The port’s problem isn’t public perception — it’s reality

New Port of Bremerton CEO Cary Bozeman last week vowed the agency would become the most transparent in the state under his guidance. And make no mistake, the port has a lot of ground to make up in that area.

But to focus on the transparency factor is to miss the point on several levels.

For starters, while the port commissioners haven’t always been a model of candor, the one incident more than any other that created the transparency gap in the first place was their decision in 2006 to increase property taxes in order to pay for improvements at the Bremerton Marina without a public vote and after only the least possible disclosure required by law.

But in that case, the voters weren’t simply angered by the abuse of process. It was the outcome of that process they objected to.

Simply put, no one would have cared whether or not the decision was made behind closed doors if the decision had been the correct one.

The fact that the commissioners felt the need to avoid public scrutiny in order to pass the tax hike should have told them maybe it wasn’t such a hot idea. But they did it anyway, and that constitutes a much more serious breach of the public’s trust.

With that in mind, we’d love to take Bozeman at his word when he says he intends to fix what’s ailing the port. But we’re not encouraged that the agency’s first official act after Bozeman’s hiring was to appoint a media spokesman whose job is to improve its flagging image.

Again, the port’s problem isn’t image. It’s substance.

The port wouldn’t need to worry about transparency or reinventing itself in the eyes of the voters if the commissioners were more interested in doing what the voters wanted than in persuading the voters to support what the commissioners want.

Until they address that fundamental contradiction, the problem won’t be solved — and no amount of spin from a highly paid consultant will change anyone’s mind.

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