Contributing Writer

A lot of people want to know how my “retirement” from running the newspaper is going.

My stock answer is that I’m not really “retired.” That’s too strong a word for my current life state. I am as busy as ever with things that interest me, mostly promoting our books, getting our new writers and artists retreat completed, and raising the last child in the household.

I do find it refreshing not to have to run off to every meeting in town or stressing over a news deadline every two weeks, but I’m still paying attention to what’s going on, and the urge to write is still there.

I was born a note taker. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. I have files of random notes, boxes of clippings with notes on them, and now, long stretches of notes on my iPhone. The rest of my life will be spent trying to organize these notes into something others may want to read.

This monthly winter column will be a fine filter for some of those thoughts, especially as they relate to life in Skagway at present, with an occasional look to the past.

For this initial column, I’ll turn to current events and what’s on everyone’s mind right now: our most recent election and the rejection of the new tidelands lease.

I was not surprised at the outcome, but I thought the vote would be a lot closer. If it had been closer, I think it would have been easier for the assembly to take the voters’ message back to White Pass and say, “let’s rework this.” Now I’m not so sure.

The municipality wants to do a survey, which is great. It’s the community’s turn to take notes, something our leaders should have been doing all along. But if they just simply ask, “Why did you vote the way you did?” then they will not get the answer they really want, which is how to move forward.

I think it is pretty clear why the lease was rejected. Objections were raised at meetings, debates, in these pages, and in social media over several key points: the length of the new lease, the limit of White Pass’s clean-up cost, no municipal share of revenue from of a new floating cruise dock, the lack of a cost-benefit analysis, and the fact that the public did not have a clue about the details during the lengthy negotiation process.

Those sticking points in the lease can be renegotiated if the assembly wants to try again with White Pass. As to the final point, a more public process certainly would give the assembly and White Pass the ongoing barometer they would need to carry forward with a lease extension that would have a better chance of winning voter approval.

In that sense, the survey is a good start, but it needs to reach out for solutions. It’s the public’s responsibility to not only be open about what they liked or did not like about the rejected lease, but also to remain involved in the process toward refining a better lease, if that’s the direction they want to move toward.

However, if at any point it becomes clear that a new tidelands lease is not what this community wants, or is unreachable in future negotiations, then all parties will need to accept that conclusion and start planning the transition.

At this point in our history, Skagway is redefining its role as the Gateway to the Yukon. It’s no time to be shy about what you envision for our port city. Don’t hang up when that surveyor calls; keep that person on the line for as long as you need to explain your answers. Make sure they take lots of notes.