By TOM WILLIAMS
Last May I was a signatory to a letter to Gov. Mike Dunleavy asking the governor to direct the Department of Transportation to sign a lease with Goldbelt Inc. and begin construction of a ferry terminal at Cascade Point.
The letter outlined a whole host of reasons for making the project happen without further delay, including a wide range of political and labor support for the project.
In its September report to the governor, the Alaska Marine Highway Working Group lead by Vice Admiral Tom Barrett also recommended the Cascade Point project as a way to improve service and reduce costs.
Although the governor and his chief of staff have publicly stated they support a Cascade Point ferry terminal, the project is languishing while the clock runs on the $42 million of state funds appropriated and available to pay for it.
If those funds are not obligated without any more delays, legislators across the state will target those funds for projects in their own districts. When that happens, the governor may be tempted to use the money as a bargaining chip, dooming the Cascade Point project.
In a public meeting last month Goldbelt CEO McHugh Pierre advised Chief of Staff Ben Stevens that he has provided the Department of Transportation a proposed land lease based on previously approved state leases.
Pierre has also stated that Goldbelt is ready, willing and able to work with the State to make a ferry terminal at Cascade Point a reality, a necessary step in improving the Alaska Marine Highway System.
Getting any bureaucracy, including DOTPF, to implement a Governor’s policy can be a challenge, especially if there are those in the bureaucracy that either do not support or outright opposed the policy.
However, I know from personal experience that if you are committed to getting something done, you can actually get the bureaucracy to do it and do it timely. But it takes leadership, commitment, determination, clear communication and constant follow-up.
Juneau Access supporters listened to former Gov. Bill Walker promise that he supported the Juneau Access road, and then string them along until he finally announced that he didn’t support the project after all. We all know what it is like to be told by politicians what we want to hear, but not get any actual results.
With regard to a Cascade Point ferry terminal there are several questions that need to be asked. Does the governor or his staff not know how to get this done? Is the governor and his staff letting DOTPF subvert his policy, by outright opposing it or intentionally slowing the process? Are there exempt and partially exempt DOTPF staff that need to be replaced? Or does the governor not really support this project?
Carly Fiorina once made an observation in response to a statement made by Hillary Clinton. Carly correctly noted that, “Travel is an activity, not an accomplishment.” There is a corollary to that statement. “It is not what you do all day, it is what you get done that counts.”
The bottom line is this: When can we expect a land lease with Goldbelt to be signed and construction of a Cascade Point ferry terminal to be put out for bid?
The answer to that question will indicate whether Gov. Dunleavy is a leader, good for his word, or just another politician, no different than his predecessor Bill Walker.
Tom Williams is a 43-year resident of Juneau with both private sector and public sector experience, including 18 years of Alaska executive and legislative branch service.