Port Politics

West Coast port commissions vary in size, temperament, competency and reputation. Some port commissions are a creature of appointments by local mayors, others are elected to office. A number of port commissioners serve quietly; others seem to enjoy the limited notoriety the position brings – with some seeking higher elected office.

The reputations of port commissions also wax and wane over time. For example, in past years the Los Angeles Port Commission had the reputation of being a chaotic institution, hostile to port tenants. That was primarily a function of the Board President at the time, who didn’t tolerate dissenting opinions and was frequently rude and disrespectful to both the general public and port staff. Yet, with the appointment of Cindy Miscikowski, the current President of the Port Commission, the Commission has operated for several years now with quiet efficiency, embracing debate and being tolerant of all viewpoints.

Ironically, during the “dark” days of the LA Harbor Commission, the Port of Long Beach Harbor Commission was viewed by the industry and port tenants as the more rational of the two ports. Commissioners came and went (Jim Hankla, Dr. Mike Walter, Mario Cordero), but the Commission operated in a calm and methodical manner. This stewardship continued as a new generation of Commissioners came onboard like Susan Wise, Thomas Fields and Nick Srameck.

But the world continues to change and evolve, as does the Long Beach Harbor Commission. It is becoming clear to observers in the trade community that Long Beach Commission meetings are becoming more divisive, political and controversial. It is also quite evident that some Commissioners are becoming more involved in day-to-day affairs of the Port, not merely setting policy but directing and micromanaging staff activities. How this will ultimately play out is uncertain at this time, but the past reputation of the Long Beach Port Commission, which was a strength of the organization, is quickly eroding. This has long term implications for the Port of Long Beach as port competitiveness becomes more intense throughout North America.  

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