Bozeman: Port must work hard to earn public’s goodwill

During a study session Tuesday morning, Port of Bremerton Chief Executive Officer Cary Bozeman said the port needs to increase its efforts to heal the resentment caused by the Industrial Development District levy it passed in 2006.

“I am just amazed at the push back from the IDD levy, and wonder why it is so severe and still around,” Bozeman told the port’s board of commissioners, explaining that a “quasi-govermental” agency whose budget relies on $7 million of the public’s tax dollars should have the support “of the people who pay the bills. So how do we show them this is a wonderful entity?”

Bozeman attributed much of the public’s lingering anger to the fact that the port hadn’t built up any “political goodwill” in the past, for if it had, he said, the public would have forgiven the port sooner and easier.

“The key is to have people think so well of you, they’ll give you money,” he said, adding that he did not think the port was “ever going to move forward until we’ve reversed that sense about the port.”

The crucial step, Bozeman said, was creating a “strategic communication plan” and hiring a marketing/communications person to help implement it.

“If you leave it up to the wonderful press to get out (your message), it is not always positive,” he said. “We need to kick off the new year with the new person and the new plan. This is something we are going to have to work on every day.”

Commissioner Larry Stokes said the key to earning public goodwill was as simple as “not shooting yourself in the foot. You’re taking one step forward, three steps back.”

Commissioner Bill Mahan said to a certain extent, he agreed with Stokes.

“We’re all kind of neophytes when it comes to recouping the public’s trust,” Mahan said, explaining that he felt it was very difficult to explain to South Kitsap residents how projects that improve Bremerton would benefit them, as well.

“But a local example is Amy’s (On The Bay) restaurant, which would not be there without our marina,” Mahan said. “Amy herself says that her busiest season is during the boating season, and her business goes down when the season is over.”

Mahan said it was also important to keep pointing out that the port’s final budget for 2010, which the port passed Tuesday, depended on property taxes for only 33 percent of its revenues.

“That is phenomenal,” he said. “That is a historic low.”

• Also at the meeting, the port voted unanimously to pass the final version of the 2010 budget, which assumes the port will collect and spend $16.58 million, $2.9 million of which comes from the General Tax Levy, and $4.5 of which comes from the IDD Tax Levy. Facilities revenues account for $3.4 million, and grants for $5.2 million.

• Stokes said he visited the work site on the Washington Avenue parcel near the Bremerton Marina, and saw there was “an awful lot of work being done as far as adding plants” and other landscaping to the parking lot.

“What kind of a budget was set aside for that?” Stokes asked.

Bozeman said he did not believe there was a budget set, but Marine Facilities Director Steve Slaton said the cost of the work was “not to exceed $20,000,” and it is being done to “make the (lot) more presentable, and to add safety fences and remove brush.”

• Slaton said he was also launching a campaign to market the Bremerton Marina. “We are working hard to promote the marina in a very tough environment,” he said, explaining that he placed ads on television and radio in the region, and in West Coast boating magazines.

However, he said he also believed that “word-of-mouth is the best way to (market) anything,” and that he was pleased to see the number of visiting boaters at both marinas was growing.

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