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Port’s focus could shift to the business community
KINGSTON — However the Nov. 5 election plays out, one thing is clear from the forum for Kingston Port Commission candidates: the new commissioner will be highly motivated to shift the port’s focus from the waterfront to the local business community.
Candidates Bruce MacIntyre and Nels Sultan responded to a series of audience questions Sept. 26 at the Kingston Cove Yacht Club. The forum was moderated by Herald Editor Richard Walker and sponsored by the Herald and the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce. Among the questions and answers at the forum:
How have you educated yourself about our community and our port?
MacIntyre: “I retired a year ago and I estimate that I’ve spent 100 hours talking with people and attending meetings. My style is mostly to listen. I’ve met with probably two dozen individuals and listened to them and let them tell me what they want Kingston to be like and what role the port plays in Kingston. I’m getting an interesting patchwork of concerns, questions and ideas that I hope I can implement if I’m elected.”
MacIntyre also said he has analyzed the port’s budgets from the past five years.
Sultan: “I’ve become educated about the port by reading the paper like all of you over the past 15 years. Talking with people, you get a good sense where people are coming from. I’m more of a reader. I’ve read through a lot of documents, records, budgets and master plans. Talking with people has value, but half of what people say may not be true. You have to take it with a grain of salt and find out what is true or not.”
The question prompted a follow-up from the audience later in the forum.
You said you like to read what is going on and people only mean half of what they are saying … what are you going to do if you make port commissioner? Are you going to listen to the people, or are you just going to read the newspaper?
Sultan: “Yeah, you listen. It’s part of the job. You have to. People have 3 minutes at the mic (during port meetings). And it’s not hard to get a hold of me in a small town like this. There’s a lot more to getting knowledge than just talking with people. You have to read the documents and get more knowledge.”
MacIntyre: “A lot of what you hear, you need to filter and sift it, but you begin to see patterns and see undercurrents, and you get a much clearer picture of what people want. The newspaper is a source, but I’d like to listen to people rather than just read the paper.”
What was your position on the passenger-only ferry? What lessons should be learned from it?
MacIntyre: “I volunteered for the advisory committee. We had a very talented group of people and we put together a thorough analysis. I think the port commissioners and staff didn’t realize the complexity of the business they were getting into. More research would have been time well spent before they bought the boat.”
Sultan: “I founded the Kingston Express Association that got the grant (for the passenger ferry). Once the port got its hands on the grant money, they closed in and didn’t form a citizen committee like I suggested. They took it and cut everyone off. I could go on and on, but the whole thing makes me sick.”
What kind of time will you be able to devote to this position?
Sultan: “I have a full-time job in Seattle and a long commute. I do have a fair amount of time. I’d like to get into a system where we have a meeting once a month, having such time forces the commission to be efficient.”
Sultan said that his commute offers him a lot of time to spend on various work items, such as the port.
MacIntyre: “I do have an advantage in that I am retired, here, and more available. The commission attends more than 80 other meetings with legislators and there is a lot more to do than just the one meeting.”
At the end of your term, if elected, what ways do you want the Port of Kingston to be different?
Sultan: “I would hope that we have all kinds of businesses and offices and great jobs at great wages, but I can’t promise that. What I can promise is that the port will be much more engaged and working with other agents. The port can be like a city government. I’d like to see a port that is a part of regional governments.”
MacIntyre: “I don’t have a grand vision for it. I see the commission’s role as carrying out what people in the community want and providing leadership and guidance. Some things like the old Kingston Inn property (should be) a kind of attraction that draws people into it and transitions them into the street. I’d like to see the empty store fronts filled. The port can play a role in attracting businesses.”
Kingston port commissioners are elected to six-year terms. They receive $100 a meeting.
MacIntyre or Sultan will succeed Marc Bissonnette, who chose not to run for reelection.