Two Port of Ketchikan employees walk on the waterfront promenade as the Eurodam docks on May 3, the start of this year’s cruise season. The city is working on plans to reconfigure the downtown dock to accommodate larger ships, expected to start arriving in Alaska over the next couple of years. (KRBD file photo by Leila Kheiry)

Three unopposed candidates for Ketchikan City Council talked about issues facing the city during a candidate forum on KRBD last week.

Incumbents Dick Coose, Mark Flora and Dave Kiffer talked about the city ballot initiative that calls for banning Uber and other transportation network companies; and the need to expand Ketchikan’s port to handle larger ships.

Here’s a summary from the one-hour forum.

Dick Coose is a retired forester and served previously on the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly. Dave Kiffer also served previously on the assembly and as borough mayor. He works at the Ketchikan Correctional Center and owns a local business with his wife. Coose and Kiffer are completing three-year elected terms on the Ketchikan City Council.

Mark Flora owns All-American Auto. He is completing almost one year on the council. Flora was appointed last November after KJ Harris resigned.

All three candidates say they’re not sure why nobody challenged them in this election. Flora noted the competitive races for assembly and Ketchikan School Board.

“So, the easiest thing to tell ourselves is, yeah, we’re doing such an awesome job that why would anyone want a change? But, I don’t know why there was no opposition,” he said.

The city council voted earlier this fall to place a question in front of voters that would ban transportation network companies like Uber from operating within city limits. All three candidates say they plan to vote in favor of that ban.

They agree that their biggest concern is the lack of local regulatory authority. Kiffer said local cab companies have to follow rules set by local governments.

“Uber and Lyft and other groups like that do not,” Kiffer said. “So, therefore we have no local control over those groups. And that’s a problem. Particularly when it comes to making sure that we’re receiving the tax revenue that we’re supposed to receive from those groups.”

Coose agreed and said he’s unhappy that the state forced communities to accept Uber and Lyft without allowing for local regulations. The only action a community can take is an outright ban.

Flora has a conflict of interest because a family member owns one of the local cab companies. So, on the Council, he can’t vote on anything related to this issue. But, he said, as a voter, he’s in favor of the ban.

“I have nothing against Uber and Lyft in theory,” he said. “But, I don’t think the playing field is level, and when it comes to tax revenue, we have no way of knowing, effectively, who is going to be driving, who is going to be reporting.”

The City of Ketchikan is working on plans to expand the downtown cruise ship dock, to accommodate larger ships that are expected to start arriving as soon as next summer. Some have questioned whether the docks should expand, because perhaps Ketchikan has reached capacity for the number of visitors.

The three candidates agree that the port does need to accommodate larger ships, because the market is changing. Kiffer said if the port can’t take those big ships, we’ll see fewer and fewer visitors. But, the candidates also agree that Ketchikan may well be at or near capacity.

Coose, who works on the dock during the summer tourism season, said whether capacity has been reached depends on the day of the week.

“Yes, on certain days, we are probably at capacity. And when we throw one of these bigger ships on any one of those days like a Monday or a Thursday, it’s really going to get crunch time,” Coose said. “My understanding is that at least one of the cruise lines is talking about a bigger ship on a Wednesday, which we don’t have many people for.”

So, Coose said, the city should work with the cruise lines to manage the calendar and minimize the impact of larger cruise ships.

The candidates also talked about metering for water use, the city’s ongoing effort to sell Ketchikan Public Utilities Telecom, and their top priorities over the next three years. You can listen to the entire one-hour forum, posted below. The local election is Tuesday.