- Associated Press - Thursday, October 2, 2014

ASTORIA, Ore. (AP) - A group in Clatsop County proposes a public vote on whether the Port of Astoria should continue to be governed by an elected board, or by appointees of the governor.

Mayors in south Clatsop County have complained that the port hasn’t been representing their interests well and have called for it to be reorganized, The Daily Astorian (http://bit.ly/1ptuPau) reported Thursday.

The port is run by five commissioners, now elected by county residents. An initiative being drafted calls for mayors and the chair of the county commissioners to recommend appointees to the governor, the sponsors said.

The measure would also rename the organization as the Port of Clatsop County. It would be on the May ballot.

Oregon’s 23 ports are important engines of economic development. Two, the prominent ones in Portland and Coos Bay, have appointed governing bodies. The Astoria port has been governed by an elected board since it was formed in 1910.

As a backup, State Sen. Betsy Johnson of Scappoose said she’s planning legislation for next year’s session that would also put the measure on the ballot.

“My bill is a mirror of what the mayors want to do,” Johnson said. “It’s a matter of how the question gets to the voters.”

Sponsors of the initiated measure are aiming at 1,000 to 1,500 signatures to qualify for the ballot, said Dianne Widdop, mayor of Gearhart and one of the petitioners.

The debate has been running since May, when Widdop and the mayors of Cannon Beach and Seaside wrote a letter to the Daily Astorian that lambasted the port leadership.

“… there is apparently no way the majority of the Port Commission can keep from alienating leaseholders, making poor business decisions, falling deeper into a financial hole and threatening the full faith and credit of the entire county,” it read.

In a response, the commission’s chairman, James Campbell, called the idea of a state-appointed board “ignorant and unfounded,” saying the port had increased pier revenue and is in “its best financial position in over a decade.”

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Information from: The Daily Astorian, http://www.dailyastorian.com

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