Commissioners try to maintain flexibility and authority while staff continues to position port district staff in a favorable position for disaster assistance.
SAN DIEGO—The Port of San Diego’s Board of Port Commissioners walked a tightrope at its April 14 remote meeting, balancing the commission’s ability to manage the COVID-19 crisis while also allowing port district staff’s administrative management of the ongoing and evolving Coronavirus pandemic.
Commissioners mandated they would be updated each meeting about the port district’s budget and other issues, as they pertain to the COVID-19 crisis.
“I think the idea is it would be a placeholder, something that will always be on the agenda,” Board Chair Ann Moore said. “It will always be there for us to discuss if we had to. Obviously, as staff is preparing the agenda for a meeting, if there is something that requires action, I would expect that that would be reflected in the agenda.”
Moore added any emergency or immediate action would be handled appropriately, whenever the situation presents itself – and port district staff would pursue the matter with commissioners, in accordance with the Brown Act.
The board implemented a 60-day local emergency on March 23 – an action that could be rescinded at any time.
Board members, however, wanted to be able to speak about the COVID-19 pandemic and any effects it might have on the port district – economic or otherwise – at each meeting, for as long as the Coronavirus crisis is in play.
“We can end this emergency by a vote of the commission,” Commissioner Marshall Merrifield said. “The most important thing is we’re talking about [the COVID-19 pandemic]. This is a very dynamic situation. I don’t want anyone to think we’re over-delegating the entire authority … to the staff for 60 days, and we’re not talking about it [on the dais].
“It’s more about discussion,” Merrifield continued. “Maybe there’s action, maybe there isn’t action. But at least we’re in the loop, and the public, at least, has a chance to comment.”
The board will be able to keep the COVID-19 emergency declaration on future agendas, all while port district staff could continue to seek disaster assistance from the state of California.
“The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services requires that local agencies designate agents authorized to request such relief. Such designations are valid for three years,” port district staff stated in a report to board members. “The board last adopted the required resolution in 2017, at its designation of agents expire on April 11, 2020. Regarding the COVID-19 emergency, the district must initially seek disaster relief through the state by April 17, 2020.”
Board members, accordingly, also designated the port district’s chief executive and administrative officers, and the vice president of real estate, engineering and facilities, as its agents for the next three years. The three-year designation will allow the port district to be eligible for state-funded disaster assistance.