The end is near. Three members of the Port of Astoria Commission on Tuesday night effectively handed out the suicide pills taking steps that will cause the Port to enter a fatal downward spiral. By Wednesday morning, the commission lost its most competent, sober member, Ric Gerttula, who handed in his resignation.
By refusing to take up Pier 2 leases for Bornstein Seafoods and Da Yang Seafoods, Port commissioners immediately signaled to the state of Oregon that the Port will not be able to pay its debt. The leases to Bornstein and Da Yang were essential to keeping the Port solvent. This critical item had been in front of commissioners for months
Here is the fatal combination at the Port of Astoria. With Gerttula gone and Jack Bland ignored, the commissions dysfunctional core rules. The Port has no permanent executive director. The Ports loan repayment to the state is in jeopardy.
So where do we go from here?
The Port of Astoria needs to enter the equivalent of bankruptcy. It has happened to another Oregon port. The Port of Coos Bay went there in 1987 when Coos County voters agreed to a state proposal drafted by its state senator, Bill Bradbury. The vote carried by a margin of 71-29 percent, and the longshore union supported disestablishment. Under terms of this proposal, the Port of Coos Bay was disestablished and a new port was formed the International Port of Coos Bay. It retained the same assets. But the governor appointed the new commission. That allowed the selection of experienced, competent talent from within as well as outside Coos County.
For Clatsop County to get from here to there will require fortitude from our most visible public leaders, who are the mayors. Mayors Mike Morgan of Cannon Beach and Don Larson of Seaside especially must speak up. Why them? South County has historically been ignored by the Port of Astoria. In the face of such utter incompetence, Morgan and Larson can do this countys taxpayers a distinct favor by speaking the truth that its time to end the Ports compact with the voters.
Its also time for the state Infrastructure Finance Authority to do what a private sector lender would do. Large public bureaucracies dont like crisis, but thats what we have here. And the state would send a very strange message to other ports around Oregon by enabling the calamity in Astoria.
We fool only ourselves by prolonging the foolishness and the financial agony at the Port of Astoria.