Port candidates focus on transparency

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Shell Oil's Polar Pioneer Arctic drilling rig before it left Seattle

There is considerable agreement between the two candidates running for the Seattle Port Commission Position 5 seat on one central issue: The commission, as it stands now, has been anything but transparent.

Marine environmental consultant Fred Felleman and economic development manager Marion Yoshino both point to the handling of the lease of Terminal 5 to Foss Maritime and Shell oil in January. The public had only five days to comment on the lease, which led to (ultimately fruitless) protests from kayaktivists and Mayor Ed Murray. (Shell has since abandoned its plans to drill in the Arctic.)

For Felleman, that failure of communication with the public will guide his first decisions as Port Commissioner. “I want to invite the public to have a discussion, not a two-minute testimony, with the commission,” Felleman said. “That would allow them to bring to our attention any sticking points they have with staff projects they’re impacted by.”

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Marion Yoshino

Similarly, in a statement to a Democratic group, Yoshino criticized the Port for exempting itself from a full environmental review of the Shell lease, comparing it to how the port acted during construction of the third runway at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Issues about communications aside, Yoshino takes a somewhat different attitude toward the decision to host Shell.  Instead of pushing away companies, Yoshino wants to create incentives for companies to decrease their environmental footprint.

“It’s fine to have a protest that Shell not drill in the Arctic, but that doesn’t change consumption,” Yoshino said. “We need companies to step up and make investments in infrastructure that uses less fossil fuels. Some kind of discount or tax incentive would facilitate that.”

Yoshino complains on her website that it is difficult to deal with the Port bureaucracy, pointing especially to dealings between the Port's Sea-Tac Airport and businesses in south King County, where she lives. She also promises to continue the Port's role as an economic engine, create more jobs and "work every day to create economic opportunity, and a self-sufficient and sustainable Port."

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Fred Felleman

"Business outreach has not been a priority at the Port," she writes, "and we have let other ports outpace us."

Felleman believes the community impact around the Port is just as important as economic and environmental impacts.

“The way we promote business with the Port needs to be responsive to the public’s concerns. Terminal 5 is going to create noise and light,” Felleman said. “While you’re promoting the business of the Port, you’re trying to mitigate the impacts on the surrounding community with equal vigor.”

Felleman finds another balancing act between creating jobs and creating Port revenue from leases. He is adamant that, between the two, creating employment is the greater goal. “The job of the Port is to create jobs,” Felleman said. “Since we’re spending the public’s money, we have an obligation to be responsible. Our clients are not just terminal operators, but ultimately the public at large.”

Both candidates point to their own, very different backgrounds as offering knowledge and experience that would be useful to making Port decisions. Felleman has spent 10 years regularly attending Port meetings, as well as serving on the Port’s Century Agenda Experts Council. The Century Agenda is the Port’s 25-year plan to create jobs. He also helped to ban offshore oil and gas and the discharge of cruise ship waste from the Washington coast.

Yoshino has experience as an economic-development manager for Des Moines and as a Normandy Park city council member. As economic-development manager, she oversaw the creation of the Des Moines Creek Business Park, which will be the site of the Federal Aviation Administration’s new headquarters. She says she has been involved with south King County concerns with the airport and the third runway as a neighborhood coalition member as early as 1998. 

Felleman has raised $86,300 from donors that include Friends of the Earth and Puget Sound Pilots while Yoshino has raised $30,000 from donors including Glacier Fish Company and the Washington Association of Realtors. Both received $1,000 donations from Alaska Airlines.


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About the Authors & Contributors

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Matt Spaw

Matt Spaw, a former intern at Crosscut, is a journalism student and a writer at The Daily of the University of Washington.