West Seattle Blog… | ELECTION 2021: A final look at the Seattle Port Commission candidates
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog Editor
Most of the spotlight this election season has been shining on candidates for office in the city of Seattle. But that’s not all you’ll find on your ballot (if you’re one of the 80 +% local voters whose ballots haven’t been returned yet). You have 17 choices to make – including three races for Seattle Port Commission.
Five commissioners, all elected from across the county, make up the board of directors, serving four-year terms. This year, positions 1, 3 and 4 are up for election. In each race, the incumbent and a challenger requested the seat, so there were no primary votes – all six candidates went straight to the general election. On Thursday evening, five of them participated in an online forum presented by the Coalition to Clean Up the Duwamish River and Seattle Parks Foundation – for post 1, holder of the first mandate Ryan calkins; for post 3, holder of two mandates Stephanie Bowman and King County Policy Advisor Hamdi Mohamed; and for post 4, holder of the first mandate Peter Steinbrück and Executive Director of the State Commission on American Asia-Pacific Affairs Toshiko Grace Hasegawa.
Director General of the DRCC Paulina lopez co-organized with the CEO of SPF Rebecca Bear. In their opening comments, they underlined the enormity of the Port of Seattlethe impact on our region, both port and airport operations. The forum was only allocated an hour, so after the introductory opening statements, questions were asked randomly to one or more participants. What we have written below is our summary / paraphrase of the questions and answers, not direct quotes unless they are marked as such with quotes.
****QUESTION: Communities near the port have a lower life expectancy due to air pollution. How do you reconcile that with the competitive pressures?
CALKINS: We have stepped up climate efforts. This week we moved the targets to 2040 instead of 2050. We need to “electrify everything”. Earth technology is there. Awaiting federal funding for the diesel-electric transition. There’s a 30-year Seattle waterfront plan to electrify everything.
ARCHER: Also note that Terminal 5 has a rail on the platform, “of crucial importance … to get trucks off the road”. And it has dockside power. Supporter of the evolution towards zero emission dump trucks (short distance movement). In addition, the port has created its own storm water service, the only port in the state to do so.
****QUESTION: Port worked to support the opening of Maritime High School. As a port commissioner, how would you support the young people of the BIPOC community near the port and the airport?
MOHAMED: She sits on the Maritime HS Advisory Board. “Right now… we’re seeing an increase in the demand for shipping everywhere… and there’s a huge labor shortage,” so now they’re educating young people about this industry and its well-paying jobs, “tracks towards employment ”. Must protect the environment and the education of young people.
CALKINS: (After Bowman gave him his time, saying he “created” Maritime HS) “We need these kids to join our workforce” – also mentions the system’s workforce shortage ferry.
****QUESTION: López talks about the “triple threat” hanging over the Duwamish River: what would you do to protect it and ensure the complete clean-up?
HASEGAWA: She fished in the Duwamish while growing up. Now she sees “fun to catch but toxic to eat” campaigns. Recognizes the gap in life expectancy; “It is literally a matter of life and death. Must endure full cleanup, wants an agreement with the tribes.
STEINBRUECK: Says he advocated for cleanup even before the decision record, when he was on Seattle City Council in 2014. He also has a long family history with the river.
****QUESTION: Port is a large agency. How do you ensure that your values as a commissioner are followed in day-to-day operations?
CALKINS: He has a whiteboard with a motto: “Remember who’s not at the table. Hoping to soon deploy a community advisory board with community information “on everything”.
ARCHER: Not afraid to ask the tough questions. The port staff are “wonderful professionals”. But they can always be more responsive.
****QUESTION: What about mandatory environmental justice and redirecting money to overburdened communities?
HASEGAWA: Supports fund allocation – mentions current fund that is “really just a drop in the bucket”. Need to proactively direct money towards “greening”. Important not to destroy green spaces.
STEINBRUECK: Long advocated for carbon emissions to be considered a pollutant. Talks about groups that raise funds and open to the expansion of the endowment that Hasegawa had alluded to.
****QUESTION: You will have surveillance on many properties and green spaces. How will you prioritize the environment and anti-displacement?
MOHAMED: It will be proactive, not reactive. She mentions having argued against the transformation of the North SeaTac Park into a parking lot.
****CLOSING: López invited them to explain how they would prioritize health and well-being by accelerating towards achievements that include zero emissions.
CALKINS: It’s really expensive but the port is in a good $ position right now… we’re coming out of the pandemic pretty unscathed so we can invest. Begs voters to choose transformative candidates, who “vote for the future”.
MOHAMED: Need to think more about how to protect affected communities. The port has done a good job “but there is still a lot to do”. She would be present in the community, working alongside people, making sure they are “invited to the table”.
STEINBRUECK: When he first ran almost four years ago, he examined the heat map of affected communities. Believe that the port is doing more than most other governments to address inequalities and problems. He initiated an inventory of trees. Now a land stewardship policy. We are moving forward, we should plant 100,000 more trees.
ARCHER: Its vision is that the port has the lowest carbon footprint of any port in the United States. Can build “the port of the future”.
HASEGAWA: Need to elect people with lived experience. She spoke with historically marginalized communities. Said his opponent takes corporate money. It prioritizes the health of people and the planet.
Mail your ballot to a King County drop box by 8 p.m. Tuesday, or USPS Mail early enough that day that it gets the Nov. 2 postmark.