June 8, 2018 Dena Jensen
Dear Port of Bellingham Commissioners:
I have been able to listen to almost all of the June 5, 2018 Port Commission meeting.
I want to thank Port Commissioners for deferring until early fall of 2018, any vote on authorizing the Executive Director to enter into agreements with event organizers to close Port parks and hold private events for up to three uses per year.
I appreciate Port Commissioners Briscoe and Shepard for taking the time to become informed enough before the meeting that they were able to ask pertinent questions about the proposed September 1, 2018 event that has been approved for partial closure of Zuanich Point Park. This same event was one which Port Executive Director Fix was suggesting might need an approval for full closure at some later date. It was good to get information about the status of the event directly from Tiffany DeSimone of Port Meetings and Events, as the Executive Director did not seem to remember accurately about what had actually been approved for that event, or if Park & Facility Rentals applications – which provide vital information about the type of the event, whether alcohol would be served, whether it was open to the public, name, address, phone of the applicant, etc. – were actually required to be turned in by event applicants before their rental would be considered secured.
I want to make note of the fact that immediately after the Action Item #2 on the June 5 agenda was read at that meeting, Executive Director Fix asserted that, while this had not been on the agenda at the most recent May Commission meeting, it had been on the agenda for the May 1 meeting. The action item to authorize the Executive director to enter into agreements with event organizers to close Port parks and hold private events for up to three uses per year was not on the May 1 agenda at all. There was only one thing on the May 1 agenda remotely indicating to the public that any discussion was to take place having to do with the very broad subject of events at the Port. This was it: “Meetings and Events Update.”
Executive Director Fix acting in front of Commissioners and the watching public as if, all of a sudden, putting this Action Item that had not been discussed in previous Port Commission meetings on the agenda for the June 5 meeting was a “make up call,” was an outrageous assertion on his part and really is an acceptable [sic] [the intended word was “unacceptable”] way to conduct himself in his position. I hope his contributions to commission meetings become more forthright in the future.
It was also frustrating to hear Port Commissioner Bell conflating the issue of holding private events at Port parks with holding private events at Port parks that actually shut down the park from use by members of the public.This seems a distasteful tactic to make people feel that shutting down Port parks to the public is the only way private events can be held at those parks, which is clearly not the case.
I did not hear anyone demonizing the private sector, as Port Commissioner Bell implied that someone had, when he spoke at that June 5 meeting. I know that I did not demonize them in any communications I sent to you Port Commissioners. I had actually suggested more frequent smaller events could be held that would not preclude all access by members of the community who could not or did not pay for the event, and that would likely be less disruptive to Port adjacent businesses, vessels, residents, etc., while still benefitting nearby businesses and bringing fresh people down to the Port.
Port Commissioner Briscoe who voted against approving the August 17 event closing down Zuanich Point Park to the public, made a point of noting a couple different times at the May 15 meeting that he was not opposed to holding ticketed events at the park or having events run there in order to make money. His concerns were over shutting the park down to public access and when he actually voted no on the August 17 event, he did so because he felt public process was not being followed at that meeting. Port Commissioner Shepard, on the other hand, was supportive of shutting down the public park on August 17 to hold the private event there.
I was encouraged that Commissioners voted to unanimously approve Resolution No. 1375, pursuant to RCW 43.19.648 and WAC 194-29, determining the practicality of using 100% biofuels and electricity for operating the Port’s vessels, vehicles, and construction equipment. I call on Commissioners to make sure all departments involved are following through in staying compliant with legislative regulations regarding transitioning all vessels, vehicles, and construction equipment to using electricity or biofuels. I also call for requiring regular evaluations of traveling distances and occurrences that can result in reducing fuel usage and wear on vessels, vehicles, and equipment if that is not already being done.
I also encourage Port Commissioners to make sure that they are prioritizing making upcoming decisions regarding clean-up and land use for the ASB pond that will effectively eliminate any negative impacts, long term, from mercury or other dangerous chemicals still residing in that area. I call on all Commissioners to meet with organizations like RE Sources for Sustainable communities in order to adequately assess pertinent ways to most effectively address the toxic substances in that area so that any future Port projects will be done on a clean foundation that will not require their being torn apart when toxins somehow reappear and potentially cause some catastrophe as well.
I look forward to continuing to becoming more educated on decisions coming before the Port.