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

Paper Dreams in Fairhaven

Next door to Village Books

The Hidden Election

Mon, Feb 02, 2015, 9:34 am  //  Guest writer

No ballot mailed to you. You must request a ballot for voting in the Whatcom Conservation District election. Deadline to apply is Feb 9. By Barbara Perry

0 comments

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

You can’t fight city hall: city hall doesn’t fight fair

Fri, Aug 22, 2014, 2:06 pm  //  Guest writer

Patrick McKee of the Sunnyland Neighborhood guest-writes about the August 11 City Council slap-dash zoning changes.

2 comments; last on Aug 23, 2014

Devil In the Details

Sat, Aug 16, 2014, 3:48 pm  //  Guest writer

Judith Green of the Sunnyland Neighborhood guest writes this brief summary of what went wrong with the planning last week.

1 comments; last on Aug 22, 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

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

The Whatcom Republicans’ Huge PCO Advantage

Tue, May 06, 2014, 5:52 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

The value of a Precinct Committee Officer . . .

1 comments; last on May 07, 2014

Charter Review and District Only Voting

Thu, Apr 17, 2014, 10:40 am  //  Riley Sweeney

A simple explanation of the Charter Review and analysis of District only voting

0 comments

County Considers Purchasing Toxic Property

Wed, Mar 19, 2014, 10:32 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley digs into the county's plan to buy the county morgue

3 comments; last on Mar 24, 2014

Rep. Vincent Buys Appears to Break State Fundraising Laws

Tue, Mar 11, 2014, 11:24 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley catches State Rep. Vincent Buys for soliciting funds during session

0 comments

County Hires GPT Permit Lead as Senior Planner

Mon, Mar 10, 2014, 10:51 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley digs into an unusual hiring decision at the County Planning Dept

1 comments; last on Mar 10, 2014

Have You Exceeded Your Right To Information?

Sat, Feb 01, 2014, 1:35 am  //  Wendy Harris

Filing a public record request could land a citizen in jail under a proposal reflected in a Herald opinion article.

2 comments; last on Feb 03, 2014

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

Treaty Rights and Public Rights Ignored In Overwater Walkway

Tue, Oct 08, 2013, 3:22 pm  //  Wendy Harris

The city staff considers the overwater walkway a done deal before official approval or resolution of treaty right conflicts

4 comments; last on Oct 16, 2013

How the Coal Industry Funneled $40,000 into Whatcom

Wed, Oct 02, 2013, 6:40 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley uncovers how the Coal Industry is funding conservative candidates in Whatcom County

11 comments; last on Oct 03, 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

Over $330,000 raised and spent on elections in Whatcom County

Thu, Sep 19, 2013, 7:08 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley examines who is donating to which candidates

0 comments

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

Water Agreement Fails Scrutiny

Wed, Aug 14, 2013, 12:31 am  //  Wendy Harris

The City of Bellingham memorandum of agreement with Lynden does not make sense. What is going on?

4 comments; last on Sep 11, 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

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

Sen. Doug Ericksen Co-opts rather than Cooperate

Fri, Jun 28, 2013, 7:29 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley Sweeney examines Sen. Ericksen's legislative methods

0 comments

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

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.

1 comments; last on May 10, 2015

Freedom Academy Comes to Whatcom County

Mon, Apr 22, 2013, 6:52 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley attends Tea Party training and runs afoul of Rep. Overstreet

1 comments; last on Apr 22, 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

Waterfront EIS Revised Without Public Process

Tue, Feb 19, 2013, 10:40 pm  //  Wendy Harris

An "Updated Preferred Alternative" reduces the number of waterfront jobs and expands the boundary of the waterfront district.

0 comments

The County Planning Commission is Broke

Wed, Jan 30, 2013, 1:09 am  //  Wendy Harris

The planning commission no longer serves its purpose due to Council's poor appointment choices

2 comments; last on Feb 10, 2013

Doug Ericksen’s Opening Moves

Tue, Jan 15, 2013, 5:53 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley looks into Ericksen's legislative efforts this session

1 comments; last on Jan 22, 2013

The Public Locked out of Jail Selection Process

Sat, Nov 10, 2012, 10:53 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley examines why the new jail site was selected without public input

1 comments; last on Nov 12, 2012

Stealth Politics Returns

Sun, Nov 04, 2012, 10:21 am  //  Paul deArmond

The Whatcom county Voters’ Pamphlet containing misleading and untrue statements by unregistered, unaccountable and anonymous front groups.

3 comments; last on Nov 06, 2012

Rep. Jason Overstreet’s Record

Tue, Oct 02, 2012, 9:35 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley pores through Rep. Jason Overstreet's legislative record

7 comments; last on Dec 02, 2012

Rep. Vincent Buys’ Record

Tue, Oct 02, 2012, 9:22 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley examines Rep. Vincent Buys' legislative record

1 comments; last on Dec 02, 2012

The REAL Problem With Costco

Fri, Aug 17, 2012, 12:50 am  //  Wendy Harris

The Mayor's Negotiations With Costco Undercuts City Permit Procedures And Public Process

4 comments; last on Aug 17, 2012

Coal Free Bellingham: Point Proven?

Thu, Aug 09, 2012, 9:30 pm  //  Larry Horowitz

Questions raised by the Superior Court's barring of the Bellingham Community Bill of Rights initiative from being placed on the ballot.

21 comments; last on Aug 17, 2012

We have met the enemy and [s]he is…

Thu, Jul 26, 2012, 8:18 am  //  Larry Horowitz

... the person who recently had this to say about the Sunnyland Neighborhood rezone application

9 comments; last on Aug 01, 2012

Last chance, file for PCO

Fri, May 18, 2012, 11:27 am  //  Riley Sweeney

A short plea for public involvement from Riley

0 comments

Video of port commissioners is posted

Wed, Apr 18, 2012, 12:28 pm  //  John Servais

A 26 minute video of the port commissioners explaining their positions on the firing of executive director Charlie Sheldon is posted.

7 comments; last on Apr 19, 2012

Congressional Candidates and Overstreet’s Town Hall

Sun, Feb 19, 2012, 6:37 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley at The Political Junkie attends a forum of Congressional Candidates, and a town hall meeting in Lynden

0 comments

UPDATE: City of Bham Moonlighting Issue - More Documents

Tue, Jan 31, 2012, 12:58 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley updates us on the latest facts coming to light about City of Bellingham employee moonlighting

2 comments; last on Feb 01, 2012

Sam Crawford Faces Ethical Concerns . . . AGAIN

Thu, Dec 15, 2011, 2:44 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Local blogger Shane Roth files ethical complaint over Crawford's sweetheart deals

3 comments; last on Dec 16, 2011

UPDATE: City’s response focused on favoritism, not lost revenue

Wed, Nov 30, 2011, 7:51 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

More on the city employee moonlighting issue

0 comments

TPJ Exclusive: Little Documented Oversight for City Employee Moonlighting

Mon, Nov 28, 2011, 6:29 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

The Political Junkie breaks a story of employee moonlighting within city of Bellingham

7 comments; last on Nov 30, 2011

CameraGate:  Red-light safety or city revenue?

Mon, Nov 21, 2011, 2:00 am  //  Guest writer

With budget woes, Bellingham passes on safety in favor of cash. Starting in 2008, Bellingham officials were coached by ATS on how to get Red Light cameras through…

26 comments; last on Nov 30, 2011

Padden Trails Rezone – You Should Be Worried

Tue, Nov 15, 2011, 11:43 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The Padden Trails rezone effort is a misuse of the Infill Tool Kit on the outskirts of Bellingham.

8 comments; last on Nov 16, 2011

From The Political Junkie: Crawford’s Secret Emails

Tue, Apr 26, 2011, 4:39 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley Sweeney does a public records request on Sam Crawford

5 comments; last on May 05, 2011

From a Political Junkie: Doug Ericksen Threatens to Arrest the Press

Mon, Mar 14, 2011, 2:34 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

At the mid-session townhall meeting, Doug Ericksen would rather threaten the press than have his words recorded

17 comments; last on Mar 29, 2011

The New Jail: Pete? Let’s have a talk

Fri, Feb 04, 2011, 5:29 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley Sweeney talks about the Jail Meeting

5 comments; last on Feb 09, 2011

Learn the Facts from Foreign Media

Wed, Dec 08, 2010, 3:21 am  //  John Servais

WikiLeaks' Julian Assange faces rape charges. The facts are revealed only by foreign news media.

14 comments; last on Dec 15, 2010

Wikileaks is serving Democracy

Wed, Dec 01, 2010, 9:59 pm  //  John Servais

Updated Dec 3. I support WikiLeaks and their release of government documents so citizens can vote intelligently.

12 comments; last on Dec 07, 2010

Council passes Red Light Cameras 6 - 1

Tue, Nov 23, 2010, 10:06 am  //  John Servais

Seth Fleetwood was one vote against, saying this is an Orwellian notion.

4 comments; last on Nov 25, 2010

Red Light Cameras = Revenue

Fri, Nov 19, 2010, 12:32 pm  //  John Servais

Revenue, not safety, is the reason for red light cameras.

6 comments; last on Nov 26, 2010

Open letter to Bellingham Planning Director Jeff Thomas re: Fairhaven Highlands application deadline

Sun, Oct 31, 2010, 7:20 pm  //  Larry Horowitz

Updated Sun, Oct 31. An open letter to Bellingham Planning Director Jeff Thomas re: Fairhaven Highlands application deadline

12 comments; last on Oct 28, 2010

Lummi Ferry Petition is Linked

Wed, Sep 01, 2010, 3:40 pm  //  John Servais

A petition to the federal government online at skookum.us. It asks they step in to resolve the impasse between the Lummi and Whatcom County.

2 comments; last on Sep 06, 2010

Cooperation no substitute for small libraries

Sat, Aug 07, 2010, 10:18 am  //  John Servais

A library card from any Whatcom County library can now be used at any library in the county

5 comments; last on Aug 15, 2010

City bumbles on Chuckanut Ridge extension

Wed, Aug 04, 2010, 10:12 am  //  John Servais

Bellingham Planning Department is giving quiet extensions to the Chuckanut Ridge developer - propping up the property value.

1 comments; last on Aug 04, 2010

From a Political Junkie: R-71: Citizen votes or citizen legislation?

Mon, May 03, 2010, 6:36 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Is the referendum/initiative process about being a citizen legislator, or more like voting to put something on the ballot?

0 comments

 

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