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    Remove roadblocks to the port's mission of moving cargo and people

    There's a widespread view, typified by a recent Knute Berger article, that the Port of Seattle has lost touch with its job-creation responsibilities. Port Commissioner John Creighton gives a different view.
    The mix of truck, rail, and other traffic in SoDo has become an issue in discussion of a proposed sports arena.

    The mix of truck, rail, and other traffic in SoDo has become an issue in discussion of a proposed sports arena. Joey Shevelson/Flickr

    In the wake of the Seattle Port Commission expressing our concerns over the recent basketball arena proposal, I have heard a number of comments to the effect that the Port of Seattle can’t decide if it wants an industrial waterfront or a gentrified waterfront; that, in fact, the Port has been an agent in creating our own slippery slope away from Seattle’s industrial past. This view is typified by Knute Berger’s  recent piece in Crosscut.

    In the 1990s, many factors were acting to change and dislocate traditional industries, and port leaders worked to fight those changes where they could and adjust to them when they had to. But I believe that the complexity of the port and the regional economy, and the overall mission of the Port in moving both cargo and people, gets lost when port actions are classified as either/or — either the port supports industry or the port promotes gentrification.

    I should say upfront that no one at the Port has come out opposed to an NBA arena. I myself remember rushing home from my Seattle Times paper route to catch the SuperSonics during their 1979 championship run. We all are excited at the prospect of bringing the Sonics back to Seattle.

    But we also need to recognize that over the last two decades the state of Washington, the Port, King County, the City of Seattle, and other public and private interests have together invested over $1 billion in the infrastructure that supports industrial activities on our South Seattle and Harbor Island waterfront. We shouldn’t be pursuing policies that risk endangering that investment. A recent Seattle Times article details how the Port’s marine cargo operations generate more than $3 billion in business revenue, state and local taxes, and about 56,000 related jobs. Moreover, what happens in SODO not only impacts logistics and industrial businesses that account for 35 percent of the City of Seattle’s tax base, it also impacts businesses and jobs across the entire state.

    Placing a basketball arena in the path of a freight corridor of critical importance to the economic well-being of the entire state in our view needs to be carefully considered. That is why the Manufacturing Industrial Council (MIC), the Washington State Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board (FMSIB), the Burlington Northern Railway (BNSF), and others have all expressed concerns over the arena proposal.

    The Port of Seattle is an industrial port with a long heritage as an industrial port. Those operations create very good-paying blue collar jobs that add to the strength and diversity of the Puget Sound economy. I and my colleagues on the Port Commission remain committed to sustaining a vibrant industrial port.

    Over the last several decades, pundits have periodically sounded the death knell of the maritime and industrial sectors in Seattle. Yet they have been proved wrong every time.  A good example is Fisherman’s Terminal.

    In the '90s, many people thought the fishing industry was declining. It wasn’t. It was just going through a transition similar to many other sectors: the old model of “mom and pop” operations — families owning a single fishing boat — was giving way to corporations owning a fleet of several fishing trawlers each.

    Since that time, the Port of Seattle has actually seen a renaissance at Fisherman’s Terminal.

    During this time of transition, many West Coast fishing ports closed down. The Port of Seattle bucked the trend by investing in modernizing Fisherman’s Terminal. This and prior port commissions have approved over $60 million in modernization projects and improvements at Fisherman’s Terminal, from swapping out the old wood docks for sturdier, safer concrete docks and upgrading utilities, to replacing seawalls. At the same time, the North Pacific fisheries have been strengthened through sustainable fishing policies. Slips at Fisherman’s Terminal are again home to the majority of the North Pacific fishing fleet. In fact, one of the Port Commission’s 25-year goals is to build on this success and double the economic impact to the region of our fishing and maritime cluster.

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    Posted Tue, Jun 19, 8:32 a.m. Inappropriate

    Commissioner Creighton: Well said. Those who cavalierly dismiss the concerns about the arena and its larger "entertainment district" footprint and impact on the major focal point of maritime shipping and commerce in the most trade-dependent state in the country need to take a step back and see that with appropriate leadership, we could have both a viable port and a home for NBA and NHL teams.

    Mr. Hansen, if he really wants an NBA team here, can locate the arena in some place other than Sodo. The only thing dictating the choice of Sodo is him. The so-called "stadium district" is actually the "Stadium Transition Area Overlay District." Note the word Transition. The Seattle Municipal Code specifically says in part that the district is intended to support "the pedestrian-oriented character of the area as well as the surrounding industrial zone while minimizing conflicts with industrial uses." Further, the district development standards should "discourage encroachment on nearby industrial uses..."

    However, Hansen has made it clear that for him this is about more than just an arena -- it is about changing the entire character of the area and hastening what he sees as its inevitable conversion to a center that primarily supports low-wage service jobs instead of the current family-wage manufacturing and industrial jobs.

    Above all, neither the City nor the County should commit to provide any public funding for this social engineering gambit -- if it gets to the point where they think it might have merits even with the obvious negative impacts, then they should submit the proposition for a thumbs up or thumbs down from voters.

    Posted Tue, Jun 19, 9:15 a.m. Inappropriate

    Commissioner Creighton: I enjoyed your thoughtful piece that both emphasized the importance of the industrial port and the importance to the city of bringing the Super Sonics back to Seattle. I have always believed that they were not mutually exclusive and it was enjoyable to hear someone from an industry point of view agree with that notion.

    I believe that transportation infrastructure projects are the answer to both the port's need to continue serving Seattle's industrial core, and SoDo's need to better manage game-going fans. Surely someone is smart enough to engineer a solution that addresses both problems.

    I do hope that additional commenters will comment solely on the merits of Commissioner Creighton's well thought out and constructed piece and not rehash other discussions that have taken place in other places on this site.


    Posted Tue, Jun 19, 10:34 a.m. Inappropriate

    Ah, a nice pre-packaged political puff piece complete with spontaneous kudos. I see that Crosscut's feverish Publicola Moment has passed and life is back to normal.


    Posted Fri, Jun 22, 9:34 a.m. Inappropriate

    Empty-headed snarkiness, Woofer. It would be nice if Seattle makes it a point to exercise enough foresight to avoid the kind of buyers remorse as happened with I-1183. The Port of Seattle does provide important infrastructure for the rest of the state's economy. I-90 and I-5 have off-ramps that dump straight into SODO to connect the port and the global economies beyond to our farmers in the rest of Washington. From the tulips of the Skagit to the wheat farmers in the Palouse, these freight corridors are critical. On top of that, there are thousands of good, middle-class wage jobs that exist to support the many functions of the port. They inhabit SODO, and anyone can see them while driving the Spokane Street viaduct. Those jobs also sustain other jobs in the Seattle area. They are as real an economic driver as Boeing and Microsoft jobs. Lose those industries and the jobs they support and the state economy will feel the eventual roll-back slap.

    Posted Tue, Jun 19, 1:59 p.m. Inappropriate

    Thanks, John, for laying out the basis for a lot of angst about this arena proposal. I support Sally Bagshaw's efforts to slow things down, encourage another look at the Seattle Center location. Or (oh, dear) there is still land capacity on the Eastside.

    I hear a lot about making this proposal a win-win, that both things ... an arena district and a working port ... can co-exist in this same space in Sodo. Knowing what I know about land use, infrastructure and the economics thereof, I don't see how that statement can be true.

    Rep Deb Eddy

    Deb Eddy

    Posted Fri, Jun 22, 9:40 a.m. Inappropriate

    Yes, there is land on the Eastside.

    And land north and south as well.

    West, not so much.

    The proposal, however, is for the Sodo. It appears to be a solid proposal, albeit one that the Port believes not in its best economic interest.

    Decision time. Study it carefully, but please avoid "the Seattle way." Turn it down, and it will be an even longer time before a developer and local financiers think again about Seattle as an NBA/hockey town.

    Posted Fri, Jun 22, 8:45 p.m. Inappropriate

    Port, the Muni league report said look in the mirror, figure out what you should be doing, stop wasting money, stop operating with back room deals, and get your act together.

    The arena doesn't exist now, and yet, your multi-national mega corporations are leaving no matter how much tax money you suck up and spend.

    Today, Jon Talton suggested essentially that grownups step in and solve the problems you are incapable of solving on your own.

    Mr Baker

    Posted Sat, Jun 23, 3:01 p.m. Inappropriate

    Mr. Baker, You really should disclose your involvement with Hansen before you comment on the arena.

    Anyway, your post is just parroting the astroturf Hansen website talking point. The main talking point being to trash talk anything that is not Hansen, or his proposed publicly subsidized arena.

    An aspect of the problems with freight mobility in Seattle, not discussed by the article's writer, is the seeming hostility toward the Port, and freight mobility, displayed by the current Mayor of Seattle.The Mayor refuses to fund a freight mobility plan. The Mayor knows that the downtown tunnel, and seawall projects (along with the already existant obstacles) will hamper the efficient movement of freight; and, the Mayor refuses to fund a plan to address freight mobility.
    The Mayor had the funds for a bicyle mobility plan--250,000 dollars. The Mayor has the funds to pay for sports consultants, sports lawyers, 9 months of secret meetings between himself and Hansen,and Arena Review Panels,etc etc. There is plenty of money to assist in furthering this billionaires' arena; the amount of Seattle subsidy to the arena must be well over a million dollars to date. I have attempted to get a total figure from the Mayor's office; but it has not been forthcoming. All this money the Mayor has to fund everything but a freight mobility plan. I just can't figure it out; unless, I put my cynicism hat on. I hate it but the cynicism hat is usually correct.

    The Port brings up legitimate issues as to negative impacts of Hansen's arena/mall development; and, the Hansen shills trash talk the Port. The Mariners bring up legitimate concerns about Hansen's development; and, the Hansen shills trash talk the Mariners. The Municipal League Report brings up legitimate points about Hansen's development; and, the Hansen shills trash talk the Municipal League. Some Seattle City Council Members bring up some concerns about Hansen's development; and, the Hansen shills trash talk the Council Members. The Key Arena is brought up; and,the Hansen shills trash talk the Key Arena. Any individual, or entity, that brings up negative aspects of Hansen's proposal is subject to trash talk from Hansen's shills; trash talk orchestrated by Hansen's astro turf websites, and Hansen's currently astro turf sports radio.
    The City of Seattle even gets trash talked by the Hansen shills-- "Oh, The Seattle process is just ridiculous"; "If Seattle turns down this gift, then Seattle truly is a backwater town". All orchestrated by Hansen, and his shills.

    I do not blame the Hansen shills for the childish trash talk. That is all they have. The MOU/contract is so flawed that bringing it up in any detailed way is a sure loser for the Hansen shills. So, the Hansen shills just do what any good marketer does when attempting to sell crap; and that would be to promote the idea that everything else is crap, and worse crap, than the crap the marketer is selling. The shills/marketers of this proposed arena know this proposal is crap. So, the shills will lie, distort facts, bully, and use whatever means possible to convince citizens that the crap they are selling is the best crap around; and that this crap is a "gift". We don't need Hansen's stinking crap "gift". Hansen's welfare Sodo arena proposal is crap, and detrimental to Seattle. The Port is more valuable to Seattle, and Washington State than any arena.


    Posted Sat, Jun 23, 9:50 p.m. Inappropriate

    Considering the process of lies and obfuscation that led to the current plans to swap the access and efficiencies of the AWV for an unproven, congestion producing tunnel/park design with none of these effeciencies for the waterfront, how can anyone possibly believe any of the manipulation of facts and motivations about the impact of even more traffic from this latest stadium comedy?

    Still waiting for the second half of Brewster’s story about why we inflicted this terrible act upon the regions mobility in the first place, and are spending an extra two Billion dollars to do it. See next to the last paragraph…



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