How much outreach is enough for a public agency? We have learned there’s no such thing.
We at the Port of Tacoma truly believed we had communicated extensively about the proposed methanol and liquefied natural gas facilities before the commission voted to authorize the leases for those two projects.
Citizens told us otherwise. And we heard you. The public outcry over the proposed methanol plant was often bitter, contentious and hard on everyone involved in the debate. It was painful for the port commission, staff and local citizens.
The reasons are rooted in the port’s history in Tacoma and its relationship with Pierce County residents. The port is nearly 100 years old. Unlike other ports, we have always had a close relationship with our home city. Our success has led to success in the city and vice versa.
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As a “second” city, Tacoma has long lived in Seattle’s shadow. To grow our economy and identity, we’ve had to be smart and innovative to stay a step ahead.
Under steady leadership, the port has invested in infrastructure improvements, both inside and outside terminal gates, to attract more cargo and the jobs associated with it. This activity creates more than 29,000 jobs and delivers $3 billion in revenue to the local economy.
We’re proud of our environmental initiatives, clean-water technology leadership, clean air partnerships with the ports of Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., and the 1,500 acres we have restored to productive use.
We couldn’t have done this without the tremendous support of our community. But the past year’s controversies have damaged that hard-earned connection. We must earn it back.
It’s not enough to simply say that. We want to bring the community closer to our decision-making. That’s why we’re reaching out to neighborhood and community groups to engage in our strategic planning process — which is expected to kick off this fall — as we have done in the past. We’ll survey residents, customers and stakeholders and hold open houses to share ideas.
More outreach alone is not enough. As information outlets proliferate and people curate their own sources on social media, we can’t guarantee we’ll reach everyone through our efforts. That said, we encourage you to subscribe to the port information you’d like to receive at portoftacoma.com/subscribe. We’ll bring the information right to your inbox.
We recently proposed a policy that would require additional public meetings for leases that met certain criteria, including fossil fuels and greenhouse gas and natural resource thresholds. We have since broadened the proposed policy to include any lease longer than one year. The policy would require at least two meetings for first and second reading of leases.
We want the citizens of Pierce County to have a conversation with us so the outcomes of port initiatives are a joint success.
We know we can’t make everyone happy all the time. But we pledge to reach out further, listen harder, and incorporate your ideas and suggestions.
The stakes are high. Competition in the shipping industry is fiercer than ever. We united with the Port of Seattle last year to form The Northwest Seaport Alliance to improve our market position. This was a groundbreaking step, but we also must look for new lines of business and diversify our cargo mix. We must press for new ideas.
The port’s future success depends on a shared vision in collaboration with you, the citizens of this region.
We can only be strong as a port and as a community if we continue the conversation.
Connie Bacon is the president, and Dick Marzano is vice president, of the publicly elected Port of Tacoma Commission. Reach them at portoftacoma.com/contact