Marquardt out as ferry system executive director - Must Read Alaska
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Wednesday, October 23, 2019
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Marquardt out as ferry system executive director

Shirley Marquardt, appointed by Gov. Bill Walker as executive director of the Alaska Marine Highway System, has been sent home. Tuesday was her last day.

Marquardt was the director of Boards and Commissions for Walker when he moved her into the Department of Transportation to oversee the ferry system. The Walker Administration relocated her to Ketchikan in August in what some saw as an election year move to bolster Walker’s reelection odds in southern Southeast Alaska.

Although the position, which had been created for her, has been discontinued, John Falvey remains as the division director for Marine Highways.

Gov. Michael Dunleavy is going a different direction with ferries than past administrations. Due to severe revenue shortfalls, his plan to balance the state budget strips much of the funding for the system, which is heavily subsidized and poorly utilized. Dunleavy’s Administration would prefer to see the private sector pick up some of the current routes.

Dunleavy’s budget proposes a $95.6 million cut to the ferry system, which represents a 69 percent reduction and will result in the sale of a couple of the more costly vessels. The governor’s proposed funding for ferries is $42.4 million.

The Senate budget cuts ferry funding by $43.6 million, but the House only was able to find $10.9 million in cuts. Those two budgets will be reconciled into a final legislative budget in the next several days during conference committee, and then will be transmitted to the governor for his likely vetoes.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • good move by Dunleavy but it really needs to be shut down and let others do it for profit it has always been a boating state welfare set up for the unions

    • I would disagree with you… It has always been our highway to the mainland
      when we live in places with no highways or any other access besides air and water……, It is our Marine Highway and we appreciate and need it as much as you need the highway between other Alaskan cities.

    • So TRUE

  • I think there can be a happy medium. It certainly is the highway of SEAK, but there are plenty of entrepreneurs in SE to pick up the slack to shuttle passengers. Charter businesses already move HS students (sports, etc.) between communities for a fraction of the time, cost and trouble (the HS kid kind of trouble).
    .
    The Charter industry is taking a huge hit with the rivers getting slammed shut – the Taku, Stikine, et. al. and a war on sport fishing. They are having to reinvent themselves. It is a prime opportunity to branch into another area of service.

    • If you’re replying to Darlene Crawford, I believe she is a former mayor of Seldovia. That in itself raises questions, considering that last I visited, there was healthy competition in the private sector in Homer among providers of water transportation.

      • I wasn’t replying to anyone. There weren’t any comments other than Van Zandt’s first post when I tossed that out there to get spun through the system before it got posted. It was just a thought…..

    • The small commercial operator (six pack folks), which are the majority of charters, run into sea-state problems that impede reliable service and make commerce dependency difficult. Larger operators like Allen Marine can get around that to some degree — although winter months still frequently keep them in port — but they size their fleet to meet tourism demands. But before someone says it, there are always exceptions. Allen Marine, for example, has in the past contracted to cover shorter regional routes when an AMHS vessel is in for service.

  • Marine highway users offset 33% of costs through ticket prices. Surface highway users only offset 26% of costs through the fuel tax. So we actually PAY for more of our ferry, than anyone with a paved highway.
    Plus, it stimulates ALL economies. Cities included. For every dollar spent on AMHS, $2.30 goes BACK to the economy.
    Anchorage is the NUMBER ONE destination for people using AMHS accounting for 52% of visitors.
    Its not just us “off the grid folks” using it. Anchorage and Mat-Su residents accounted for 20,000 bookings and 15% of revenue from Alaskans.
    All from the mcdowell study on this. Be informed people. http://www.amhsreform.com/sites/amhsreform.com/files/House%20Informational_SEC_McDowell%20Group%20AMHS%20Impacts%202.5.19.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2w9g6dab2JPmT61CkYcAsAU85EKvWlYrEgVSgm3k52NewlaK0xXrJyLRA

  • Since we’re all paying our way now, I propose a toll booth on the inbound Glenn highway at mirror lake.

  • I live in SE AK. Had a Dunleavy sign on the front yard and voted for him. He didn’t do the unpardonable sin Frank Murkowski did and appoint his own seed to his seat. But I think Mike will similarly be a one term wonder.

    FOR ALL PRACtICAL MATTERS – THERE ARE NO REAL TAXPAYERS IN ALASKA OTHER THAN OIL COMPANIES. (If you’re thinking of replying that you pay gas tax or sales tax to a city/borough.. Puuleease save it, it’s a pathetic rebuttal and contributes nothing to state general fund).

    Our state is full of entitled citizens who pay nothing towards the common needs of the state and now that we’re down to fighting over scraps – human nature is coming out and we see greed and fear raising it’s head. The governor has failed to unite us across regions and failed to communicate a sound rationale for the priority of his budgetary decisions. It’s just this ‘F ‘em we don’t need ‘em’ maximum chaos approach. Frankly if everyone paid some level of tax, while still getting a PFD, then we’d all have a right to complain about how those resources are being spent. But presently it’s just the oil companies footing the bill. As long as that continues to be the case we will always be living hand to mouth and from feast to famine subject to the whims of the world and commodity prices.

    My hope is that one day Alaska will have a more healthy and diversified economy. Until that can happen, we need to be able to get along and not setup fights for neighbor against neighbor.

    Being a lifelong SE Alaskan I think Dunleavy does not have an appreciation of what the ferry system means to us. Try relying on it to get your groceries to your small community because it’s the only way it can get here. We don’t have the population base to support a large port to bring in cargo vessels. Shame on us for living in the small town we were born in and not wising up and moving to a big city.

    • Go ahead and tell us that you blundered with your vote, Kevin. Heheh!

    • Kevin, All corporations in Alaska pays a state corporate tax. Currently, Alaska has the 5th highest state corporate tax in the nation. Per the 2018 Alaska Department of Revenue Corporate Income Tax Report, the state brought in more non-oil and gas taxes than the state brought in for oil and gas.
      http://tax.alaska.gov/programs/programs/reports/Annual.aspx?60380&Year=2018
      .
      There’s also a lot of other taxes the state brings in, some of which are passed on to consumers, like the tire, alcohol, and telephone tax.
      http://tax.alaska.gov/programs/index.aspx
      .
      And for all practical matters, there’s an assortment of fees that us Alaskans pay to help support various departments: hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses; court fees; marriage license; there’s a whole bunch more. So, yes, all Alaskans are actually paying some kind of tax and fees, and it’s not just the oil and gas corporations that are supporting our government.

      • The Truth comes out Thank you!

    • Wrong and wrong again there are 20 TAX schemes in Alaska besides USER FEES Get it Strait 1/2 of our PFD’s is a TAX! Sell the ships to anyone under a RFP to provide a reliable service and max usage of the ports! Those ships are a 1 Billion dollar sale, time to recoup our investment! Time to do away with the Unionized State work force!

  • We lived in Bethel for 30+ years and always paid full price for a trip to Anchorage. It would have been nice to have our trips subsidized by the State. The ferry system should also be a pay-as-you-go system.

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