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    Port of Seattle: The gang that can't shoot straight

    Commissioner Rob Holland's sudden resignation caps a year of pratfalls at the Port. The selection process is flawed, even as the stakes get higher at this key institution.

    (Page 2 of 3)

    The six finalists seemed to have more to do with the commissioners’ own political positioning for the races in 2013, when John Creighton, Tom Albro, and the two vacancies are on the ballot, than in finding a really worthy new member. The current board, four men, three from Seattle (John Creighton lives in Bellevue), felt the need to have a woman, so all six finalists are women. They wanted to fend off the Seattle-centric criticism, so while three of the finalists live in Seattle, they all have clear suburban connections. My suspicion is that the two commissioners most likely to face tough races in 2013 (Holland before his decision to resign and Creighton) didn’t want to validate strong challengers by putting them in the list of finalists. (They may rue that insult.)

    A famous quip by former Port Commissioner Pat Davis observed that the Port Commissioner's job “is not a springboard, but a gang plank.” (Rob Holland is the latest illustration.) If it is usually a political dead end, it is also a tough job to get. You have to run a county-wide campaign, raising at least $100,000 for the race. In the case of the Tarleton vacancy, you have to run in 2013 and again in 2015. You have no staff to help you assess the very staff-driven Port business. Special interests (labor, shippers) exert heavy influence in these little-noticed races with low vote counts. Sensitive to criticism about junkets, you have to post all your expenses on the Port website, and you can’t even fly those long trips to Asia in business class.

    The result was a fairly weak bunch of applicants and an even weaker group of finalists. Some, such as Stephanie Bowman, Nancy Wyatt, Claudia Kauffman and Vicki Orrico, may not be looking for a springboard, but at least a way to bounce back from recent electoral defeats. Courtney Gregoire, the former governor’s daughter, is an intriguing new political figure, but she has a fulltime job as a Microsoft attorney and a brand new baby.  Few look like they could hit the ground running, as the commission wanted, or even mount a very good campaign for election in the coming fall. The likely picks, according to insiders, are Bowman with her experience at the Port of Tacoma and broad political backing, and Gregoire, with her winning name to help in raising money and winning votes. Orrico, a dynamic pro-transit planner who has sought a seat on the Bellevue City Council, is another possible choice.

    Ideally, the Port, which is a hugely important business in the region and for the state, would draw people with civic stature and the time to really work at the job. The Port is very much run by its powerful CEO and a large, protective staff. The commission largely tends to provide political cover, diplomatic schmoozing and deciding when a new CEO needs to be hired. On occasion, a commissioner such as Paul Schell or Paige Miller is able to think about long-term strategy.

    Such strategic vision is badly needed. The Port is being squeezed out by all the commercial growth and rising land costs in Seattle, with ports in Tacoma, Vancouver, B.C. and Prince Rupert, B.C., ready to pick up the shippers Seattle loses. Other regions tend to create broad, combined ports, but Tacoma is far too suspicious of Seattle and far too wary of King County politics to be a dance partner. Jan Drago suggests the idea of a five-port Port of Puget Sound (Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, Everett, and Bellingham), arguing that diluting Seattle’s voting strength this way could lull Tacoma into joining. (Dream on!) As it is, Seattle cultivates the big Asian shippers, brings them to Seattle, and then watches land-rich Tacoma steal them away by undercutting Seattle's leases.

    Seattle’s high land values mean that shipping in Seattle has to be subsidized. That creates the dilemma of where you get the money for all the capital improvements ports need. Particularly costly cities need to stay ahead of the competition by expensive upgrades for greater productivity on valuable land, but where is Seattle supposed to get that money, particularly with the Port of Seattle unpopular with the voters?

    Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!


    Posted Thu, Feb 14, 12:45 p.m. Inappropriate



    Posted Thu, Feb 14, 12:48 p.m. Inappropriate

    Mr. Brewster: you chastise the Port for not coming out strongly against the arena, but then complain that Jan Drago did not make the final cut. Drago, as you may be aware, was hand selected to sit on the McGinn/Constantine "Arena Review Panel" that said this was a good deal for the city, even before a written contract to move forward saw the light of day. Drago in other forums claims to be "neutral" on the issue, but in practice has only offered positive comments about the project, while never making substantive criticism. We can't have it both ways.

    Also: isn't the "Hey look, the Port is dysfunctional" meme a bit tired?" When it becomes a talking point for sports business advocates, it is time to move on to a more nuanced angle. Find me a public agency that is not dysfunctional to a degree, by virtue that there are humans involved, and I'll show you a community of journalists and PR flacks that have a vested interest in making sure no one points the flashlight toward the "wrong" place and are terribly good at deflection and obfuscation. The Port in this regard merely has a PR problem. Look hard at county and city agencies, very hard.

    Finally, would it not be better to have Port Commissioners that understand the business of trade, shipping, and logistics (air and freight) as well as a global understanding of these, than it is to offer these seats up as resume builders for politicians that just want to move up the food chain? The latter will send business to Tacoma & Canada faster than you can say: "Mom, can I borrow some luggage for my business trip?" Paul Schell was not a politician that believed in the preservation of our trade and industrial economy, and he certainly proved it when as mayor he was in the pocket of every major real estate developer and speculator.

    Posted Thu, Feb 14, 1:44 p.m. Inappropriate

    It's true that the Port is highly dysfunctional, far beyond other local governments. It's a captive of corporate interests, at the expense of supporting good, family-wage jobs for *all* Port workers.

    But must you stoop to note that one of the candidates, Courtney Gregoire, might not be a good fit because she has "a brand new baby"?Have you raised that factor in the past as a mark against male candidates for local office?

    Posted Thu, Feb 14, 8:29 p.m. Inappropriate

    What is so great about Courtney Gregoire? She is the ex-governor's daughter; no one would even give one care about her, if she were not the ex-governor's daughter. We do not need an aristocracy.


    Posted Fri, Feb 15, 11:42 a.m. Inappropriate

    Hard to believe this was said -

    "Courtney Gregoire, the former governor’s daughter, is an intriguing new political figure, but she has a fulltime job as a Microsoft attorney and a brand new baby."

    I'm absolutely sure if it was a male with a new baby and a full-time job, no one at Crosscut would make such a statement. Very disappointing.


    Posted Thu, Feb 14, 2:19 p.m. Inappropriate

    From the piece:

    The best solution to this drift that I have heard comes from former Port CEO Dick Ford, who notes that most American ports are run by commissioners appointed by the governor.

    There is a federal constitutional limit on what kinds of powers an appointive board may possess. The 14th Amendment requires that municipal entities with appointive boards not possess any more than “administrative function” powers.

    The enabling statutes for ports in this state (particularly RCW Ch. 53.08 which delegates powers to port commissions) would have to be changed in big ways – and much of the current discretionary power afforded their commissions taken away – before they could be headed by political appointees. Dick Ford may have prefaced his “solution” with that observation, but it didn’t make it into this story.

    I’ll submit we don’t have a structural problem with electing port commissioners. We instead have political groups and government heads around here that nurture, support and endorse really lousy candidates. The fact that Holland moved so easily in public policy circles here speaks ill of that class.

    Here’s an excerpt from that recent Times story linked above:

    Holland is the commission’s most liberal member now. But he started his political career in 1999 as a Republican, working for the conservative economic think tank Washington Policy Center, where he wrote 10 papers opposing affirmative action.

    Holland returned to politics after graduate school in 2005 as a Democratic Party activist, later chairing the 37th District Democrats.

    That right there is evidence he is glib and opportunistic. Apparently those qualities are all it takes in the public policy realm around here . . ..

    Here is the Seattle Times in 2009 endorsing Holland though:


    For Position 3, our choice is Holland, the union-backed candidate. Holland lives in Seattle. He is a great-nephew of former Seattle City Councilman Sam Smith and has close ties to the Democratic Party. He works at Seaport Energy selling diesel fuel, and knows the Port as a customer.

    Here is a Times story listing all the key Democratic party, union, and green interest groups around here endorsing Holland:


    Key endorsements: Gov. Chris Gregoire, former Gov. John Spellman, Washington Conservation Voters

    Holland has the backing of the King County Citizens for Port Reform, an independent-expenditure campaign that has collected $250,000 from unions, led by the Teamsters and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

    Holland’s endorsements are listed on page 63 of this voters guide:


    Endorsements That Matter

    According to The Seattle Times, “The Port Commission needs
    people who are smart, who will do the work, and who have a
    broad view of the public’s interest and how the Port fits into it. We
    endorse Rob Holland.”

    Also endorsed by Sierra Club, King County Democrats; King
    County Labor Council; Rep. Adam Smith; more than a dozen
    legislators, Mayors of Kent, SeaTac, Burien; firefighters; business
    leaders and hundreds more…

    More endorsements:


    Holland's commitment to both a clean environment and economic development is reflected in his endorsement list. He has been endorsed by the Martin Luther King County Labor Council, the Building Trades Council of construction unions, and the Sierra Club. He has the support of every Democratic District organization that has endorsed so far. He is also endorsed by Sally Clark, Tom Rasmussen, and four other City Council members, and by State Sen Ed Murray and State Rep Dave Upthegrove.

    So what’s the problem? Is it nothing more than he’s a gay black guy, so every public policy outfit and Democratic party functionary trips over themselves to line up behind him? Has political correctness really run that far amok around here? There’s no way this guy was a solid citizen in 2009 or before when he started getting these endorsements.


    Posted Thu, Feb 14, 5:07 p.m. Inappropriate

    In addition, from his various writings (mostly e-mails) published by The Times, his poor grammar makes me think is is functionally illiterate. How on earth did he get one degree, let alone a masters? If you can't write, you are of little use in any organization.


    Posted Thu, Feb 14, 2:27 p.m. Inappropriate

    Other regions tend to create broad, combined ports, but Tacoma is far too suspicious of Seattle and far too wary of King County politics to be a dance partner.

    Every time the Port of Seattle gets in trouble (which seems to be every few years, as far back as I can remember) the idea gets floated of a merger with the much more successful Port of Tacoma. The problem with this plan is that it's always the Port of Seattle that wants to call the shots for the combined entity. This fear isn't just paranoia on the Port of Tacoma's part, it's usually explicit in the proposal made by Seattle. If Seattle is genuinely serious about saving its port with a merger, put Tacoma in charge. Yeah, it will be humiliating for Seattle. So what? Port operations are a business not a Daffodil Princess Pageant. But, Seattle needs to be serious about reforming its port if it comes on board with the Port of Tacoma. Just combining Puget Sound ports in order to allow the failing Port of Seattle to marginalize the erstwhile competition will destroy the Puget Sound shipping industry as the Seattle-dominated merged entity fails.


    Posted Thu, Feb 14, 5:05 p.m. Inappropriate

    Seattle - Leading self-appointed political pundits today called on incumbent Port commissioners to re-open the search for new commissioner candidates, declaring that the current crop is deficient because “they all appear to have the ability to procreate.”

    “We notice that all of the current candidates are women,” declared the pundits in a statement issued by a new organization MWKBTY (Men Who Know Better Than You). “Based on what we learned years ago, that fact alone tells us that there is a chance they may, at some point in the future, give birth to children.”

    MWKBTY, whose president is listed as the editor of Crosscut, noted that having a child is “sort of like an infirmity, a disability if you will.” The organization believes that motherhood “could compromise the focus and dedication required of a Port commissioner. They could, for instance, become ‘attached’ to their child at the expense of focus on expanding world trade, managing the vast real estate holdings of the Port, or going on corporate-sponsored junkets to distant exotic countries.”

    “We agree wholeheartedly with the Port’s Century Agenda,” concluded MWKBTY. “We think it’s the right vision. We just don’t think that vision includes women of child-bearing age.”


    Posted Thu, Feb 14, 6:53 p.m. Inappropriate


    I respect and enjoy your perspective highly, and I generally believe that you display excellent judgment. But on the topic of the commission open seat selection process, I have to voice my opinion that you are completely off-base.

    First, the Port of Seattle is not a private enterprise; we are a public agency. Doing things behind closed doors is what got prior port commissions in trouble. As much as possible, this commission attempts to be transparent, to do things out in the open. We might not always get it right, but I believe as a public agency we need to err on the side of transparency.

    Second, I do not know an ex-governor, an ex-mayor, a Fortune 100 CEO, a top executive at a locally-based global non-profit, a leading humanitarian or any other "highly regarded civic leader" (as you put it) who was interested in applying for the commission open seat. And you can rest assured that my fellow commissioners and I were each quietly putting the word out looking to recruit good candidates alll throughout the winter.

    That we failed to recruit a "highly regarded civic leader" might well say something about the position. What highly regarded civic leader would want to go to the trouble to put in 15-25 hours a week performing their port responsibilities for $500 a month, while subjecting themselves to the constant scrutiny of their personal and professional lives by a Fourth Estate whose representatives have told me "good news about the port is not news."

    And by the way, if someone you know who fits the bill of highly regarded civic leader was too shy about putting his or her name out there in the public domain, how on earth is he or she going to have the fortitude necessary to run an effective county-wide campaign?

    Moreover, what appears to be an elitist bias on your part does a huge disservice to the 29 publicly minded citizens who actually did put their names out there publicly, and actually did apply for the open seat on the port commission. As a former Wall Street banker and Columbia educated lawyer, I don't think I am a slouch in the pedigree department, and I can tell you that I am super impressed by the six women we picked as finalists. Furthermore, I am thankful that each of them had the gumption and public mindedness to apply for the position despite all the pitfalls such a position is known to entail.

    All the best, John Creighton, Seattle Port Commissioner

    Posted Thu, Feb 14, 11:49 p.m. Inappropriate

    Next time, John, utilize the Fourth Estate to get new blood to the tables of the Port. Enter discussions, exchange ideas, participate.

    I can guarantee you that the simple criticisms can be easily managed if the readers see intelligent participation.

    Transparency is critically important, but so is meaningful participation. This style of participation is far better than any public meeting, yet never give up on public meetings, I enjoy them via tape or live feed.

    Sunshine needs more than just sunshine. To make things grow, you must participate.

    Posted Thu, Feb 14, 7:27 p.m. Inappropriate

    I was worried in reading this that you weren't going to get to the point, but you finally did. I agree completely that the Port Board should be appointed by the Governor. While we all love the voters, the fact is that the voters are incompetent to select a Port Board. No amount of pundit hand-wringing is going to change that. If the voters don't know what they are doing, they will elect people who don't know what they are doing, and there is no real accountability. The competition between the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma (and Longview too) is nothing but wasteful. They should cooperate instead. The real competitors are in California. We could be far more successful in trans-Pacific shipping if we had an integrated statewide strategy, but this can never happen as the ports are organized now. There should be one Port Authority in Washington, and one Board.

    Posted Thu, Feb 14, 7:57 p.m. Inappropriate

    Let's not kid ourselves. The 21st century belongs to Canada. Ultimately coal from Canada and oil, or its byproducts, originating from the Alberta tarsands, will reach Asia.

    Despite past recession in Canada, Canadian finances are very stable, unlike America. Which currency should be referred to as the Northern Peso now? Today that comment is a real insult to Mexico, as Bill Gross advises to buy Mexican bonds.

    The world is turned upside down when the bonds of Canada and Mexico are more desirable than US bonds.

    Posted Thu, Feb 14, 9:18 p.m. Inappropriate

    Overall, I think the Port Commissioners did a good job of trying to fill the position. First, this is the only time I've seen ads for a vacancy of a public position. The Port put on an open house for interested candidates that was widely publicized, they gave people a lot of time to apply, and they have shown an interest in new people. Who knows, maybe they have some ideas to address the critical issues Mr Brewster mentions.

    One of those issues mentioned above is seaport finances. I remember several years ago reading a story in the Morning News Tribune about the Port of Seattle's seaport leases. The writer mentioned that the Port of Seattle would price the lease low to start, then the stated lease would increase, but then said something along the lines of 'everyone knows that before the lease is up, they will reduce the terms because no one would pay that much.' This is not the fault of any of the current commissioners. No doubt some of the staff is in place now who was there then, but not Mr Dinsmore.

    I have assisted on some Port Commission campaigns, and it is definitely very hard to run a county-wide race. Certain candidates have had a very easy time getting campaign contributions from a small core group of business interests. Other candidates have had a harder time pulling together funds from more disparate sources. The issue is not just the cost of the campaign, it is the ease of pulling together the finances. At least now there are campaign contribution limits which makes things a little more even than when Pat Davis ran against Jack Jolley, for example.

    Different people have different perspectives on the effectiveness of the "long term strategic thinkers" cited as illustrious and exemplary. Look closely at all the debt the Port incurred during their tenure. This debt is one of the biggest headaches for the current commission because it results in very high fixed costs.

    To close, I don't know the candidates' goals or experiences so I don't know whether Mr Brewster is right or wrong about this being a weak group of candidates. Past commissioners and directors with notable resumes have in my opinion made some very serious and costly mistakes. Also, I remember reading though the Bob Ferguson has very young children, yet no one made a big deal of that in his race for AG. No one said Gov Locke wasn't qualified because he had infant children. So, let's give the Commissioners a chance to ask "how would you balance your current job and family responsibilities with the requirements as we see them of being a Commissioner."


    Posted Thu, Feb 14, 11:51 p.m. Inappropriate

    "So, let's give the Commissioners a chance to ask "how would you balance your current job and family responsibilities with the requirements as we see them of being a Commissioner."

    That would be the style of asinine question that the Commissioners should never ask.

    Posted Fri, Feb 15, 8:48 a.m. Inappropriate

    The premise of this piece is totally mistaken and wrongheaded, as are the comments. The Port of Seattle is not a seaport. It is an airport. According to the Port's 2013 budget summary, the airport will generate over $526 million in revenue, while expending $634 million. Meanwhile, the seaport will generate $154 million while spending $143 million. And a large portion of the revenue is from the cruise ship business.

    The future of the present working waterfront as a working port is a dead end. Remaining competitive with Tacoma, Vancouver, Oakland, rural British Columbia, Los Angeles/Long Beach (not to mention the widened Panama Canal) is impossible and undesirable. The Port should recognize itself for what it is: a major world gateway that is Seattle-Tacoma International Airport with a cruise ship appendage. Waterfront properties that will become increasingly valuable over time should be sold off, public debt retired, levies reduced or eliminated, and the idea of a working waterfront consigned to history. Too bad. Get real. And enjoy the view of the harbor--the crains, not the cranes.


    Posted Fri, Feb 15, 9:38 a.m. Inappropriate

    I'd been mulling a response to this column, because it contains some interesting observations and ideas about an agency that deserves attention and appreciation. And the comment thread has been really interesting ...

    Unfortunately, I simply cannot get past the implication that Courtney Gregoire's new baby and/or her full-time job are marks against or considerations in assessing her candidacy.

    Brewster, I think you owe someone -- actually, all of us on the distaff side of the family -- an apology. Either that, or some darned artful parsing of your words.

    /deb eddy/

    Deb Eddy

    Posted Fri, Feb 15, 10:04 a.m. Inappropriate

    This column has to be one of the most sexist things I've read in quite a while.

    First off - how is a man, who was legal counsel at the Port of Portland, a better pick than a woman who has an MBA and was the Federal Government Affairs Director at the Port of Tacoma, which happens to have a much larger shipping business than the Port of Portland?

    Oh, and while we're at it, if you DO have a legal degree (and worked at the Federal Commerce Department) - having a baby disqualifies you??? Never mind that there's a spouse very involved in child rearing who has every ability to look after that baby.

    I've had the distinct pleasure of working with both Stephanie Bowman and Courtney Gregoire as one of their colleagues. These are very talented, intelligent women who are very involved in their communities. Both would certainly be able to hit the ground running - possibly running circles around you as they do so.

    Experience is certainly a valuable part of someone's qualifications - both of these individuals have impressive resumes. But you seem to believe only people at their end of their career would be a great 'get' for the Port. Isn't there something to be said for having folks on the commission with fresh ideas?

    All I can surmise from this article is that you are apparently unqualified to judge the qualifications of others.


    Posted Fri, Feb 15, 10:17 a.m. Inappropriate

    Nicely said, Hillary. I'm still reeling from another Crosscut supported theory that women aren't running for Mayor of Seattle because, well, the job is just too darned hard for the little ladies and we don't like a challenge.

    Now we have 6 very qualified professionals up for port commission, all with ovaries instead of testes, and none of them meet Crosscut's standard?

    Again, until we see more female reporters (not occasional columnists, but actual writers) and less blatant sexism on the political/business beat, I won't give my 77 cents on the male dollar to Crosscut.

    Posted Sun, Feb 17, 3:10 p.m. Inappropriate

    Apologies for the clumsy way I made the point about the Port's focus on getting new commissioners who have the freedom and the time (about half time) to spend on Port matters. A new baby is probably the least of these concerns; a fulltime job at Microsoft (if it were to remain that) and given the huge demands Microsoft puts on its employees, is more of a factor.

    The issue points to another problem with the way the Port Commission is structured. Those most effective are those without a full time job and who become deeply knowledgeable (such as Paige Miller before she had to quit in order to get a full time job) or are semi-retired. The lack of staff support makes it even tougher. Thus you had the situation until recently when four of the five commissioners (all except Tom Albro)were pursuing other political offices.

    Posted Fri, Feb 15, 9:57 p.m. Inappropriate

    I don't typically comment on blogs in response to articles but the comments regarding Courtney Gregoire's suitability for office spurred me to respond.

    To even imply that Ms. Gregoire may not be suited for office as a new mom with a job is a grossly ignorant statement that reinforces age old stereotypes that lay under the surface in politics today.

    I am an elected official, a new mom (of twins) and have a job that I love. As a mom to be I was subjected to whispered thoughts that I would no longer be able to carry out my duties because I have children. Yet, with 10 day old babies at home, a fully capable husband and his full support I attended my city council meeting and have not missed a single council meeting since my children were born.

    I take my children to meetings when necessary and am proud of it.

    Just last weekend I spoke with a class of IDF and when asked why more women and mom's drop out or decline to become involved in politics I cited attitudes just like the one in this article as a limiting factor and encouraged the fellows to not let these outdated stereotypes influence political participation.

    Now, I haven't been through the rigors of law school, the hectic pace of working in Congress or the rigors of managing life during a parents statewide campaigns and time in office but I think it is safe to assume that Ms. Gregoire is not only extraordinarily well-qualified for the Position, but also adept at balancing multiple competing priorities. Not unlike any male candidate who happens to be a new father.

    There has been a lot of airtime lately given to the fact that fewer women a holding positions in elected office. Articles like this are part of the problem.


    Posted Sat, Feb 16, 4:06 p.m. Inappropriate

    Amy, don't get focused on the mommy card, it weakens you. Does your husband brag that he takes the twins to meetings and is proud of it? I'll bet not.

    And you should NOT be proud that you take your children with you to meetings that you were elected to attend. Get a friggin babysitter and walk the walk of a true professional -- 100% of the time when you are working.

    Posted Sat, Feb 16, 7:35 p.m. Inappropriate

    I agree with the sentiments that the Port Commission should be appointed - by the Governor or perhaps by the King Couny executive or Seattle mayor.

    Having the Port Commission elected by the general public has created the situation where 95% of the voters have no information about the candidates nor Port issues, and simply don't care. As a result, the major beneficiaries of the Port - shippers, the construction industry, and organized labor - are the primary contributors for Port commissioner elections, and therefore are essentially controlling the commission.

    The Port should be run more like a private business that needs to look after the long-term best interests of the entire County, and not a few narrow constituencies. Why on earth was $550 million spent on the Rental Car Center at Seatac, which added 29 shuttle buses and dramatically increased congestion at Seatac airport - it was a waste of money that inconveniences passengers and increases congestion. Just to create some construction jobs and maybe buy some property at an over-the-market price.

    Why does the Port need tens of millions of dollars in property tax revenue every year? Can't the Port be self-sustaining, and the property tax revenue redirected to transit or schools?

    How can the Port tolerate policies which close the container terminal gates for lunch hour and leave trucks backing up the entire SODO area?

    There is a lot of malfeasance. But the decision-making at the port has to change to answer to a broad constituency of all King County residents, not a select few shippers, contractors, and unions.


    Posted Mon, Feb 18, 12:05 p.m. Inappropriate

    The bad news shows up in the comments (not unprecedented at Crosscut). If gabowker' figures are correct then the City's embrace of the Stadium kind of makes some sort of callous sense. Why do the Mayor and the Council only show this kind of iron discipline when they are diminishing something truly important? they save their best for the worst I guess.


    Posted Fri, Feb 22, 9:06 a.m. Inappropriate

    The process for filling multiple vacancies on the port commission is spelled out in RCW42.12.070(2).


    Posted Fri, Feb 22, 10:36 a.m. Inappropriate

    Backseat driving is easy. David, what is YOUR profile of an ideal Port Commissioner? Commentators, how would YOU write the job description of a Commissioner?

    Posted Tue, Feb 26, 4:56 p.m. Inappropriate

    For reason obscure to me but no doubt having to do with my working on several books and being engaged in several major on-line controversies I missed David Brewster's piece on the Port until John Creighton called my attention to it today.


    First of all, let me express astonishment at Brewster's apparently buying at face value the Seattle Times' Emily Heffer but no doubt editor in chief and power's-there-be-approved petty hit piece [s] on Bob Holland. Have we lost all ability to be sceptical? Do we buy into the cool-aid like a first grader? Can we not probe where interests lie?

    and its follow up

    The interview that the piece cites, was conducted via e-mail, yet Heffer has Holland "tearing up," who was recovering from a tonsilectomy. Holland evidently wouldnt have been in a bit of a financial mess if his 30 hours a week at the Port had been embursed, say, at the rate of a mid-level civil servant. I found Holland to be overly well intentioned and a bit wet behind the ears, and his election as well as those of Gail Tarleton and Bob Bryant (see anon), for my money, prove the point made among the comments here that the voters are ill-equipped to chose Port Commissioners - but why are they ill equipped? Because the Fifth Estate does such a superb job of vetting them and of keeping tabs on the way the Port is run, that is my derisive conclusion based now on near twenty years in Seattle, City of Banana slugs where critical mental activity has never managed to speed them up to be, what?, water striders? Yet think of themselves as hip, why, because they drink latte's first thing in the morning. Caffeine no matter how well served will never do the trick.

    To hold his early dislike of affirmative action against Holland - I don't know, but affirmative action as well as busing are not just insults to the affirmed and transported, but declaration of what a hideous country the U.S. of A. is historically in so many ways that those practical means had to be devised to redress some balances.

    At about the time, eight years ago, that, for reasons of personal acquaintance with a series of candidates, I took a gander at the Port of Seattle, it then devolved that Tim Eyemann's initiative to have Brian Sontag do an audit resulted in the finding of what was it, a 100 million dollar problem? Now, my New York City sharpened and not yet again sleepy-headed nose was not surprised that the so nepotistically administered Port was found seriously wanting, and that that very formidable executive Mic Dinsmore then resigned, and his chief backer among the commissioners, Pat Davis, clever girl, then followed suit. However, the two candidates who ran on a reform platform, Tartleton and Bryant, have turned out to be anything but. Two-faced Tartleton near instantly was in the bag of the administration, ditto for Bryant; and best to my estimate, defeated the best commissioner I met during my watch, Alec Fisken, and a Bob Edwards, the kind of Republican I happen to like. Best as I could tell, with the kind of money then invested in running for these obscure position that election had a bit of the feel of the sulphur of the national kind.

    I entirely agree that the State of Washington needs a State Port Commission that ought to
    first decide where what is shipped out of and into most efficiently and fairly. Since I happened to drive up the coast back in June 1994 and sought to find a place to eat in Hoquiam Grey's Harbor on a Sunday eve, I got a memorable whiff of a very depressed area, and would not want it to be neglected in the process. http://cityofhoquiam.com/

    I could go on at some further length, but do so in my letter to Westneat at


    Posted Wed, Feb 27, 4:34 p.m. Inappropriate

    Incidentally, since Bob Holland gets a second Third Degree courtesy of David Brewster and some comments, here is his bio as posted
    at the Port of Seattle.


    Rob Holland

    Position 3

    Current Term: January 1, 2010 - December 31, 2013.

    Current Office: Member-at-large.

    Previous Commission Offices: Vice President (2011) and Secretary (2010).

    Current Port Commission committee assignments: None.

    Previous Port Commission committee assignments: Audit Committee (2011).

    Century Agenda Portfolios: Workforce Development/Small Business Growth (lead), Premier International Logistics Hub (secondary).

    2012 Outside Board Assignments: enterpriseSeattle, Puget Sound Regional Council Economic Development District Board, Washington Council on International Trade and Workforce Development.

    Education: B.A. (Washington State University) and M.PA. (Seattle University).

    About Commissioner Holland: Seattle Port Commissioner Robert E. Holland was elected by the citizens of King County in 2009. He is the first African American commissioner elected to the Port Commission and the first openly gay commissioner.

    His family has a long history on the waterfronts’ of Puget Sound – migrating from the American South to work in area shipyards. Prior to being elected to the Port Commission, Commissioner Holland held positions in the transportation industry –trucking, shipping and ports.

    Holland graduated from Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, and earned a Master of Public Administration degree from Seattle University. In 2010, Holland was selected as a German Marshall Fellow and participated in the World Affairs Council Fellows Program. He was also an instructor at South Seattle Community College in the Transportation and Logistics program.

    On the Commission, Holland has shown an interest in workforce development, labor relations and small/minority business development. He has championed exports by vigorously supporting Foreign Trade Zones (FTZs) as a tool to attract manufacturers from high-cost West Coast cities and other Asian markets to relocate to King County. His top priority as a commissioner is adding to the number of jobs the Port of Seattle’s economic activity creates and providing more pathways for a new generation of workers to share in the prosperity. Holland has taken on efforts to provide opportunities to high school students interested in going to sea and becoming the next generation of North Pacific fishermen. And he has worked with airport vendors to provide family-wage and entry level jobs to communities around the facility.

    Commissioner Holland serves on the Puget Sound Regional Council’s Economic Development Board and enterpriseSeattle – the leading economic development efforts in the region. He also served on Seattle Metro Chamber of Commerce Trade Development Alliance Board in 2010 and 2011.

    Holland has been a leader with the Russian Chamber of Commerce in championing that country’s entrance into WTO. He was very active in local efforts in passing the Korea Free Trade Agreement, and been very active with the African Chamber of Commerce in promoting jobs and trade between the Pacific Northwest and new emerging markets on the continent of Africa.

    Combining his interest in clean energy and creating jobs, Commissioner Holland developed efforts under President Barack Obama’s Green Jobs Act, which provided funding for “green” collar job training for veterans, displaced workers, at risk youth, and individuals in families under 200 percent of the federal poverty line. Governor Christine Gregoire highlighted the effort as a “best practice” effort in helping unemployed Washingtonian’s get back to work.

    He also previously served as a member of the King County Agricultural Commission where he led efforts to expand high-value exports from King County growers to domestic markets in Hawaii, Alaska and Pacific Island nations.

    Commissioner Holland became a Fellow of the prestigious ENO Transportation Foundation in Washington, D.C. and was selected to receive an award named after former President Clinton’s Transportation Secretary, The Rodney Slater award for an African American making a difference in the transportation industry.

    Commissioner Holland is a proud member of Public Safety Employees Union Local 519. He lives in Tukwila where he enjoys passing time working on model ships.

    The positives in his Bio go unmentioned in the Seattle Times and by Brewster and by these commenters, which makes their nit-picking that much uglier.


    Posted Wed, Feb 27, 5:43 p.m. Inappropriate

    Here is a comment that Alec Fisken made to me, where he also touches on what David Brester proposed

    "On 2/27/2013 3:18 PM, Alec Fisken wrote:
    Mr. Roloff,

    So now for a while you send me these drafts (and other random items) which I enjoy and generally think are accurate, and often you solicit suggestions or comments, which I never offer. But I've been thinking about it, and I wanted to note a difference in our perspectives on the port, which maybe I expressed before but the discussion slipped my mind.

    Being by background a finance person, I think the big issue at the port is the tax levy, and the fact that it does not go to lower the cost to shippers and thus encourage business, but to provide additional revenue to stevedores - primarily what used to be SSA and then Carrix and now Goldman Sachs/Carrix. I would guess (although they have not shared the key documents with me) that in 2012 Goldman Sachs was the primary beneficiary of the levy.

    So I do think that commissioners should be paid, and agree with David B. that they should be appointed (the rest of his piece was just channeling Dick Ford), and that the port has a important role in economic development. And probably the staff set Rob Holland up unjustly. At least I know they do do that, although maybe he was an easy target.

    But the levy is my obsession, and until that's dealt with, I think the good things that the port could do are at risk, and so one should focus on that.

    Whew. Now I've commented.

    Hope all's well. Alec"


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