As I reflect during this holiday season, I have a lot to be thankful for. First and foremost, I am thankful for all of my friends and supporters who have stood by my side during my twelve years in public office and without whom I could never have done it. I truly believe that we are a better, more competitive Port today because of the collective efforts of so many people, including the many stakeholders who care about the Port, the focus and public-mindedness of my colleagues on the Commission throughout the years, and a dedicated, professional Port staff.
As you likely know by now, later mail-in ballots went the other way and I lost my bid for re-election to the Seattle Port Commission. While we lost the campaign, we also have a lot to be proud of.
While my opponent ran a campaign of questionable ethics that included a fair amount of mudslinging and claims of accomplishments he did not do and endorsements he did not have, we ran a positive campaign focused on growing jobs and strengthening the role of the Port in our regional economy.
We have accomplished a lot during my tenure on the Port Commission and have a lot to be proud of:
Northwest Seaport Alliance. In 2008, I had lunch at Verrazano’s in Federal Way with then Tacoma Commission President Dick Marzano to discuss greater cooperation between our two ports. Many other commissioners at both ports then helped move cooperation forward, particularly Commissioners Stephanie Bowman and Clare Petrich who led us to the finish line. After several years of talks and much perseverance, we launched the Northwest Seaport Alliance in 2014, strengthening the competitive position of Puget Sound container ports and winning back cargo and jobs.
Century Agenda Plan to Create 100,000 New Port Jobs. Working with industry and community leaders, Commissioner Tom Albro and I led the development of a 25-year strategic plan to grow 100,000 new middle class jobs across Port operations for our region. Five years later, we are firing on all cylinders and seeing growth in jobs and revenue across both the seaport and the airport.
Transforming the Port of Seattle into a Leading Green Port. In my first couple years as a commissioner, I worked to bring the business and environmental communities behind what now is considered a truism: that to be financially sustainable a port also needs to be environmentally sustainable. When I was Commission President in 2008 we set the goal for the Port of Seattle to be “the greenest, most energy efficient port in North America." During my twelve years on the Commission, we have moved forward over 50 leading green initiatives focused on clean air, clean water, brownfield cleanup, habitat restoration, recycling, conservation, sustainable aviation biofuels and the like and won countless awards for our work. My good friend and now colleague, Commissioner Fred Felleman, held the Port's feet to the fire and worked collaboratively with me and my fellow commissioners, first from the outside and now from the inside, to help transform us into a leading green port.
Acquisition of the BNSF Eastside Rail Corridor. In 2007, the Port acquired from BNSF Railway a 43-mile rail corridor running from Renton to Snohomish, preserving it in public ownership and preventing BNSF from parceling it out to hundreds of private landowners. As a kid who grew up on the Eastside and rode my bike along the railroad tracks, this project was very special to me. With East King County becoming more and more congested, the Corridor will be an asset to our region for generations to come.
Organizational Changes Saving Taxpayer’s Money. Commissioner Lloyd Hara and I proposed the Port’s first Audit Committee to give the Commission better oversight over the Port’s financial controls and procedures. Since then we have strengthened financial oversight at the Port, including an independent internal audit program that has saved taxpayers over $8 million and better controls and procedures on capital projects.
Modernization of Sea-Tac Airport to Meet Region’s Needs. When I first became a Commissioner, the Port was finishing construction of the Third Runway and the Light Rail connection to the airport. We then added a remote rental car facility to handle growing needs. With Sea-Tac Airport being the fastest growing large airport in the US for the last three years, the Commission has approved an additional $2.5 billion in modernization projects to serve regional needs, including a new International Arrivals Facility and an expanded North Satellite.
Updates to Fishermen’s Terminal Completed and 25-Year Strategic Plan Developed. Fisherman’s Terminal is not only the Port’s first terminal developed in 1914, it continues to be the heart and soul of the Port and the local maritime community. The North Pacific Fishing Fleet that berths at the terminal accounts for 40% of the domestic seafood consumed in the US. During my time at the Port, the Commission approved over $60 million of investments to modernize the facility, replacing unsafe wood with concrete docks, upgrading utilities, etc. We also completed a 25-year strategic plan aimed at strengthening the cluster of maintenance, repair and supply companies that serve the fishing fleet.
Investments Supporting Growth of Seattle into Busiest US Westcoast Cruise Port. During the 2017 season, the Port of Seattle saw over one million cruise passengers travel through our terminals for the first time. This was made possible by a new cruise terminal at Smith Cove in North Seattle and the expansion of Bell Harbor Cruise Terminal along the Central Waterfront, both planned, developed and opened during my time on the Commission. We continue to strive towards our Century Agenda goal of doubling the economic impact of the cruise industry to Washington State by 2037.
Strengthening the Port’s Role in Connecting Seattle to the World. As someone who has lived and worked in five countries, I have always cherished the great diversity of our region. The Port plays an important role in connecting immigrant communities to the world, whether they be German-Americans, Korean-Americans, Somali-Americans or any number of other communities. The number of international destinations served non-stop from Sea-Tac Airport has almost doubled during my time at the Port. And I was proud to stand with Commissioner Courtney Gregoire when she led the Commission earlier this year in pushing back against the administration’s ill-considered and unconstitutional travel ban.
- Building Stronger Relationships with Sister Governments. I’ve always believed that building a closer working relationship with the 39 cities across King County - including the City of Seattle and our airport-area communities - is a key to the Port’s success:
(a) I have worked with five Seattle mayors and numerous Seattle City Council members in strengthening the relationship between our two governments. During my time at the Port, we worked with the City of Seattle to move forward many critical projects, including but not limited to: funding for a Heavy Haul Corridor, the Deep Bore Tunnel, the South Park Bridge and several other important freight corridor projects, a citywide Freight Master Plan, an Industrial Lands Policy (which we continue to work to strengthen) and a plan to rebuild KeyArena. During my last term as Commission President in 2016, I was proud to support the Port of Seattle’s Memorandum of Understanding with the City of Seattle that directs up to $15 million of Port funding towards solutions to ease traffic and improve safety on major freight and transit corridors throughout Seattle. I was also proud to champion an agreement with the City of Seattle to house a sanctioned homeless encampment on available Port property. As a key member of the City’s Industrial Lands Panel, I recognized the importance of having a voice at the table when it comes to the future of our working waterfront.
(b) I saw the importance of having meaningful relationships with, and a deep understanding of, airport-area communities that helped to foster a spirit of goodwill, respect and openness. As long-time co-chair of the Highline Forum, I encouraged candid discussion between the Port and elected representation from Burien, Des Moines, Federal Way, Normandy Park, SeaTac and Tukwila. In addition, we negotiated a new ten-year interlocal agreement (ILA) between the Port and the City of SeaTac that will strengthen our relationship and move the region forward. As Sea-Tac Airport continues to serve regional demand, the ILA establishes benefits for city residents and businesses, and supports the continued operation of one of the nation’s busiest airports.
Establishing a Priority Hire Policy. As a member of the Projects and Procurement Committee, I was proud to move forward Resolution 3736 establishing the Port's Priority Hire Policy Directive. This means that the Port can provide good family wage jobs to qualified construction workers from economically distressed areas of King County by requiring our contractors to use workers from zip codes that have high concentrations of poverty levels, unemployment and low educational attainment rates.
- Investing in a 21st Century Freight Transportation Network Across Washington. During my time at the Port, the Commission approved over $600 million in Port funding participation in state and local roads projects, grade separations and last mile connectors critical to a competitive port. As a long-time board member of the Washington State Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board (FMSIB) as well as the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC) in DC, I was privileged to take a leadership role in moving forward these important projects key to our state’s continued economic prosperity.
There are many more accomplishments I could point to, including but not limited to the Port’s increased role in regional workforce development; strengthening the Port’s outreach and contracting with local small, women and minority-owned businesses; planning underway for the airport to take a leading role in aviation biofuels; and one of my most favorite: joining with the local music community to develop an award winning program showcasing the region’s great music heritage at Port terminals. I hope to see these efforts continue into the future.
I want to thank all of you for supporting these initiatives over the last several years. I am proud of the work and achievements. Public service is an honor and a privilege. There is no other way I would have rather spent the last twelve years than serving as your Commissioner at the Port of Seattle. I also know I couldn’t have done it without your help.
I leave the Port knowing that despite the many challenges ahead, this Port is well-positioned to continue being a strong economic engine for our region for years to come. On my part, I will continue to look for ways I can serve in the public interest and I look forward to collaborating with so many of you in the future.
Best wishes for a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year!