have to pay the lockout fee of $75.00. I paid over $500.00 to have it installed. This is my first DUI, and as such my punishment was to serve 3 of 33 days in jail, I am paying fines and fees, I lost my license for 90 days, I have to have this machine in my car for 6 months, and I have to do a 12 week alcohol class. I believe I have paid the price for my mistake of drinking and driving.

Now I and many others who have this machine that randomly malfunctions have to pay an added fee for violations caused by the machines errors, not our own. I have done some research and found that thousands of people from Alaska to the East coast have the same problems and have reported said problems. This “smart” start machine violates people for anything from pepperoni to energy drinks. If everyone who has this machine gets random violations (from machine errors or malfunctions) has to pay the lockout fee and the company is not addressing the issues after receiving reports from thousands of people, it seems to me the “Smart Start” company is out to make money on peoples’ unfortunate mistakes.

Do not get me wrong, if you drink and drive, yes you should have to have this machine, and if you get violated for having alcohol on your breath then you should have to pay the lockout fee. Those things I do agree on. But if you get violated or failed for no reason or because you had pizza for dinner we should not have to pay said lockout fee. There are thousands of people having to pay this lockout fee for some thing they did not do, and the company is not addressing the issues, so it seems to me that the company is not only out to make money but also failing to provide the public with an otherwise good service.

It seems to me this machine is not so “smart”.

Frances D. Yatchmenoff (Mott)


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