An empty seat and a jar of symbolic goop left on the dais by the Raging Grannies.
An empty seat and a jar of symbolic goop left on the dais by the Raging Grannies, who presided over a nonexistent public debate. SB

As expected, port commissioners held a closed-door executive session today and did not allow a public debate over Shell's Arctic drilling fleet.

Today's meeting was likely held in response to Mayor Ed Murray's announcement on Monday that the port would not be in compliance with its existing land use permit if it hosted Shell's Arctic drilling equipment. The port would need to reapply for its permit, though it could also appeal the city's decision (or ignore it). This afternoon, a city council committee moved forward a resolution that opposed Arctic drilling and asked the port to reconsider its lease intended for Shell.

But we won't know how the port will respond to these actions for at least another week.

Today's 4 p.m. special meeting at the Port of Seattle headquarters began with port commission co-president Stephanie Bowman speaking into a microphone. "We will recess to executive session for approximately 60 minutes," she said. "There are no actions or votes planned today on these topics. A quorum of [the] commission is present for the session. I want to let people know that the next regularly scheduled session is May 12. We'll be taking public testimony at that time."

There were no other port commissioners present in the room. And the 16 to 20 environmental activists who had arrived didn't know what to do.

Officials empty seats, activists duct-taped mouths.
Officials' empty seats, activists' duct-taped mouths. SB

"We simply stand with our mouths duct-taped, our arms open," one woman inside the port commission meeting room suggested.

"How about if we raise our hands if we want to speak?"

"We didn't come in here with a plan."

The woman who suggested the duct-tape idea tried to rally the activists—who were facing an empty dais—into a choreographed bit of theater. After a few minutes of debate, a group of protesters stood in front of the dais with duct tape over their mouths. Then the Raging Grannies convened their own public meeting and unilaterally rescinded the lease. They placed jars labeled "LAST POLAR BEAR" full of black goop (and what appeared to be small plastic bears) near the empty seats where the public officials normally sit.

Peter McGraw, port spokesperson, said that all five port commissioners attended the executive session, and "longstanding practice has allowed the commission presider to convene a commission meeting prior to executive session by him/herself as long as there is a quorum present for the executive session." He added the port might issue a small statement this evening or tomorrow morning, but the commission wouldn't take action until next week.

But Peter Goldman, the activist and local lawyer who has expressed concerns about the port staying in compliance with the Open Public Meetings Act, was stunned. "The ships are on the way," he said. "They got this major, earth-rocking decision, they're back there talking about their legal rights, etcetera."

Goldman said he was worried that the port would be blurring the requirements of the Open Public Meetings Act in that back room. Of course there's no way to know, because executive sessions are private. "I can't believe that for a week they're not going to act on this," he said.

At 5:35 p.m., commission clerk Paul White announced that the commission had adjourned. All but five people (including me and a camera man) had already left.