This evening the Board of Commisioners of the Port of Portland Harbor voted unanimously to slightly modify downward the pilot fees for Bay Ferries, Ltd., a/k/a The Cat in a short and sweeter proceeding at city hall, Portland than in the past. The rate decided upon was $1,077. per one way trip – a token reduction from the $1,210 voted into effect during the spring 2017. The rate went into effect as of June 1, 2017 and remains in effect until possibly after the first of the new year according to Jenn Thompson, a city attorney advising the Commissioners.
This meeting was an anti-climax and Almost boring because some of the past public hearings have become contentious with the Commission Chair Thomas Dobbins and The Cat’s attorney Harold Pachios sparring as the Board has sought to protect the Pirates, a monopoly, from any and all financial scrutiny by Pachios.
More specifically, the insular Board continued to refuse to delve into the gross revenue of the Pilots – a stance it has taken in past meetings. Pachios, attorney for The Cat, the ferry service that runs daily between NS and Portland Harbor, has stated previously that in order to arrive at a “fair and reasonable” rate, the Portland Pirates, a monopoly in Portland Harbor, need to open its books and disclose its gross revenue. Board deliberations took place in muted voices – failing to use the microphones available to them in Portland city council chambers where the public hearing took place.
Braden has declared in the past as he did again tonight following the public hearing, that revenue information is “irrelevant.” Pachios has repeatedly requested the gross revenue information from the Board, but the inept Board has stonewalled him time after time. Once again the Board failed to require the Pirates to supply that information and consequently make it public as well. The Board has subpoena power and could require the Pirates to produce the information that Pachio has repeatedly sought to determine a “fair and reasonable” pilot rate.
“This Board has been given oversight of the tugs in the Harbor. It is very hard to provide governmental oversight when it refuses to ask the company you are regulating a single question,” said Pachios following the public hearing. “We are seeking judicial review. We want to have the court review what they did.” The Cat filed an appeal in August of 2017 seeking relief from the illegal process to date. Specifically, the Board voted to increase the pilot fee by almost 70% and never notified Cat officials that the increase was on the Board’s agenda. Otherwise, Cat officials would have attended the hearing to present their opposition to the unjustified rate increase. The appeal has not yet been resolved.
Burt Jorgensen, of the Fish Exchange on the Portland waterfront, previously told this blogger that the pending court appeal was not a “big deal” because it’s “only about process.” He also said the public has no appreciation for all the work that the Commissioners do on its behalf. That lack of information might be because the Board seems to prefer to work behind a wall of secrecy. If it wanted to change that, the Board could issue press releases occasionally touting its accomplishments. Sunshine is not a friend to this quasi-state Board that prefers to toil in the dark with occasional bullying added for good measure.
As on November 2, 2017, a court stenographer was hired for tonight’s hearing by the attorney for The Cat, Harold Pachios, of Preti, Flaherty. These official records will be useful in upcoming court reviews. Pachios will file another court document for his client following a required 45-day waiting period.
For more background information on the subject, please see posts herein dated November 2 and October 31, 2017 on this on-going controversy.