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As a former small business owner that operated an import business in the Georgetown neighborhood, a nonprofit professional working with economically disadvantaged communities in our region, and a father of three children, I’m uniquely qualified to carry out the responsibilities of the Port.
I’m running for the Port of Seattle Commission to make an impact on three issues. Economic opportunity, environmental sustainability, and effective leadership.
The economic boom we are experiencing is both an opportunity for our region and a source of conflict. We need civic leaders who ensure that economic prosperity reaches all members of our community. The Port of Seattle has the economic power and the responsibility, as outlined in its mission, to address this disparity. The Port Commission should expand the already successful apprentice programs such as the collaboration between Seattle College and Vigor industries that trains hundreds of maritime welders and places them in family-wage jobs.
At a time when the Port of Seattle is struggling to keep up with demand at SeaTac while also advocating for the continued viability of the seaport, environmental sustainability must be at the forefront of every discussion about Port management and expansion. We can no longer make decisions that sacrifice our long term economic and environmental well-being for short term economic benefit.
Finally, the Port Commission needs to improve its oversight and leadership of the Port staff. One of my first roles as Port Commissioner would be to ensure that the new CEO is someone with a sterling ethical record, ample experience in the management of a public entity, and with local roots.
The mission of the Port of Seattle is to create jobs through economic growth. Unfortunately, the seaport currently operates at around a third of its total capacity, in part because Terminal 5 does not have a long term lease with a terminal operator or a shipping alliance. My focus as Commissioner would be to complete the refurbishment of Terminal 5 to prepare it for the new megaships that will make up the majority of container traffic in the coming decade, and to find a tenant to operate it as a container cargo terminal.
The Port of Seattle has improved its environmental footprint in the last few years, and is at the forefront on certain issues, such as the use of aviation biofuels. However, there are still a number of environmental impacts for which the Port is responsible and need to be addressed. At the airport, air quality is the principal concern. To reduce emissions resulting from airport operations, the Port should electrify its vehicle fleet, create incentives for carriers to reduce aircraft emissions, and reduce the number of single-occupancy vehicle trips by patrons coming to and from the airport. At the seaport, the two key upgrades are to make shore-to-ship power available at every moorage for cargo and cruise vessels, and to limit the stormwater runoff at the terminals.
Yes. The single most effective means of boosting economic growth is to put more money in the hands of the economically disadvantaged. Sensible increases to the minimum wage do just that. We had reached a point of near historic lows (in inflation adjusted terms) for the minimum wage and the increase at SeaTac, in Seattle, and in Washington State were vital to boosting the purchasing power of the lowest tier of earners. As a small business owner, I know that businesses benefit when more consumers can afford to patronize my business.
While there are instances of this trade-off, in most cases, addressing environmental concerns results in even more jobs and economic growth. A prominent example is the solar industry, which has more than made up for the jobs lost in coal over the last decade. We have similar opportunities at the Port of Seattle, but Port Commissioners need to be making decisions now to address the coming disruption in jobs associated with autonomous technologies. Expanding apprenticeship programs in maritime construction and repair, in hospitality, and in environmental mitigation will help to replace the jobs lost to automation.
The Northwest Seaport Alliance has been a success. I only wish the Alliance had been created sooner to prevent some of the loss of business caused by the internecine disputes between the two ports. My concern now is for parity. Tacoma has certain structural advantages to accommodating container ships, such as throughput to freeways and rail yards, as well as terminal facility capacity. The emphasis of the Alliance ought to be bringing Seattle up to par with Tacoma by devoting resources to the Terminal 5 improvements and local infrastructure projects to mitigate congestion on roads around the North Harbor.
I do not support the export of coal or oil through the Port of Seattle. While there are obvious implications for our global climate in participating in the fossil fuel economy, the real issue for the Port, for our city, and for our county, is the threat that transporting coal and oil represents to our communities. The Port of Seattle Commission has a responsibility to safeguard public health. Transporting coal and oil puts public health at risk because of the ongoing effects on air quality and because of the risk of catastrophic accidents.
The Port Commission needs to be working with local governing authorities to improve our regional transportation infrastructure. The focus should be on the movement of people and goods north and south from Vancouver BC to Portland and beyond. The introduction of high speed rail along this corridor would displace some of the low-efficiency, resource intensive regional flights that clog our runways with smaller planes.
Responding to public outcry, the Port Commission and the Port staff who oversee this process have already adjusted the RFP process to increase the likelihood that iconic local restaurants succeed in their bid. I am satisfied that the changes address the shortcomings in the process. The goal should be to support the Port’s target of supporting local businesses, women and minority-owned businesses, and businesses that bring unique value to SeaTac.
I don’t believe the current proposal sufficiently addresses Port concerns, but I think it’s possible to negotiate a plan that would bring a world-class sports facility to Seattle in SoDo, along with all of the construction and hospitality jobs required to build and operate it, and at the same time leverage the deal to prepare the Port of Seattle, particularly Terminal 46, for the next generation of maritime and industrial uses. The end result would be a net increase in family-wage jobs and tax revenue for the city.
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John Creighton is a business lawyer who practiced on the east coast and overseas prior to returning to his home in the Northwest.
As commissioner, he has focused on keeping the Port strong as a jobs creation engine while making it a more publicly accountable, environmentally sustainable operation.
The Port of Seattle has long used a triple bottom line approach to judging its performance. With respect to a particular project or initiative, the Port looks at (1) financial return, (2) social equity, including importantly jobs creation, and (2) environmental stewardship.
I believe the top three issues that will face the Port track those three buckets:
(1) Financial Return:
(a) Seaport: The Northwest Seaport Alliance has been clawing back cargo, jobs and revenue in a still very unsettled global shipping market. How do we sustain growth in cargo, jobs and revenue for our gateway?
(b) Airport: Sea-Tac Airport will reach capacity in less than 20 years. How do we manage growth at the airport to best serve the traveling public and the region?
(2) Social Equity/Jobs Creation: How to ensure the good-paying middle class jobs being created by Port activity have the trained workforce to fill them as baby boomers age out of the workforce, and importantly, how to ensure that traditionally underserved communities have access to training and jobs?
(3) Environmental Stewardship: What should the Port’s role be in helping move the region and the world towards a cleaner, post-carbon world?
Being a successful public servant requires integrity and a sense of humbleness. It requires having the courage to lead when needed and the humility to step back and be a good supporting cast member when needed. No lasting positive change has ever been achieved absent collaboration.
All of the above three issues are critical to the Port’s success, and all require collaboration not only among five commissioners and Port staff, but with government, business, labor, environmental and community stakeholders across our region. During my time as a commissioner, I have built relationships with these and other key stakeholders needed to help move us forward, including with elected officials and community leaders around Sea-Tac Airport and with Port of Tacoma officials and other key stakeholders important to our maritime operations.
Growing up in East King County, I spent my free time and my vacations hiking the trails around Mount Rainier and the Olympic Peninsula with my scout troop, fishing in the waters of Lake Washington and Puget Sound with my dad, downhill and cross country skiing with friends at Snoqualmie and Stevens Passes, walking the family dogs under the thick tree canopies of Bridle Trails State Park, and splashing around in the Sammamish Slough at Marymoor Park. I was blessed to grow up in our beautiful region, and it instilled in me a strong environmental ethic at an early age.
Since being elected to the Seattle Port Commission, I have been an advocate and a champion for protecting the natural beauty around us. I have pushed the Port of Seattle to do better in stewarding our region’s precious natural resources. I have worked collaboratively with my fellow commissioners and staff, Port tenants and other stakeholders to set clean air and water standards much higher than federal and state standards and to be a leader in habitat restoration and brownfield clean up.
On my blog I have listed close to fifty environmental initiatives that the Port of Seattle has moved forward under my leadership in clean air, clean water, habitat restoration and other key areas: https://johncreighton.nationbuilder.com/blog
Going forward, I believe the Port has a role in helping move or region and our world towards a cleaner, post-carbon economy. That is why I have been a champion of the Port's goal to bring aviation biofuels to Sea-Tac Airport. (See, eg, "Study looks at biofuel for flights out of Sea-Tac" Seattlepi.com, January 13, 2017 at http://m.seattlepi.com/local/transportation/article/Study-looks-at-biofuel-for-flights-out-of-Sea-Tac-10856054.php) In addition, I advocate electrifying all remaining airport ground support equipment used by our airline tenants that is not already electric and believe that we should apply for a VW Settlement Fund grant to do so.
Yes. The minimum wage has not discouraged the development of new hotels in the City of Sea-Tac, which is currently seeing a boom in hotel construction. Having hire take-home pay allows workers to support their families without having to rely on city social services, which have been strained over the last decade.
I firmly believe that good environmental stewardship and good financial management of the Port go hand in hand. That is why I am proud that during my first year as President of the Commission, the Port of Seattle set the goal to be “the greenest, cleanest, most energy efficient port in North America.”
That said, the Port needs to continue to work collaboratively with its tenants and the businesses that use the Port to achieve those goals and give the businesses the flexibility on how/what technology to use to meet them in order that we not drive business away to other regions.
Yes. As a commissioner, I have long advocated for the ports of Seattle and Tacoma to cooperate. I am proud that we finally were able to move the Alliance forward in 2014. While we still have many challenges, the results to date are extremely positive.
The management team overseeing the joint operation has over the last two years worked with the terminal operators, shipping lines, railroads, truckers and cargo owners to make the Puget Sound gateway much more transparent and efficient. Cargo volumes in both harbors have been on the rise. Instead of wasting taxpayer money building out duplicate infrastructure and going after the same business, the common management team is working to increase business in both harbors.
One of the biggest issues hurting the competitiveness of the Puget Sound as a trade gateway is the Harbor Maintenance Tax, which averages about $110 per container imported through Seattle and Tacoma. Because Seattle and Tacoma are naturally deep water harbors, our region sees no benefit from the revenue generated by the tax. HMT revenue goes primarily to dredging our competitors’ ports in the US Southeast and East Coast. In addition, the ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert, British Columbia benefit at our expense because cargo going through their ports and headed to the US does not pay the HMT.
Together with my Seattle and Tacoma colleagues, I have been working with the Washington delegation to move forward Harbor Maintenance Tax reform. Two years ago, Congress passed limited reform in the form of a small portion of allocated funding for “donor ports” but I would like to see reform go further.
No, I do not support siting a coal or oil terminal at either the North (Seattle) or South (Tacoma) harbors of the Northwest Seaport Alliance.
Yes, I do believe that transportation of oil and coal in large volumes by rail impede the movement of cargo containers by rail, including agricultural exports from Washington farmers. While the BNSF and the Union Pacific have invested hundreds of millions of dollars over the last five years in expanding the capacity of their tracks in Washington State and oil and coal shipments have fallen off, it is still a concern if shipments were to increase again and clog the tracks.
Sea-Tac last year was the ninth busiest airport in the country, yet we sit on only 2.5 square miles, 1/15th the size of the airports in Denver or Dallas. Together with my fellow commissioners, I have asked staff to look at various scenarios for balancing growth, including looking at moving air cargo or aircraft maintenance to another regional airport. In addition, last year I chaired a regional air cargo summit with State Senator Karen Keiser looking at how to channel growth in air cargo across the state.
As president of the Commission last year, I organized a series of public roundtables with land use and aviation planners, cargo and passenger airline executives, roads and transit officials, business, community and elected leaders to discuss how best to move forward with the Sea-Tac Airport Sustainable Aviation Master Plan, how best to accommodate the projected 65 million passengers a year through Sea-Tac by 2035.
I have long been an advocate of other regional airports beginning to do their part in helping accommodate the region’s growing appetite for more commercial flights. I was heartened to see Paine Field move forward last year with the construction of a commercial aviation terminal with two gates that will be able to handle up to 20-30 flights a day.
Still, the number of flights planned out of Paine Field is a drop in the bucket compared with the more than 1,100 flights a day out of Sea-Tac Airport. I believe that we need to have a statewide discussion on how to handle future commercial aviation needs for our region, including but not limited to when and where to develop a second international airport serving the Central Puget Sound.
Over the last several years, the Port has worked to create more of a "Northwest sense of place" at Sea-Tac Airport, making our airport as unique and special as our region is.
The Sea-Tac Music Initiative, which I have championed as a commissioner, has been part of that. Hearing beloved local musicians such as Quincy Jones, Macklemore and Sir Mix-A-Lot doing public service announcements and the music of Jimi Hendrix, Pearl Jam and Heart throughout the terminal really makes our airport special. Local musicians busking in the terminal reduces the stress of traveling.
Similarly, it is special that many of Seattle's most iconic brands are represented in our airport dining and retail, such as Sub Pop, Beecher's and Ivar's. At the same time, to move past the cronyism of the past when one corporation had control over all Sea-Tac retail and dining concessions for almost 40 years, my commissioner colleagues and I have worked to implement a fair and transparent competitive bidding process, open to all. Leases have been cut to ten years so that vendors have incentive to keep their concepts fresh and provide top customer service.
Sea-Tac Airport’s latest bidding process resulted in many local favorites that will be opening at the airport, including Macrina Bakery, Lil Woody's and Habit Burger Grill. Many local small businesses are coming into the airport that before never had the opportunity. Unfortunately, it also resulted in beloved local fish and chips purveyor and a personal favorite Ivar's losing its bid.
Last Wednesday, June 28th, Commissioner Bowman and I together with Sea-Tac Airport Director Lance Lyttle and Ivar's CEO Bob Donegan announced that Ivar's will be staying at the airport. During upcoming renovations to the Central Terminal, Ivar's will be one of several vendors operating food trucks so that food service will continue during construction. In addition, Ivar's has pledged to participate in the next round of dining and retail bid packages going out.
I grew up in the Seattle area and remember rushing home from my Seattle Times evening edition paper route to catch the Super Sonics in the championship series on their way to an NBA title in 1979. I am a big fan of the NBA, and I want the Sonics back in Seattle.
However, I do not support the SoDo arena proposal. Studies show that developing another sports venue and associated 24/7 entertainment district in SoDo will add one million more cars a year to already congested streets in SoDo. In addition, the development would spur further gentrification of South Seattle and put pressure on limited industrial lands.