ELECTION 2021: One last look at Seattle Port Commission candidates

October 29, 2021 11:56 pm
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 |   Port of Seattle | West Seattle news | West Seattle politics

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Most of the spotlight this election season has shone on candidates for Seattle city offices. But that’s not all you’ll find on your ballot (if you’re among the 80+% of local voters whose ballots haven’t been turned in yet). You have 17 choice to make – including three races for Seattle Port Commission.

Five commissioners, all elected countywide, comprise the board, serving four-year terms. This year, Positions 1, 3, and 4 are up for election. In each race, the incumbent and a challenger filed for the seat, so there were no primary votes – all six candidates went directly to the general election. Thursday night, five of them participated in an online forum presented by the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition and Seattle Parks Foundation – for Position 1, first-term incumbent Ryan Calkins; for Position 3, two-term incumbent Stephanie Bowman and King County policy adviser Hamdi Mohamed; and for Position 4, first-term incumbent Peter Steinbrueck and state Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs executive director Toshiko Grace Hasegawa.

DRCC executive director Paulina López co-hosted with SPF CEO Rebecca Bear. In opening comments, they pointed out the enormity of the Port of Seattle‘s impact on our region, both seaport and airport operations. The forum was only allotted an hour, so after introductory opening statements, questions were asked randomly of one or more participants. What we’ve written below is our summarizing/paraphrasing of the questions and answers, not direct quotes unless designated as such by quotation marks.

****QUESTION: Near-port communities have lower life expectancies because of air pollution. How do you balance that with competitive pressures?

CALKINS: We’ve accelerated climate efforts. This week we moved targets to 2040 instead of 2050. We need to “electrify everything.” Land-based tech is there. Awaiting federal funding for diesel-to-electric transition. There’s a 30-year Seattle waterfront plan to electrify everything.

BOWMAN: Also note regarding Terminal 5, it has on-dock rail, “critically important … to get trucks off the road.” And it has shore power. Supporter of moving toward zero-emission drayage (short-distance-movement) trucks. Also, the port created its own stormwater utility, only port in the state to do that.

****QUESTION: Port has worked to support opening of Maritime High School. How would you as a port commissioner support BIPOC community youth near the port and airport?

MOHAMED: She’s on the Maritime HS advisory board. “Right now … we’re seeing a rise in demand for shipping everywhere … and there’s a huge labor shortage,” so now they’re educating youth about this industry and its good-paying jobs, “pathways to employment.” Must protect environment and education for youth.

CALKINS: (After Bowman gave him her time, saying he “created” Maritime HS) “We need these kids to join our workforce” – mentions the ferry system’s labor shortage too.

****QUESTION: López brings up the “triple threat” facing the Duwamish River: What would you do to protect it and ensure the full cleanup?

HASEGAWA: She fished in the Duwamish growing up. Now she sees “fun to catch but toxic to eat” campaigns. Acknowledges the life-expectancy gap; “This is literally a matter of life and death.’ Must support the full cleanup, wants an agreement with tribes.

STEINBRUECK: Says he was advocating for the cleanup even before the Record of Decision, when he was on Seattle City Council in 2014. Also has a long family history with the river.

****QUESTION: Port is a big agency. How do you ensure your values as a commissioner are followed through in day-to-day operations?

CALKINS: He has a whiteboard with a motto, “Remember who is not at the table.” Hoping to roll out a Community Advisory Board soon with community insights “about everything.”

BOWMAN: Not afraid to ask the tough questions. 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 allocating funding – mentions a current fund that’s “really just a drop in the bucket.” Need to proactively direct money to “greening.” Important not to destroy greenspaces.

STEINBRUECK: Had long advocated for carbon emissions to be considered a pollutant. Talks about groups that are leveraging funds and open to expanding endowment to which Hasegawa had alluded.

****QUESTION: You’ll have oversight over a lot of property and greenspace. How will you prioritize environmental and anti-displacement?

MOHAMED: She’ll be proactive, not reactive. She mentions advocating against turning North SeaTac Park into a parking lot.

****CLOSING: López invited them to explain how they would prioritize health and wellbeing by accelerating toward achievements including zero emissions.

CALKINS: It’s really expensive but the port is in a good $ spot right now … we’re coming out of the pandemic pretty unscathed so we can invest.. Implores voters to pick transformative candidates, who are “voting for the future.”

MOHAMED: Need to think more about how to protect impacted communities. The port has done a lot of good work “but there’s more that needs to happen.” 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 looked at heat map of affected communities. Thinks the port is doing more than most other governments in addressing inequities and problems. He initiated a tree inventory. Now, a land stewardship policy. We’re making progress, should plant 100,000 more trees.

BOWMAN: Her vision is that the port has lowest carbon footprint of any port in the US. Can build “the port of the future.”

HASEGAWA: Need to elect people with lived experience. She talked to historically marganalized communities. Says her opponent is taking business money. She is prioritizing health of people and planet.

Get your ballot to a King County dropbox by 8 pm Tuesday, or into the USPS mail early enough that day that it will get a November 2nd postmark.

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