By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
That speech today at Salty’s on Alki (WSB sponsor) brought him full circle, Bryant said, because he announced his Port Commission run at nearby Jack Block Park in 2006.
His run for governor, by contrast, was announced online. And here’s our video of what he told the Rotary Club today:
Bryant delivered more of a valedictory for his 8 years on the commission than a speech looking ahead to what he would hope to do as governor. He said he ran on a platform that eventually spanned four key points:
*Wanted to clean up Puget Sound
*Wanted to clean up the traffic mess
*Wanted to clean up Port Commission
*Wanted to increase competitiveness of port and “keep family wage jobs here”
On #1 – he said he was told “the Port Commission doesn’t have anything to do with Puget Sound” but he countered that the Port is the largest landowner on Elliott Bay, as well as a major landowner on the Duwamish, so, yes. it does. He says they’ve “elevated the commission’s role” in cleaning up a “dying” Puget Sound over the last four years. “We don’t have a lot of time to save it – if we spend the next 10 years dawdling, only making the progress we’ve made over the previous 10 years, we’ll have spent billions on Puget Sound and not have a lot to show for it.” He stressed a focus on stormwater and habitat restoration. He said at least two of the port’s marinas have earned a 5 via EnviroStar, operated “to the highest level of marina sensitivity.” Its parks “have all been certified as ‘salmon-safe’.” And Sea-Tac Airport, he said, is becoming North America’s first “salmon-safe” airport. “The work the Port of Seattle has done over the last eight years has got to continue,” he concluded.
On #2 – “We have elevated our role as a Port Commission in being a player in statewide transportation policies,” necessary because jobs won’t be generated if the freight can’t be moved. He mentioned the port helping to pay for the East Marginal Way Grade Separation, among other transportation projects. “But there’s a lot of work to be done.” He spoke of being part of a group convened by former Gov. Gregoire before she left office, identifying $30 billion in unmet transportation needs.
On #3 – “When I wrote that (campaign pledge), I had no idea what my first day on the Port Commission would be like.” That day, he said, involved the release of an auditor’s report identifying potential multi-million-dollar waste. His first meeting, as a result, “the place was packed,” with “the Fire Marshal turning people away.” He said the port is “the most open, transparent government in Washington, bar none” compared to how it operated before then. He talked about briefings at the last moment in the early days, with little notice to the public before key votes, but said briefings and public notice mostly arrive well in advance now. (He did not mention the furor over the short public notice before the port lease with Foss that enabled the controversial arrival of Shell offshore-drilling rigs at Terminal 5.)
On #4 – He spoke of the plan to ready the port for bigger ships, “the size of a few football fields,” including the Terminal 5 modernization project. He called T-5 “one of the best terminals in the United States,” with its location, its size, its “naturally deep water,” its rail service, “but it’s not set up to handle (a big ship).” The modernization is going to cost $250 million to $400 million. Puget Sound needs four big-ship-ready terminals, he says. It has two already, and the plan for T-5. He says that’s part of the impetus behind the Seattle and Tacoma ports joining to form the Northwest Seaport Alliance.
“I set out to do four of four things … I can leave after eight years very satisfied with what I have done,” he declared.
First audience question: Where’s the surface traffic with the Terminal 5 bigger ships going to go? Bryant replied the new “heavy haul corridor” plan – announced recently by the city – will handle that.
A later question asked about the truck backups that happen in the area on occasion. Bryant mentioned the Lander Street Overpass that was to be built (and is now supposed to get a jumpstart from the Move Seattle levy passed by city voters last month) and some broken promises along the way, noting that “promises” made relating to Safeco Field hadn’t been kept, spawning skepticism over the next possible arena’s effect on transportation. SODO “can work” in a multi-use way, he said, but “we’ve got to have some major transportation investments,” including road repairs.
He reminded people that the port belongs to all of King County, not just the city. He also noted that the new alliance means Seattle is “the northern terminal” and Tacoma is “the southern terminal.”
Doesn’t the port’s property-tax levy have to go up to pay for improvements such as the port modernization? he was asked. Short answer: No, but that money is being used, in part, to pay off bonds, for projects including transportation facilities, and he said he personally believes that “projects that should be paid for by the gas tax are being paid for by the ports.”
To hear everything he was asked, listen to/watch the video above – the Q/A spans the final 10 minutes or so.
Bryant’s successor in Seattle Port Commission Position 5 will be Fred Felleman.