Proposal Surfaces for Bigger Commission

By Rachel Pritchett
A proposal by Port of Bremerton Commissioner Bill Mahan to expand the number of port commissioners from three to five didn’t get far from the dock before Larry Stokes set out to sink it.
“I’m not in favor of this, period,” Commissioner Stokes said. “You’re talking about spending more money for voters.”
He estimated it would cost $70,000 to put the issue to voters, as well as the cost of supporting two more commissioners, paid $900 a month now, plus expenses.
But Mahan said increasing the number of commissioners would make it much more likely that big issues such as the building of the Bremerton Marina would get more fully discussed, with perhaps different decisions reached.
“I believe that had there been five commissioners involved in that discussion, there may have been a different outcome,” Mahan said last week.
He also said a five-member board would offer better representation to residents of outlying areas like Seabeck and Olalla. Now, he said, due to sheer numbers, residents in Bremerton and Port Orchard weigh heavier in election outcomes.
“I think that would be healthy,” Mahan said of more equal representation.
Having five members would make it easier for commissioners to comply with state open-meetings laws, Mahan said. Now, when two commissioners by chance run into each other at a coffee shop and discuss business, it’s conceivably an illegal meeting. With just three, even preliminary business has to be done during precious meeting time.
None of that sat well with Stokes, and the discussion of expanding the commission quickly morphed into an argument over the merits of the Bremerton Marina, which remains two-thirds empty.
“It’s losing money. It’s not working. It’s not full. It’s got too much tide and so on and so forth,” Stokes said.
Mahan countered that the marina would be an investment that in time would pay off.
Mahan said other ports in Washington are considering enlarging their commissions, too, for the same reasons.
But a check with the Washington Public Ports Association revealed that the vast majority of Washington’s 75 ports still have three commissioners. Only Seattle, Tacoma, Anacortes, Edmonds and Orcas Island have five. The Port of Everett, however, is considering going to five, and will put the issue to voters in November.
That’s what Mahan wants to do, but there will have to be quick action. He is suggesting that commissioners take up the matter in a study session
July 13, and then at an
Aug. 10 meeting, public
comment could be received and a resolution could possibly be passed. Aug. 10 is the Kitsap County auditor’s deadline to place issues on the Nov. 2 general-election ballot.
Whether Mahan has a second deciding vote on his side remains to be seen.
He asked the third port commissioner, Roger Zabinski, if he had any opinion on it.
“No, no, no … ah, no, nope,” Zabinski said quietly.
He could not be reached Monday.
If the resolution were passed, redrawing of the commissioner district boundaries could occur. It also might be possible that the two new commissioners could serve at large.
If voters approved a call to expand the commission in November, there would be three seats on the 2011 ballot: the two new seats and Mahan’s. He said Monday he has not yet decided whether he will run for re-election.
As for any added expense, Mahan said that is the cost of having adequate representation.
“I’ve never felt that good government is cheap,” he said.

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