Luckily I stopped by the Port Authority’s booth at the Cincinnati Neighborhood Summit on Saturday. As soon as I spotted their logo on the banner I burst out laughing, explaining to the two professional-looking representatives behind their table that I had a history with the organization.
“You’re Kathy,” Gail guessed. (In all fairness, I was wearing a plastic-encased name badge around my neck. How many ‘Kathy’s could there be?)
“Did anybody tell you we canceled the board meeting for this month?” she asked after exchanging initial pleasantries. “Susan said she’d let you know.”
Let’s stop here to review the facts:
1. The Port Authority as an organization is keenly aware of my concerns regarding their interpretation of transparency and my call for citizens to attend board meetings.
2. An extraordinarily powerful agency with the right to levy taxes and form a police force, issue bonds and own property, they schedule ten meetings a year that are open to the public.
3. Last month’s meeting – attended by 6 members of the public, an event so rare the Chair acknowledged each one of us by name – was a whopping total of 32 minutes long.
4. There are 3 new members on the 9 member board: (1) Mario San Marco of Eagle Realty (Western & Southern) – the developer of the biggest project ever undertaken by the Port, (2) former Mayor Charlie Luken, – both appointed by Mayor Cranley – and the Hamilton County Commissioner’s appointment, Bobby Fisher, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Washing Systems LLC, a leading provider of specialty chemicals and related products to the industrial uniform and linen rental markets. I was particularly excited about starting to get to know Mr. Fisher.
5.Last month the Port announced the approval of their application to increase the area of their jurisdiction to include Northern Kentucky, more than doubling the size of the area they cover. Every elected official in both states – governors, senators, county commissioners – all of them agree enthusiastically with Mayor John Cranley that: “This designation is great news for Cincinnati and our entire region. It should help us boost river commerce and increase our area’s marketing clout. It also will better reflect our region’s true impact as an inland river port.” Maybe I’m slow-witted, but I still don’t understand why a perception of more freight on our river is such a big deal and I am eager to learn more about the real purpose behind this change.
6. Last month the Port announced they are starting a strategic planning process that will last through June. I was hoping to hear more about that, to ask board members after the meeting how that planning will address citizen concerns about transparency. (Members of the public are not permitted to participate in the board meetings, but the Chair was available to talk afterwards.)
7. Another interested citizen who stopped by the booth was informed that the reason for the cancellation was because the Port Authority staff had a lot going on and was “too busy.”
In answer to your question, Gail, no, nobody got in touch with me. There was no public announcement. The date for the next board meeting was just quietly changed without any fanfare on the bottom left hand corner of the home page of the Port’s website.
Port of Greater Cincinnati, Development Authority, this is not transparency. This is the theater of transparency. Whatever is being decided by the governing body of this public agency regarding our public dollars, it is happening off-the-record and out-of-sight of the taxpayers. Citizens, it is more important than ever that you mark your calendars for April 8 at the ungodly hour of 8 am and get yourself down to the Taft Center at Fountain Square, 426 Walnut St. (where free coffee is served). Democracy is depending on you.