EDITOR'S COLUMN:Ferry officials meet Donald Trump

Donald Trump: Welcome to the board room for this special edition of “The Apprentice.” Our team today includes representatives from the Washington State Ferry System. Team, how’s it going?

Mike Thorne (ferry team leader): Well, Mr. Trump, I’m afraid our efforts haven’t fully realized their potential.

Trump: How about some background.

Mike: Our ferry funding was hammered by statewide initiatives sponsored by Tim Eyman. So we decided we had to increase revenue in order to maintain service.

Trump: I’ve ridden your ferries, in Elliot Bay. Beautiful. Lots of sales possibilities. How’d you decide to increase revenue?

Mike: We decided on rate increases, double digit. Surprisingly, the first year’s hike didn’t produce the amount we expected.

Trump: Let me guess: Rates went up, so customers decreased. I believe they teach this in every community college business class.

Mike. Right. So to make up the difference, we decided on another double-digit rate increase the next year.

Trump: After the first one didn’t work? Who’s signing your paycheck, the Tooth Fairy?

Mike: No, the governor.

Trump: Same thing. So, I expect the second rate increase didn’t work either.

Mike: It failed to maximize revenues to the extent projected, yes. But we had other ideas.

Trump: Such as?

Mike: We decided to increase revenue from food services aboard the ferries. Our food contractor was selling chowder, coffee, breakfast biscuits and beer by the boatload. People loved it. We wanted a bigger piece of the action.

Trump: How’d the contractor react when you demanded a bigger cut?

Mike: Not well. They quit. But we figured no problem. Bids were coming due for the next contract so we’d just give the job to someone else.

Trump: I’m surprised there was much interest after the first contractor walked out.

Mike: There wasn’t, as it turned out. Nobody bid, so we ended food service on all state ferries.

Trump: Gentlemen, I’m shocked. You’ve got a couple of dozen boats floating around Puget Sound with empty galleys, zero revenue, and a million alienated customers? This isn’t looking good.

Mike: Don’t worry. We rebid the job and hope to have at least limited food service restored to some of the runs in the not-too-distant future, for at least part of the year.

Trump: Any other bright ideas you guys came up with?

Mike: Yes, we decided to standardize the fleet, which meant replacing two older ferries at Keystone with one brand new one, and building a new harbor to handle it.

Trump: How did this pencil out?

Mike: About $70 million for the new ferry and $60 million for harbor improvements.

Trump: Big investment. What about the return?

Mike: Well, we’d run only one boat instead of two six months a year, so …

Trump: Let me guess, it’d pay off in about a billion years. I’m afraid this show’s about over. Any final comments, Mike?

Mike: Yes, Mr. Trump. While we haven’t met any of our goals, and inadvertently kept food from our customers for months, we’re hopeful that in the long run. . .

Trump: Mike, you’re fired! And I must say, I’ve never said those words with such immense satisfaction.

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