The countywide Port of Seattle runs the public waterfront, leasing out berths for the loading and unloading of oceangoing freight and running the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. As an incubator of heavy industry and a large landowner, it figures powerfully in the lives and livelihoods of residents throughout King County. Yet the political contest to fill its seats usually receives relatively little attention. This year may be a rare exception, as two races set organized labor against the waterfront's established interests.
Though three positions are on the ballot, only two are in dispute; Commissioner Position No. 1 is John Creighton's uncontested seat. The two men running for Position Three offer perhaps the starkest choice between different visions of what a public Port is for.
Candidate David Doud is an investment properties expert who has sought, and gained, backing from some of the largest concerns by air or by sea. At an Oct. 15 candidates' forum, he mentioned the support of fish processor Trident Seafoods and Sea-Tac client Alaska Airlines. Among the endorsers is SSA Marine, which runs the waterfront's only privatized cargo terminal, and the developers' lobby BUILD PAC. Still, he says his campaign is free of "special interests." Biofuel and transportation specialist Rob Holland, by contrast, is running a campaign backed by a host of labor groups, left-of-center elected officials and civil rights leaders.
With a background in commercial real estate, Doud has indicated he'd like to turn vacant or valuable Port land to uses that may net more money. Since the entity taxes King County homeowners to operate, he says, the Port needs to make more remunerative land-use decisions.
Holland says the maritime and industrial heritage of Port land must be preserved: that Fisherman's Terminal, for example, should stay a place where small entrepreneurs can "have a future of sending young people out to sea." And those that stay behind -- they'll need work that pays. Holland has released a Green Jobs plan that casts the cleanup of the Duwamish River and Elliott Bay as economic programs for the unemployed. He would retrofit the agency's buildings for greater energy efficiency, and help independent short-haul truckers clear the air by purchasing cleaner rigs.
A backyard conservationist on the Eastside's Mercer Slough, Doud says he wants to improve water quality on Port land that fronts our waterways. He could be said to have dirtied the political contest with a recent "push poll" designed to feed voters choice information about his opponent. Pollsters called voters and asked what they thought of Holland knowing that, in 2000, he supported a statewide initiative to repeal Affirmative Action, "even though he is gay and black."
Doud denies that he was trying to make an issue out of Holland's personal life, and says the poll collected legitimate research. His campaign has not responded to requests to share the results.