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"What price growth...?"

May 21, 2006

Port of Olympia should be dissolved, all land sold

Sam Bradley

It's time for the Port of Olympia commissioners to dissolve the port, or, if they won't, citizens of Thurston County need to elect commissioners who will.

That's right; I'm saying eliminate the port.

The Port of Olympia is a financial failure and represents an unnecessary level of government. It's a failure because, despite owning 200 acres of waterfront peninsula land, a 726-boat marina, a boat works, three marine terminals, 800 acres of industrial land, and a 600-acre airport, the port has never made a profit. The port is unnecessary because all that it does can be accomplished through zoning and private enterprise.

When I left office as a port commissioner in 1995, the port was

$4.5 million in debt and collected $1.7 million in tax subsidies. Today, the port is $24 million in debt and collects $3.8 million in tax subsidies.

Despite the dedicated efforts of the present commissioners, the port has become less efficient and more costly rather than the other way around. My conclusion: The port as an institution will never break even and will always require a tax subsidy to balance its budget no matter who serves on the port commission. The port is a financial failure and will remain so forever.

The port is also an unnecessary level of government.

All the port's land uses can be managed through zoning and private enterprise. If the community wants a marine terminal, hold land use hearings, zone it and put it for sale.

If Weyerhaeuser wants a marine terminal, they can buy it.

If a developer wants to build a hotel on the port peninsula, zone it and let him or her buy the land and build it. If businesses want to locate at New Market Industrial, let them buy the land and build according to proper zoning. All the port's lands should be privatized.

What are the benefits of dissolving the port? The big one is that private enterprise PAYS taxes. No longer would property tax payers subsidize the port. Imagine that; local coffers would receive tax money rather than pay out

$3.8 million to the port every year. Now that's called a financial turnaround.

Another important benefit is that all profits from the sale of port assets in a dissolution go to the Thurston County school districts. The port values its assets at $88 million - after paying off debt, a whole lot of money can go to the needs of education in our schools.

How can the port be dissolved?

Law requires that at least two port commissioner vote to dissolve the port and put up the "for sale" sign. A county judge is assigned to hold hearings and oversee the sale of the property.

Obviously, the present port commissioners, with the exception of possibly Paul Telford, are not going to dissolve the port. To accomplish the dissolution, good citizens who believe in common sense, private enterprise and the elimination of unnecessary government, need to run for port commissioner on the platform: Zone it, privatize it, end tax subsidies, help education - dissolve the port.

Sam Bradley is a former commissioner for the Port of Olympia. Port Commission President Steve Pottle declined an opportunity to write a column to counter Bradley's position.

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