Opinion

Huntington will pay for port’s arrogance

Mary Ann Huntington is toast.

If she wasn’t toast in yesterday’s primary, since I’m writing this beforehand, she’ll be toast in November.

Yes, I know the last time I said that about anyone was when it came out about President Clinton, Monica and the cigar, but I misjudged people’s tolerance of indecent behavior when it’s exhibited by someone they like, even practically adore.

With Mary Ann, however, it’s a different ballgame.

The longtime (18 years) Port of Bremerton commissioner offended her constituents in their pocketbooks. That raises temperatures more quickly and predictably than a little sexual tomfoolery.

She wasn’t alone in upping the property tax by 45 cents per $1,000 assessed value without a vote of the people, but she’s the only one up for re-election this year.

Her cohorts, Bill Mahan and Cheryl Kincer, were in the audience at the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce breakfast forum Aug. 8, but they hunkered down in silence as she faced a ticked-off audience.

Not that she was all alone. Besides her son, there was her husband, Bill, one of the Karcher Creek Sewer District commissioners who took a two-week jaunt to Europe at public expense to investigate new techniques in sewer management.

He’s lucky he isn’t up for re-election this year.

Serving on these commissions is not without its rewards. Port commissioners set their own salaries. Finding out a Bremerton port commissioner’s salary and perks wasn’t easy.

I called the port office and the receptionist told me I’d have to make a written public records request to learn the salary and perks of the commissioners.

Ridiculous.

But she faxed me the form, which I filled out and faxed back. When I called back and asked how soon I could expect the information, she said within 48 hours.

It’s public information, I said, why can’t somebody just tell me?

“It has to be researched,” she said.

I demanded to speak with the port manager, Ken Attebery, who tried to calm me down by saying the receptionist was just doing her job the way the port wanted her to.

No wonder people hate the port, I said.

It turned out the commissioners upped their salaries from $2,400 if elected prior to 2005 to $6,000, that to go up annually by 2011 to $12,000.

Not bad.

The Legislature jacked up their per diem expense money from $70 to $90 for any day or part of a day’s service. They are reimbursed for mileage and other out-of-pocket expenses while on port business.

The port pays for 88 percent of the cost of medical coverage for commissioners and spouses, a $15,000 life insurance policy and long-term disability after 90 days, and there’s a $150-a-month health reimbursement for public employees.

It’s a nice little income for someone who can come on board with no experience whatsoever, just the willingness to attend the meetings and take the guff you get when you misjudge the willingness of your constituents to pick up the tab for whatever you have in mind — like a new marina in Bremerton.

I suspect that 18 years ago, freshman Commissioner Huntington would not have gone along with a property tax increase without a vote of the people instead of revenue bonds where users pay.

She even — ouch! — confirmed at the breakfast she would do it again if need be.

As I said, if she survived the primary in her portion of the Bremerton Port District, she can start cleaning out her desk anyway because the rest of the district, with constituents who live as far away as Seabeck, will dump her like yesterday’s newspaper in November.

Adele Ferguson can be reached at PO Box 69, Hansville, WA 98340.

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