Bellingham port commissioners moving slowly on video of meetings

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDFebruary 5, 2014 

BELLINGHAM - The Port of Bellingham will seek proposals for bringing video of port commission meetings to the public, but the video is more likely to be on your computer than on your television.

At a Tuesday, Feb. 4, port commission meeting, Port External Affairs Director Carolyn Casey told commissioners that the estimated annual cost of providing video of port meetings on both the port website and on the city of Bellingham's BTV10 cable channel would be upwards of $12,000, based on estimates obtained in 2012.

Commissioner Mike McAuley was ready to spend the money, saying he has heard repeated requests from citizens who want to be able to watch port meetings at home.

"We use the public's dollars for what the public asks us for," McAuley said. "It shows a level of transparency."

But Commissioner Dan Robbins noted that $12,000 a year works out to $500 apiece for the bi-monthly meetings.

"I want to be transparent, but come on -- $500 a meeting? You're in favor of that?" Robbins asked McAuley.

McAuley noted that in the past, the port came up with $10,000 for art at Squalicum Boathouse, $50,000 for a campaign to help promote the Bellwether area, and $25,000 to celebrate the anniversary of the Alaska Marine Highway System. He said he would not favor adding $12,000 a year to port spending to provide television coverage, but he would gladly spend that sum on the coverage instead of something else.

But Commissioner Jim Jorgensen sided with Robbins, saying he had heard no requests for video coverage from his district, which includes Blaine and other areas outside Bellingham.

McAuley then asked Executive Director Rob Fix if his staff could seek proposals from private firms or individuals willing to take video of port meetings that could be offered to the public on the port's website. Casey said the online-only approach would be cheaper than producing video in both Web and cable-channel formats.

Fix said the staff could ask for proposals offering the port a range of options, including the cost of a bare-bones Web video with add-ons for cable-ready video, DVDs for library archives, and other possible extras.

All three commissioners approved that idea.

Port commissioners have already voted 2-1 against switching to evening meetings instead of the longstanding 3 p.m. Tuesday meeting times, on the first and third Tuesday of each month. McAuley supported a change, but Robbins and Jorgensen argued that port meetings generally are of interest mostly to port tenants and other business people who prefer to attend during normal business hours.

Critics of the port's performance on public accountability had called for the switch to evening meetings to make them more accessible to most county residents. They also want the meetings televised.

Reach John Stark at 360-715-2274 or john.stark@bellinghamherald.com . Read the Politics Blog at bellinghamherald.com/politics-blog or get updates on Twitter at @bhampolitics.

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