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Port plots a course for change

The Jan. 8 meeting of the Port of Bremerton did more than introduce a new commissioner and mark the start of 2008 — it seemed to mark the start of a new focus and direction for the port itself.

“We cannot be blind to the results of the last election,” newly appointed Board President Cheryl Kincer said, referring to the sounding defeat of 18-year commissioner Mary Ann Huntington by returning Commissioner Larry Stokes, who earned twice as many votes as the incumbent.

“Our public and our taxpayers spoke volumes during the last election,” Kincer said after the meeting, explaining that while she welcomed Stokes to the board and was looking forward to working with him, she believed that taxpayers were not necessarily voting for him as much as they were “making a statement about their perception of the way the port was doing business.”

Many residents have expressed anger over the port establishing an Industrial Development District tax in 2006, which last year began collecting 45 cents more from homeowners per $1,000 of assessed property value, and over six years will raise about $4 million for the Bremerton Marina expansion.

“I believe the port has done a good job of communicating with and being mindful of our taxpayers, but as with anything and everything in life, there is always room for improvement,” she said, declaring that she hoped the port could strive for “absolute transparency” in the future.

In an effort to improve communications with the public, Kincer said she planned to begin holding office hours at the port on Fridays from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Since most commissioners work full-time jobs outside of their commission duties, she said their availability has not been abundant in the past.

“My intent is to be more accessible, and if Fridays don’t work, I will try another day or time,” she said, suggesting to her fellow commissioners that they “try and do the same.”

On Monday, Kincer said her first set of office hours last Friday went well.

“But I know Fridays are hectic days for the staff, so we’ll see how it goes,” she said.

Stokes agreed that the port needed to improve its relationship with its taxpayers, and suggested that holding at least one meeting a month in the evening would allow more members of the public to attend.

Commissioner Bill Mahan agreed that having meetings in the evening would be a good start, but he suggested that the port go even further.

“There is an urgency for the port to become more transparent, and I believe we should look at not just having the meetings out here (at the Bremerton National Airport offices), but in Bremerton, Port Orchard, Olalla, and Seabeck,” Mahan said. “We need to take a look at how we do business and how we can do it better.”

Another change for the port this year will be how its meetings are conducted. Shortly after being appointed president, Kincer introduced a more formal structure for meetings than was previously followed.

“I would like everyone to ask my permission before speaking, and to address all comments to me,” she said. “I would like you to refrain from cross-talking.”

Kincer said there were several reasons why having such decorum would improve the process of meetings, not the least of which being the fact that her two fellow commissioners had “differing opinions on port projects and the day-to-day running of the port.”

Kincer said she was basically using “Robert’s Rules of Order,” and she thought the meetings would run more smoothly if they were in place.

“I think it’s a good thing, and helps ensure that everyone is granted their turn or opportunity to speak,” she said. “Also, I think having all comments addressed to me (instead of perhaps the person you are frustrated with) tends to lower the emotions involved quite a few notches.”

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