Mahan believes Port of Bremerton needs more commissioners

Bill Mahan isn’t sure the Port of Bremerton has enough commissioners.

“As you know, next year is an election year for the port,” Mahan, the current president of the port’s board of commissioners, announced at the port’s June 22 meeting, “so I’ve been watching and reviewing the process and believe that we could increase the number of port commissioners on the Bremerton port commission from three to five.”

The commissioners couldn’t make such a change themselves; it would have to be approved by the voters.

“We would have to pass the resolution by Aug. 10,” Mahan explained, “in order to have it on the election ballot this year. Then the next year voters would be able to vote for three commissioners instead of one.”

Mahan argued there were a number of reasons why it should be considered. One, adding two more commissioners would make the board’s actions more representative of the voters’ wishes.

“It also provides an opportunity for port commissioners, frankly, to not be worried so much about violating the Open Meeting Law when they run into another commissioner at a coffee shop or at a restaurant,” Mahan said.

By law, whenever two members of the board are together, it constitutes a quorum and must be announced as a public meeting.

Mahan said having five commissioners would also prevent a re-occurrence of 2006, when the commissioners voted to raise property taxes to upgrade the Bremerton Marina with only minimal public input.

“I believe had there been five commissioners involved in that discussion, there may have been a different outcome,” Mahan said, “and I believe the public would have been better served with a more complete discussion.”

He recommended the commissioners discuss the idea at their next study session.

“The second part of that,” Mahan said, “I know people will be concerned about the cost of it. There is an opportunity that we can address the issue of salaries at that time that will reduce the cost.

“I want to ensure that the public has full representation regarding important decisions,” he said, “and better representation in rural areas.”

At the conclusion of Mahan’s proposal, Commissioner Larry Stokes asked by what margin the board in 2006 voted to approve the measure to upgrade the Bremerton Marina.

“It was three to nothing,” Mahan answered.

“So a five-member commission wouldn’t have changed anything,” Stokes said. “I am not in favor of this -- period.

“You’re talking about spending more money for voters,” he said. “It will cost approximately $70,000 to put on this on the ballot, I do believe, and I think the excuse of saying that the IDD tax levy would have never happened if we had had five members is weak because it was a three-to-nothing vote.

“I am sitting on this commission because of that IDD levy, and I guarantee while I am on this commission that it ain’t going to happen again,” Stokes said. “I am not even interested in discussing it.

“Twenty years ago, (the marina in Bremerton) was discussed, it was decided that the marina wasn’t feasible and today it’s proven it is not feasible. It’s losing money, it’s not working and it’s not full,” Stokes said.

Likewise, Commissioner Roger Zabinski said the question of how many members would sit on the board “has never been an issue before. It surprised me and the staff that it was even brought up. I don’t feel it was the right time or the right venue to discuss something like that and I don’t think it is appropriate to drop it into a meeting as a surprise.

“It sounded like it was a plan to stack the deck because he referred to it at the same time as the fact it was an election year coming up,” Zabinski said. “It is not the right solution.

“We as commissioners need to stop going off on tangents and focus on building our infrastructure without causing any more debt,” he said. “We need to hold agenda planning meetings so that we can prioritize agenda items and start working on those items in a logical and critical fashion, not have the agenda given to us on the Friday night before our meeting.

“Yes, we have projects now that cost a lot of money,” Zabinski said. “And now we have to go about cleaning up the mess while paying close attention to the budget. Next year is going to be even tighter than this year. We can’t be spending without thinking about the budget.”

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