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Editorial: Rethinking agreement between port and city makes sense

By   /   Friday, July 4th, 2014  /   Comments Off

Given the millions of dollars the port has spent to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, the potential for increased competition from ports on the East Coast and Gulf Coast via a widened Panama Canal and the changes that technology have wrought, it’s smart for the Oxnard Harbor District and the Port of Hueneme to figure out if there is a better way forward.

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In 1983, the personal computer was in its infancy and two great powers — China and the Soviet Union — were not substantial participants in the modern system of global trade.

Fast-forward to 2014 and a lot has changed. Technology has spurred innovation from the factory floor to shipping lanes. In an age of smart phones and tablets, the desktop computer looks a bit ho-hum. China claims the throne as the world’s second-largest economy.

However, not everything has undergone as big a transformation. Writing to the Business Times shortly before Independence Day, Oxnard Harbor District CEO Kristin Decas pointed out that many of the rules governing the relationship between the Port of Hueneme and the city of Port Hueneme date back to an accord signed in 1983.

Recently, Decas and her elected board of commissioners have asked the city to re-open talks to rewrite some of the decades-old rules. Among them are rules that require the port to maintain streets that are no longer used to the port’s benefit. There are also audit requirements to ensure the port is paying its fair share of fees for conveying vehicles through the city.

The port’s payments to the city are $2.8 million a year, a substantial chunk of its revenue but also a substantial piece of the city’s annual budget.

“We would now like to engage the city in a dialogue to determine the most cost-effective ways to continue fulfilling our fiscal responsibilities to the community,” she wrote.

Given the millions of dollars the port has spent to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, the potential for increased competition from ports on the East Coast and Gulf Coast via a widened Panama Canal and the changes that technology have wrought, it’s smart for the Oxnard Harbor District and the Port of Hueneme to figure out if there is a better way forward.

The city of Port Hueneme has come through a tough economic downturn, but it relies heavily on the port and the adjacent Naval Base Ventura County to stabilize its job base and sales tax revenue. Rumblings about a new round of base “realignments” could put some of those jobs at risk.

Meanwhile, the port of Hueneme is not going anywhere. But it does labor in the shadow of the much bigger Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. That means Decas and her commissioners must continually hunt for niche markets to remain on a growth track.

Re-aligning the interests of the Oxnard Harbor District and the city of Port Hueneme makes a lot of sense. We’ll take Decas at her word that the port is interested in a “careful updating” that “maximizes benefits to both parties” in terms of future revenue growth. We also encourage the city to begin developing a framework for a new and comprehensive master agreement with the Oxnard Harbor District.

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