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January 10, 2008

Port's Reputation in Tatters; Its Taxing Authority in Doubt

A quickening pace of accusations and recriminations has hit the Port of Seattle since the release of a blistering audit performance report last month. Public hearings have been held over the past two days, squeezing 200 people into the chambers. While David Cotton, one of the auditing consultants, reiterated his concerns over the uncooperative behavior of Port staff, and Auditor Sonntag expressed doubts about the Port's ability to investigate or police itself, Port Commissioner Pat Davis, already in hot water with citizens, didn't do her case any good:

Davis said that contractor was "not unintelligent" because it knew that as sole bidder it could inflate its cost, which was negotiated between TTI and then-port chief Mic Dinsmore at a steakhouse. "I think you call it market forces and gripe and complain about the contractor, but you can't do anything about it because that is the marketplace."

Besides, she said, the port does not use its $76 million annual King County property tax levy to pay for airport capital projects, "so it is not taxpayer money at the airport; it is grants, airport money" -- much of it from the federal government.

Her comments prompted shouts of "You just don't get it," from the audience.

Far be it from me to predict the future, but the effort to recall Davis may have been strengthened by that exchange. I'm not gloating here. It makes me sad to imagine the legacy that will be left by Davis' Port career. She started out as a reformer herself.

Recently elected Commissioners Bryant and Tarleton are already drawing up plans for reform, and the full commission enacted some important ones on Tuesday, beginning with punitive measures against Port staffers who don't relay critical contracts information up the food chain. The legislature is getting into the act as well -- a House appropriations subcommittee intends to deal with Port issues in two weeks. But the biggest bombshell came with this news:

And late Wednesday, Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, announced she plans to introduce legislation to repeal the Port of Seattle's property tax authority.

Yikes.

Posted by shoephone on January 10, 2008 at 01:14 AM in Policy, Washington Culture | Permalink

Comments

Ms. Davis has an interesting view of what is and is not taxpayer money. Last time I checked, I paid taxes to both the state and the federal governments. I suspect most of us are in that position.

Posted by: Cujo359 | Jan 10, 2008 9:33:30 PM

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