City, port change tack: Meetings will now be public

July 07, 2016 03:33 PM

A week after saying meetings between the Port of Tacoma and its city would be private, the doors have swung open.

Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland said the meetings indeed will be open to the public after hearing from Port Commission President Connie Bacon.

“Our commission was totally against having them in secret,” Bacon said Thursday.

Last week, Strickland proposed a “small working group” of elected port and city officials to talk about a range of topics, including how the city and port can work together to notify residents of large projects and land use issues.

The working group will have fewer than a quorum of each elected body, which would allow the meetings to be conducted in private. Strickland initially intended the meetings to be private. Port of Tacoma CEO John Wolfe also said the meetings would be private.

This move baffled some on the council and port commission.

We’ve been talking about being more open and transparent, and you can’t do that by having closed-door meetings. It’s sad. This is a no-brainer, folks.

Port of Tacoma Commissioner Don Meyer

“We’ve been talking about being more open and transparent, and you can’t do that by having closed-door meetings,” Port Commissioner Don Meyer said. “It’s sad. This is a no-brainer, folks.”

Prior to the meeting, port commissioners vowed to be more transparent with the public.

Without public participation, Meyer added, how is anyone to know what the port and city are talking about?

City Councilman Robert Thoms said he, too, pushed for an open door.

“I was always of the mindset that … the meetings needed to be open to engender the type of support we needed from the community,” Thoms said.

Members of the public in recent months have expressed frustration at being blindsided by a project that would have been the largest methanol plant on the Tacoma Tideflats. Project backers withdrew their proposal in April.

Strickland said she’s already hashed out initial agenda topics with Bacon. Other topics include the port’s strategic plan update and the city’s plan to craft a road map for future land use, called a subarea plan, for the Tideflats.

Strickland will be on the working group, joined by councilmen Ryan Mello and Robert Thoms. Bacon said two commissioners will represent the port. They have not been selected. Meetings could start before the month is out.

How interesting will the meetings be?

“As exciting as Port Commission and city council meetings about land use usually are,” Strickland said.

Kate Martin: 253-597-8542, @KateReports