2012-06-23 / Letters

Why Should City Skim Profits From The Ferries?

To the Editor:

How very pleased I was to read that the City of Mackinac Island had chosen to discontinue the 7% franchise fee on ferry operators (June 9), a fee that last year netted city coffers the extraordinary sum of $902,000. And how equally displeased I was to read, in the span of the same sentence, that the City would, instead, charge the ferry companies $600,000 per year, to be divided equally, or solely, by however many boat lines should be operating in any given year.

Just out of curiosity, what gives the City of Mackinac Island the right to skim the profits of a private business, to reap those profits while maintaining none of the risk? Charging a modest fee for a business license is one thing, but this is, in essence, ownership. Since when did we begin “socializing” Mackinac Island businesses and vendors? For that matter, why stop there. How about some of the profits of Grand Hotel, or Mackinac Island State Park, each of whom enjoy a singular business presence (and the resulting fiscal rewards) on Mackinac Island?

It was good, though, to see that the City of Mackinac Island had decided to permit the ferry lines unfettered competitive practices, enabling them to set their own schedules and adjust passenger rates as desired, something taken for granted under most free-market business models off-island, but not seen here in, well, when was it....? For as long as I can remember, each of the ferry operators has charged the exact same fare for standard passengers, a scenario that would just as likely be frowned upon as collusive and monopolistic under those very same free market models. But here, it seems business as usual.

This “business as usual,” from the imbroglio over ferry service, to questionable Island development, to doubtful historic landmark status for downtown, all serve to create an unflattering impression of Mackinac Island in the public eye.

In times of relative economic hardship, when an average family is seriously considering whether they can afford Mackinac Island in the first place, it does no one any good to be seen as rapacious, greedy, and avaricious. For this most lovely and historic of places, even the charm can wear thin, particularly at such a high cost.

David Bartlett

Keweenaw Bay

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