A Perspective on Port Politics

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Sat, Apr 04, 2015, 1:15 pm  //  John Servais

A typical triumvirate. Thanks to the Miracle Players of Rome.

A bit of perspective on this action by the Port of Bellingham, the entity that has just sold the finest portion of our waterfront for pennies on the dollar to a foreign company of dubious reputation. 

Port commissioner Dan Robbins performed with distinction during a rowdy port meeting last Tuesday.  While commissioner Jim Jorgensen picked an argument with members of the audience, and commissioner Mike McAuley stooped to chastising citizens for thinking they had a right to speak out and complain, Robbins cooly did his best to run the two meetings in an orderly manner. (Yes, technically, it was one meeting.)  When a speaker talked past the three-minute bell, if they were making sense, Robbins allowed them to continue. 

So a tip of the hat to Robbins. Of course, as the commissioner who engineered this deal, he knew full well that he had Jorgensen’s vote in his pocket and no matter what people said the deal was going to be approved.  McAuley is unpredictable. 

That said, Mike McAuley was right in stating that the port does not need to listen to citizens nor hold hearings.  McAuley is an offensive and arrogant guy, but he is correct. Ports in Washington state have almost unlimited power. They were set up that way by an amendment to our state constitution in 1911 and the concept is supported by our state laws. The intention a hundred years ago was to create independent business-like government agencies - called ports - that would be almost beyond the reach of politics. Commissioners are elected for six year terms and only one government agency - the state auditor - has any oversight of them.

The Washington state attorney general cannot investigate nor counter any port commission.  Unlike cities and counties in Washington state, ports do not have to hold public hearings, do not need second readings on bills and do not need to notify the public of what they intend to do. 

For instance, the Port of Bellingham could issue a 24 hour notice of a port commission meeting. At that meeting, they could decide most anything they wanted to do - like spend $10 million to extend the airport runway. They could vote and gavel the meeting over in 5 minutes. Done and legal.

Why was it set up this way? Because a hundred years ago our state wanted port agencies to build infrastructure like docks, railroad sidings, dredged harbors and waterside facilities for fishing, shipping and commerce. They wanted ports to be beyond the reach of normal politics and citizens getting in the way of what port commissioners might want to do. Today, that power is actually hurting communities as ports spend on frivolous projects and make bone-headed capital decisions without the benefit of input by the community. 

About 25 years ago, then State Senator Harriet Spanel, working with port reformers across the state, got state laws changed to allow some modernizing of port laws. I was one of those who went to Olympia and testified for the changes. The new laws allowed local initiatives to reduce terms from six to four years, and to increase the size of a port commission from three to five members. These were meant to bring ports closer to citizens - closer to voters and the public they are supposed to serve. We in Whatcom County did succeed is changing the terms from six to four years. 

What we need to do next is increase to five port commissioners - and we need those two additional commissioner seats to be at-large so anyone from anywhere in the county can run in every port election. We need five heads looking at decisions. There is no corporate board today that has three board members because a triumvirate is always controlled by one.  How? The most aggressive member only has to influence the weakest of the other two and that is it. Once increased to five commissioners, the mix of personalities requires consensus of at least three with the other two only needing to pick off one to change the vote. This creates meaningful dialog.

To improve decision-making at the port, we have to do a better job electing good people - and we need to have more than three commissioners. Often, we think we are electing the good candidate but they turn out to be - shall we say - not up to the job. We need more commissioners on the commission so that one election "mistake" on our part will not screw things up - such as firing an outstanding executive director like Charlie Sheldon or selling off our birthright like the current commission just did.  With five commissioners, one bad commissioner will have far less ability to cause damage.

I’ve packed a lot of information about ports into this article. Some of you readers also have expertise on these issues and I hope you either comment in support of what I have posted, or correct, clarify or disagree with any statements of mine. The goal here is to inform our fellow citizens of the facts, of common sense perspectives and of what we all can do to improve our local politics.  Politics should not be a dirty word, as it is how we govern ourselves - or not.

George Dyson  //  Sat, Apr 04, 2015, 3:14 pm

The Russians have a name for this—Troika—perfected during the Soviet years.


Dick Conoboy  //  Sat, Apr 04, 2015, 6:27 pm

Yes, George, and reminiscent of the troika now put to use quite effectively in the Eurozone: the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission.  We all know how wonderfully that is working out, especially for Fuhrerin Merkel and her lapdog Hollande.


Penny Tillson  //  Tue, Apr 07, 2015, 10:59 am

  Apparently Port Commissioners provide entertainment in other cities as well as Bellingham. While researching the “answers to no one” aspect of Port commissioning, I found coverage of a Seattle meeting. A project there has citizens attending meetings and emoting enough to prompt a Commissioner to respond with a plea and a prop.

  “Co-president Stephanie Bowman is asking the crowd to ‘be respectful’ and she is asking anyone interested in singing (apparently she got advance word of this) to do it as a group. She has her rubber chicken again, which will be used as a signal if things need to get back into control. Really.”

Source: West Seattle Blog…
Copyright 2005-2015
March 10, 2015 meeting
 
Penny Tillson


A Perspective on Port Politics

Sat, Apr 04, 2015, 1:15 pm  //  John Servais

The port's latest bone-headed deal calls for the good citizens of Whatcom County to consider the options...unless we're enjoying our Groundhog Day.

3 comments; last on Apr 07, 2015

Port Gives Away Our Bellingham Waterfront

Wed, Apr 01, 2015, 12:20 am  //  John Servais

Port of Bellingham today sold out our public waterfront to a foreign shell company formed 6 days ago. Sold it cheap and with a screwy arrangement.

32 comments; last on Apr 05, 2015

Village Books

In historic Fairhaven. Take Exit 250 from I-5.

Robyn du Pre` Has Passed On

Thu, Mar 12, 2015, 1:06 pm  //  John Servais

Add your thoughts and remembrances. Robyn du Pre` was a stalwart and true environmental advocate for Bellingham and Whatcom County. She died this week.

9 comments; last on Mar 23, 2015

Riley Sweeney to Receive Paul deArmond Award

Fri, Jan 23, 2015, 12:13 am  //  John Servais

The second annual award for Citizen Journalism will be to The Political Junkie himself who runs the Sweeney Politics blog, Riley Sweeney.

2 comments; last on Jan 24, 2015

Coal Ship Collisions Study Is Released

Thu, Dec 18, 2014, 5:04 pm  //  John Servais

One part of the environmental study for the proposed Cherry Point mega coal terminal has been completed and released. It deals with ship collisions - they call it…

2 comments; last on Dec 22, 2014

Twas the Week Before Christmas…

Thu, Dec 18, 2014, 12:26 pm  //  John Servais

Bellingham Public Works shows how tone deaf they can be to business concerns. They insisted on street work that takes away up to 80 parking spaces in Fairhaven…

0 comments

Ship Breaks Loose at Port of Bellingham

Tue, Dec 09, 2014, 1:31 pm  //  John Servais

The Horizon Lines ship - the many year resident of the Port of Bellingham - broke loose this morning due to failure of some system. A few photos.

3 comments; last on Dec 10, 2014

Howard Harris Dies - More Testimonials Added

Wed, Nov 12, 2014, 1:51 pm  //  John Servais

Updated Nov 12. Howard Harris, the founder of the Bellingham silent peace vigil at the Federal Building in Bellingham, has died. He and Rosemary were leaders in our…

0 comments

A Veterans Day Note

Tue, Nov 11, 2014, 2:34 pm  //  John Servais

On this Veterans Day, a note about how vets need our government to step up - as has never been done. And a personal note on the power…

3 comments; last on Nov 13, 2014

Doug Ericksen’s Tax Lien

Tue, Nov 04, 2014, 12:28 pm  //  John Servais

While smearing Seth Fleetwood over a common tax arrangement, we discover Doug Ericksen also has a benign tax lien - one he denied.

6 comments; last on Nov 11, 2014

Election Recommendations

Thu, Oct 30, 2014, 2:18 am  //  John Servais

A link to Riley's Political Junkie for excellent recommendations - and a few thoughts of my own.

1 comments; last on Oct 30, 2014

Bham Planning Director - Rick Sepler Chosen

Wed, Oct 08, 2014, 6:24 pm  //  John Servais

Three final candidates for Bellingham Planning Director spoke today at a cozy 'meet and greet' of government employees and developers.

6 comments; last on Oct 11, 2014

Samish Way Experience - Drug Dealing Dangers?

Wed, Sep 17, 2014, 10:26 am  //  John Servais

We post a disturbing report of a personal encounter along Samish Way, with the permission of John Stark, who experienced it.

2 comments; last on Sep 17, 2014

The Rule of Law - Bellingham Style

Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 11:31 pm  //  John Servais

Bellingham City Council abruptly changes zoning codes to force Planning Department plan on Sunnyland residents.

7 comments; last on Aug 14, 2014

Final Updated Election Results

Fri, Aug 08, 2014, 10:10 am  //  John Servais

Updated Wed evening. The Tuesday evening 8:20 pm Auditor report on the election is in.

5 comments; last on Aug 08, 2014

City Council Approves Resident’s Sunnyland Plan

Tue, Jul 22, 2014, 7:22 pm  //  John Servais

Sunnlyland residents win one - after a seven year effort. Planning Department failed them and all of us.

2 comments; last on Jul 23, 2014

Herald and Weekly Withhold the News

Wed, Jun 11, 2014, 11:39 am  //  John Servais

Wyoming Senators and coal honchos were in Whatcom County June 10 - to hold a news conference with select reporters.

7 comments; last on Jun 20, 2014

Dawn Sturwold Retiring End of Month

Tue, Jun 10, 2014, 11:20 am  //  John Servais

Bellingham Hearing Examiner, Dawn Sturwold, retires in three weeks. Successor selection is hidden from all of us.

3 comments; last on Jun 11, 2014

Riley scoops Herald - again

Fri, May 09, 2014, 10:02 am  //  John Servais

The Political Junkie for Whatcom County - that would be Riley Sweeney - has Overstreet not running for reelection in the 42nd.

1 comments; last on May 13, 2014

SweenyPolitics:  Fleetwood files against Ericksen

Wed, Apr 30, 2014, 8:20 am  //  John Servais

Riley posted this morning that Seth Fleetwood has decided to challenge Doug Ericksen for state senate in the 42nd District.

1 comments; last on Apr 30, 2014

Fukushima Radiation Found In Canada

Fri, Mar 14, 2014, 10:47 am  //  John Servais

Fukushima radiation has been found 20 miles from Whatcom County farmland along the Fraser River in British Columbia.

1 comments; last on Mar 17, 2014

Whatcom Watch Editor Resigns

Sun, Mar 02, 2014, 3:22 pm  //  John Servais

The editor of the Whatcom Watch, Richard Jehn, has resigned effective today. Chalk up a victory for Craig Cole and Pacific International Terminals.

8 comments; last on Mar 05, 2014

Relevant Documents to Libel Threat

Tue, Feb 25, 2014, 9:29 pm  //  John Servais

The full text of Craig Cole's threatening letter of libel against the Whatcom Watch. And the emptiness of the threat.

16 comments; last on Mar 20, 2014

Craig Cole Threatens Libel Suit

Wed, Feb 19, 2014, 5:48 pm  //  John Servais

Craig Cole, the local contact for the proposed Cherry Point coal port has threatened the Whatcom Watch with a libel lawsuit.

6 comments; last on Mar 20, 2014

Reid Boiler Works Burns Down

Sun, Feb 09, 2014, 10:13 am  //  John Servais

The old empty Reid Boiler Works industrial building in Fairhaven burned to the ground Saturday night.

0 comments

Copyright Notice

Fri, Jan 31, 2014, 1:55 pm  //  John Servais

Read this short post for copyright information on this NorthwestCitizen website.

0 comments

The Marijuana Bowl

Sun, Jan 19, 2014, 9:39 pm  //  John Servais

Super Bowl ... Weed Bowl ... This bud's for you ... Bong Bowl ... Marijuana Bowl ... whatever. It is on!

1 comments; last on Jan 20, 2014

Gary Jensen Not Running for State Senate

Mon, Dec 16, 2013, 1:30 pm  //  John Servais

Ferndale Mayor Gary Jensen has decided not to file for the 42nd state Senate seat currently held by Doug Ericksen.

5 comments; last on Dec 24, 2013

Video Exposes City Council Dysfunction on Waterfront Plan

Thu, Dec 05, 2013, 12:58 pm  //  John Servais

The Political Junkie has posted a 3 minute video showing Bellingham City Council members explaining their idiocy for all of us to watch.

2 comments; last on Dec 06, 2013

Cascadia Weekly Blasts Waterfront Plan

Wed, Dec 04, 2013, 11:53 am  //  John Servais

Bellingham City Council and Port of Bellingham finalize the waterfront plan. In his weekly Gristle, Tim Johnson blasts the corrupt public process.

4 comments; last on Dec 05, 2013

Election Results - November 2013

Tue, Nov 05, 2013, 9:21 pm  //  John Servais

With lots of outside county money flowing in to our local races, this election is weird. But real - and we county residents have spoken.

11 comments; last on Nov 09, 2013

Boulevard Park Reopens

Sat, Oct 26, 2013, 8:36 pm  //  John Servais

Beach reconstruction is done at Boulevard Park on the Bellingham waterfront. Paths along shore are again open - and it looks good.

6 comments; last on Nov 01, 2013

Ken Bell and Renata for Port

Sun, Oct 20, 2013, 8:07 pm  //  John Servais

Ken Bell has my vote over Mike McAuley for port commissioner. And Renata Kowalczyk has it over Dan Robbins.

8 comments; last on Oct 30, 2013

Government is Good

Sat, Sep 28, 2013, 3:20 pm  //  John Servais

As the right wing radicals seek to shut down our national government this week, we need to push back with common sense.

8 comments; last on Oct 01, 2013

Syrian War Perspectives: Jon Stewart

Wed, Sep 04, 2013, 9:37 am  //  John Servais

An attempt at linking to one or more writers who can help us make sense of going to war with Syria. An alternative to Kerry-Obama.

0 comments

We Citizens Get a Say on War

Wed, Sep 04, 2013, 1:36 am  //  John Servais

Contacting Rick Larsen and Susan Delbene is actually a viable citizen exercise just now. Tell them to vote NO on bombing Syria.

1 comments; last on Sep 04, 2013

Riley Covers Anti Syria War Demo

Sat, Aug 31, 2013, 3:10 pm  //  John Servais

Saturday afternoon - and a rally is taking place in downtown Bellingham against bombing Syria. Riley Sweeny and his Political Junkie site cover it.

0 comments

To Obama:  No.  Do Not Bomb Syria

Fri, Aug 30, 2013, 12:08 pm  //  John Servais

Gee, can we make it any clearer? Publisher opinion. So sad that we have to write this to Obama - who got our vote in 2008 because he…

4 comments; last on Aug 31, 2013

Privacy Story of Feds Stripping All

Wed, Aug 14, 2013, 12:24 pm  //  John Servais

The Feds gag an Email service owner - so he cannot even tell us why he is gagged.

2 comments; last on Aug 15, 2013

So Long Lawrence O’Donnell

Thu, Aug 08, 2013, 1:05 am  //  John Servais

Liberal talking head Lawrence O'Donnell went into a bullying rant against a well qualified guest - and showed he's just like O'Reilly.

2 comments; last on Aug 08, 2013

Advertising Rates & Specs

Wed, Jul 31, 2013, 12:59 am  //  John Servais

Ad rates are in the norm of Internet rates and reach a well educated local audience.

0 comments

Celebrations More Racist than Verdict

Sun, Jul 14, 2013, 11:25 am  //  John Servais

The explosion of hate and racist rhetoric is the saddest aspect of the verdict. The evidence was complicated and the verdict difficult to make.

2 comments; last on Jul 16, 2013

Zero Public Process for New Jail

Fri, Jul 12, 2013, 9:29 am  //  John Servais

Riley Sweeney has a short but important expose over at the Political Junkie today.

1 comments; last on Jul 12, 2013

The Irony of City Council Attitudes

Wed, Jul 03, 2013, 12:06 pm  //  John Servais

Public process ignored. Citizen commenting castigated. Paranoid city legal department. Our city council merrily goes through another session.

6 comments; last on Aug 06, 2013

Greenways Levy Money Used for AstroTurf

Sun, Jun 30, 2013, 11:28 am  //  John Servais

Bellingham City Council ready to approve $500,000 of trails money for resurfacing plastic grass on Civic Field.

15 comments; last on Jul 02, 2013

NWCitizen Stands With Edward Snowden

Mon, Jun 10, 2013, 1:53 pm  //  John Servais

Edward Snowden is a very courageous patriot, in the opinion of the publisher of NWCitizen.

3 comments; last on Jun 14, 2013

Intersection Art Comes to Happy Valley

Sun, Jun 09, 2013, 10:37 pm  //  John Servais

Intersection art - the painting of a design on the actual streets - is being developed in the Happy Valley neighborhood.

1 comments; last on Jun 15, 2013

Riley On An Astounding Practice by the Herald

Sat, Jun 08, 2013, 4:21 pm  //  John Servais

Over at the Political Junkie, Riley Sweeney has a report on one criteria the Herald uses to reject letters to the editor.

1 comments; last on Jun 10, 2013

Bellingham Passes Fireworks Ban

Mon, Jun 03, 2013, 10:05 pm  //  John Servais

City Council passes long-debated ban 4 to 3. It is effective in 2014.

0 comments

Caught In The Whatcom Court System

Fri, May 31, 2013, 5:43 pm  //  John Servais

Luba Pekisheva has been given a confusing run around in our Whatcom County courts for over three years. Judges, prosecutors and clerks have all participated.

0 comments

Who is filing for elective offices???

Fri, May 17, 2013, 5:44 pm  //  John Servais

Tuesday morning and nothing in today's Bellingham Herald. Nor online. We provide the basics to fill in this latest omission by our "daily" newspaper.

9 comments; last on May 23, 2013

Coal Trains and Unhealthy Air - Any Connection?

Sun, May 05, 2013, 3:45 pm  //  John Servais

Help fund a scientific study looking for links between diesel locomotives, coal trains and unhealthy air.

0 comments

Krugman Spells It Out In Plain English

Sun, Apr 28, 2013, 10:30 pm  //  John Servais

New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman, has a masterful short article that explains why austerity is not working.

3 comments; last on May 23, 2013

Cascadia Weekly Tribute to Paul de Armond

Wed, Apr 24, 2013, 11:58 am  //  John Servais

The Gristle in today's Cascadia Weekly is devoted to a tribute to Paul de Armond. Tim Johnson gets it right.

0 comments

Paul de Armond has passed away

Sun, Apr 21, 2013, 1:59 pm  //  John Servais

Well known political writer has died.

5 comments; last on Apr 23, 2013

No City Housing Hearing on March 20

Tue, Mar 19, 2013, 10:05 am  //  John Servais

The Bellingham Herald article today is wrong. There is no hearing tomorrow, March 20

0 comments

Valuable Article in the Whatcom Watch

Sun, Mar 17, 2013, 9:42 pm  //  John Servais

Wendy Harris writes about the proposed $8 million concrete bridge along the Bellingham waterfront - using Greenways funds to build.

3 comments; last on Mar 20, 2013

Senator Ericksen Displays His Colors

Fri, Feb 22, 2013, 4:01 pm  //  John Servais

Riley Sweeney has posted a great video clip of Sen. Doug Ericksen flouting rules and legal procedures at a Senate hearing in Olympia.

0 comments

City Controls Chuckanut Park - Not New Park District

Fri, Feb 22, 2013, 3:47 pm  //  John Servais

The election created a new park district with taxing power - but with NO control over Chuckanut Ridge - the 100 acre woods.

1 comments; last on Feb 23, 2013

Thoughts on the Park District Vote

Wed, Feb 13, 2013, 4:42 pm  //  John Servais

The Park District vote is close and we will not know final results until late ballots are counted.

6 comments; last on Feb 19, 2013

 

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