What is the purpose of the port?

May 17th, 2013 by Ken

Ports in this state were established in the 1920’s by the Washington State Legislature for the purposes of providing economic opportunities by creating and running public ports.

That measure stopped the growing struggle and conflicts between competing private companies that was causing economic chaos to the state’s economy.

Making the water front public property and creating public port districts allowed for some public control over the water front.

In creating public port districts, the legislature also authorized them to levy taxes.

The Port of Olympia was one of the first public port districts.  But, instead of confining itself to the Olympia water front, the Port of Olympia was set as a county wide port district.

In that capacity, it not only runs the Olympia port but also operates the Tumwater airport.  The port also owns land and property throughout the entire county.

But, for decades, very few people knew or understood the port’s operations; and even fewer people knew that the port of Olympia is actually a county wide entity.

Although we see on our annual property tax statement a fee for the Port of Olympia, we often don’t understand what that money goes for.

Ask a port commissioner and he will tell you that the property tax we pay each year goes to pay for environmental clean up of polluted port property.

Almost all ports in Washington state depend on some form of public tax support although many of the ports are financially sound.  The Port of Olympia just signed an agreement with Weyerhaeuser to continue log exports, but it still depends on taxpayer support.

The port also, just recently, gave $10,000 to each of the cities of Rainier, Tenino, Yelm and Bucoda to help them with local civic projects.

It’s the port’s way of letting them know that it’s a county wide port district.  Giving away $40,000 of taxpayer money is just their way of letting the smaller cities know that the port cares about them.

But, what about the taxpayers?  Why should taxpayers support the give away of their property tax dollars to something that has nothing to do with economic development?

Has the port changed its goals?

The next time you see one of your port commissioners  – – Bill McGregor, Jeff Davis or George Barner – – ask him that question.

Posted in Business, Government, History, Local Politics, The Real News

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