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After methanol furor, port and city look to be more open to public

Port Commissioner Connie Bacon has said the port followed the letter of the law when notifying the public of its 2014 vote for a project that would have produced methanol for export to China.
Port Commissioner Connie Bacon has said the port followed the letter of the law when notifying the public of its 2014 vote for a project that would have produced methanol for export to China. Staff file photo

How can the city and port of Tacoma better notify the public on major projects?

The two elected bodies are meeting Tuesday to talk about that and other items of mutual interest.

The study session, held between the nine-member Tacoma City Council and five-member Port of Tacoma commission, also will include an overview of the port’s industrial sector and ongoing transportation projects.

It’s typical for the Tacoma City Council and the Port of Tacoma commission to meet occasionally to talk about transportation concerns, cooperation and legislative issues.

The two elected bodies meet usually around once a year, including one last year on the port’s turf.

The failed methanol project is on the minds of many of the elected officials as they ready for the noon Tuesday meeting, held in room 16 of Tacoma Municipal Building North, 733 Market Street.

Port Commissioner Connie Bacon has said the port followed the letter of the law when notifying the public of its 2014 vote for a project that would have produced methanol for export to China. But perhaps in an era of social media, Bacon said the port could do more.

“We always thought we were transparent, and I’m sure the city did too, but it seems like the community wants more,” Bacon said.

Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland said the two bodies will talk about common goals and how they can sync together better. For instance, the city completed its 10-year visioning process last year, which included feedback from hundreds of city residents in many public meetings.

That Tacoma 2025 plan includes planning for the growth that Tacoma is expected to see in the next decade. Presumably many of those people will need well-paying jobs that don’t require a college education.

“The one goal we share more than anything else is trying to have as many family-wage jobs in our community,” Strickland said.

Port of Tacoma Commissioner Don Meyer said the port’s project planning has been too “staff driven.” Meyer said he wants that to change to avoid blindsiding the public again.

“After this methanol debacle that we’ve gone through, we have to figure out a better way to engage the public early on in a meaningful way,” Meyer said. “… How do we move forward in a credible way?”

The noon Tuesday meeting, held during the City Council’s traditional study session, is held in a small room that usually accommodates a number of city staff, the elected officials and sometimes a couple dozen bystanders. The usual schedule does not include opportunity for public comment during the session.

Kate Martin: 253-597-8542, @KateReports

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