Don't blame the reporter

At the Aug. 9 Eggs and Issues candidate forum sponsored by the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce, which featured all three of the candidates for the only Port of Bremerton Commission seat up for grabs this year, many interesting things were said.

To say it was a highly quotable event would like saying it doesn't get hotter than hell in the South on the Fourth of July, but one comment in particular deserves some special recognition.

With all of the hubbub surrounding the port's property tax increase, which was unanimously approved in February, incumbent commissioner Mary Ann Huntington knew that was going to be the subject of more than a few provocative questions.

Challengers Larry Stokes and Robert Dilleno had plenty to say about how they would have voted on the non-voter approved tax increase, but what Huntington said took the cake, the icing, the party decorations and the DJ as well.

"I guess the reporter must have missed the story," Huntington told the less than friendly audience gathered at the Family Pancake House on Kitsap Way.

What about the other people who were at that meeting? Don't they deserve their fare share of the blame using that line of logic as well?

According to Huntington the port commissioners had numerous public meetings and stakeholders meetings regarding the financing of the Bremerton Marina expansion project. Since I was up in Little Norway chasing the illusive city hall ghost at the time, I won't dispute those claims.

I do, however, take strong offense to blaming a reporter for missing a story when the port commissioners made the decision to increases property taxes and did so without an effective public outreach campaign.

Did the port commissioners follow the letter of the law in doing what they did? Yes, and the Revised Code of Washington and the Washington Administrative Code validate that, so no one can say the commissioners broke the law.

What they broke was public trust from the very people who elected them to serve in the best interest of themselves and keep them informed of any action that might have an impact on their lives.

To blame a reporter for that is cowardly at best, and instead of standing up and acknowledging that the port commissioners could have done more to gauge their constituents' favor or opposition for the property tax increase.

It would be easy for me to sit behind my desk and say I wouldn't have missed such a big story, but no one will ever know. If it was buried in a lengthy agenda of other non-inflammatory items, it might have slipped through the cracks like some things often do.

It's like Wednesday night's Bremerton City Council meeting, where I was the only media representative in attendance. I waited for a big story to break, but when it didn't I left before the meeting ended.

That being said, the blame for the voter uproar doesn't rest on the shoulders of one reporter, but rather three elected officials, who may in all honesty have made the right decision, but failed dismally in their public outreach efforts to inform those who trusted them to conduct their business in a professional and upright manner.

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