This Committee needs to know what the Harbor Commission does said City Councilor Jill Duson yesterday at the Legislative and Nominating Committee meeting at city hall. So, at the next meeting later this month, the Committee may learn what the Harbor Commission does. Someone at city hall needs to know because there is no evidence that anyone there has a clue.
The question of what the Harbor Commissioners “do” came up because Duson received a request from an unidentified person to remove all term limits for the one appointee to the Commission that Portland makes according to Duson. She appeared to believe that was a good idea. She said that when a Commissioner rotates off the Board, all of that experience and knowledge is lost. Currently, the Portland representative (is that Munjoy HIll resident Dan Haley?) can serve three 3-year terms before the term expires Duson explained to the other members of the Committee at city hall. In other words, Commissioners can remain for life on the Harbor Commission – like Supreme Court judges? At least there are women on the Supreme Court, but none on the Harbor Commission.
The city is supposed to provide oversight of the Commission, but there is no evidence of that happening. This City Board does not even know what the Commission does. If there had been city oversight, perhaps the lawsuit filed last year by Bay Ferries Limited against the Board of Commissioners could have been prevented. In recent years especially, the City has tried to avoid lawsuits because of the expense and time required.
The Harbor Commission has great economic power – with no oversight from the city. It sets the rates that the Portland Pirates, a harbor Monopoly, receives. In May of 2017, the monopoly went to the Harbor Commission and asked for a seventy percent (70%) increase for Bay Ferries. Bay Ferries, with headquarters in Canada, was never notified of the potential increase – one move among others that attorney Harold Pachios, called illegal. The Monopoly refused to open up its books to demonstrate why a 70% increase is needed – with its attorney saying that information was “irrelevant.” Eventually, a still unresolved lawsuit was filed against the Commission.
Even the bitter Governor Paul LePage provided some oversight. Last December, LePage wrote to each of the Commissioners asking for his resignation because of their collective “anti-business views towards Maine commerce.” The one-page letter said increasing fees and taxes like this hurts the Maine economy more than it helps it.
The conservative Duson also recommended that the Committee conduct a search of the city’s other boards to determine whether or not they utilize term limits. But that agenda is secondary to the Harbor Commission work because it was a specific request from an unidentified person. Jessica Grondin, city spokesperson, reported that the city’s planning board does have term limits; planning board members do serve for three 3-year terms as do harbor commission members currently. “It’s in the City Code of Ordinance Administration. Section 2-32 Limitations on Terms of Service. In section 2-33 it references which boards and commissions that applies to,” emailed Grondin to this blogger. The next meeting of this Committee is Monday morning, April 23, 2018.
City Councilor Pious Ali is Chairperson of the Committee. Duson is a member of the Committee and chair of the lame Housing Committee.
Please visit posts herein dated January 16, 2018 and January , 2018 for more background information. (In the past, this blogger has found it next to impossible to get public information from this Commission.)