What is the Port of Portland's Mission?

By Miki Barnes
September 21, 2012

Typically, decisions regarding the Hillsboro Airport are made by Port of Portland Commissioners in Portland with little if any interaction with Washington County residents who are directly impacted. Unlike the vast majority of government entities that claim to be municipalities such as counties, cities, school boards, and other U.S. Port authorities, the Port of Portland commissioners are governor appointed rather than elected. In the complete absence of the collective wisdom of the democratic voting process, Port of Portland Board decision making leans heavily towards promoting corporate interests over livability, environmental, safety, security and other quality of life issues.

According to their website (http://www.portofportland.com/POP_Leadership.aspx), "The mission of the Port of Portland is to enhance the region's economy and quality of life by providing efficient cargo and air passenger access to national and global markets." Hillsboro Airport, however, is a general aviation facility which does not provide scheduled commercial aircraft service nor is it designed to be a cargo hub. In large part it serves as a publicly funded facility for the training of foreign nationals, even though it lacks radar and pre-boarding TSA security screening requirements. Additionally it caters to affluent private aircraft owners who can afford to buy or rent their own jets, helicopters, and private airplanes. To accommodate these activities the public is forced by the federal government and the State of Oregon into subsidizing the cost of building and maintaining runways, taxiways, and related infrastructure as well as the FAA control tower, air traffic controllers, and various other high end expenses on behalf of the for-profit companies and individual users who fly in and out of this airport.

Please note, both the FAA and the Port of Portland clearly stated in separate legal briefs submitted to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court on 9/13/10 that there are no plans to develop the Hillsboro Airport into a commercial or cargo airport in the future. The Port's submission reads as follows, "Indeed, in the Master Plan, the Port considered but rejected the opportunity to significantly expand Hillsboro Airport or to position it to receive new types of cargo or commercial aircraft." In the words of the FAA, "The FAA does not anticipate HIO changing from a reliever general aviation airport to a commercial service airport in the future."

In light of the foregoing, it becomes obvious that the Hillsboro Airport does not fall within the parameters of the Port's mission.

What is HAIR's Role?

The Port's website (http://www.portofportland.com/HIO_HAIR_Home.aspx) describes HAIR as follows:

"The Hillsboro Airport Issues Roundtable - also known as HAIR - is the community's public forum for discussion of news, information, and concerns related to Hillsboro Airport. The Roundtable advises the Port on numerous airport projects and plans. Meetings focus on all issues surrounding the "airport, including: Airport compatibility and noise, Wildlife and environmental management, [and ] Airport operations and projects."

Over the past year, the public was led to believe that the inclusion of two Citizen Participation Organization (CPO) members on the HAIR committee would herald a new openness towards meaningful public input. Instead the opposite occurred. HAIR subcommittee meetings are now held secretly and the public is banned from attending.

Since the public was prohibited from attending recently formed subcommittee meetings, an attempt was made to obtain minutes via a public records request. This effort yielded the following 8/10/12 email response from Port of Portland counsel, Misti Johnson,

"Pursuant to Oregon Public Meetings laws (ORS 192.610 et seq.), there is no requirement that minutes be taken at these subcommittee meetings or for that matter, even at HAIR meetings. Furthermore, there is no legal requirement to provide public notices of such meetings. However, in the interest of transparency, HAIR meetings are publicly noticed and minutes are taken even though there is no requirement to do so. The subcommittees consist of a few HAIR committee members getting together to discuss issues and brainstorm and then bring thoughts back to HAIR as a whole. There are no decisions made in subcommittees as they are merely work groups coming up with thoughts and ideas to report back. Thus, due to the informality of these gatherings, no minutes are taken or are there plans for such to be taken."

This essentially indicates that elected representatives such as Mayor Willey, Washington County Chair Andy Duyck, Sen. Bruce Starr, Rep. Sean Lindsey and/or their chosen alternates along with the CPO representatives are meeting in secret session with the Port, FAA, and aviation business interests while pretending to represent the public.

Please bear in mind that an earlier HAIR subcommittee was credited with formulating and promoting the Hillsboro Airport land use zoning ordinance that was later determined by LUBA to be in violation of both the federal and state constitutions. In addition, HAIR advocated for the environmental assessment on the HIO third runway that was remanded back to the FAA for further environmental review.

Why Should HAIR Be Exempt from Public Meeting Law Requirements?

Given that the HAIR committee has historically advised and made recommendations to the Port of Portland, it should be required to meet publicly and to keep records of its proceedings.

Oregon public meeting law (ORS 192.620) state that "all meetings of the governing body of a public body shall be open to the public." This includes advisory committees: per ORS 192.610 ( http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/192.610) "(3) Governing body means the members of any public body which consists of two or more members, with the authority to make decisions for or recommendations to a public body on policy or administration. (4) Public body means the state, any regional council, county, city or district, or any municipal or public corporation, or any board, department, commission, council, bureau, committee or subcommittee or advisory group or any other agency thereof.

The Port's interpretation of the law raises a number of questions not the least of which is: Why are elected officials who claim to represent their constituency meeting behind closed doors? Do they have something to hide?

And why are CPO representatives who claim to represent their respective CPO members meeting in secret with subcommittees that keep no records of their proceedings and that prohibit public participation?

To reiterate, the Port characterizes HAIR "as the community's public forum" yet the public and the community are being systematically excluded from participation in favor of top down decrees by non-elected Port commissioners and their chosen appointees.

Port of Portland Executive Director to speak in Hillsboro 10/4/2012

HAIR Meeting and Community Forum with Port Executive Director, Bill Wyatt

The next meeting of the Hillsboro Airport Issues Roundtable (HAIR) is scheduled for:

Thursday, October 4, 2012 from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. at the Washington County Public Service Building, 155 N. First Avenue, Hillsboro.

It will be followed by a community forum town hall with Port of Portland Executive Director Bill Wyatt from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

According to a Port of Portland announcement, Bill Wyatt will focus on "the future of the Hillsboro Airport and how it fits in with the larger mission of the Port of Portland."

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