The Sunday Observer: A generational battle for the Port of Seattle
Six years after the Shell oil rig controversy, the commission could be completely new
Six years ago, the Port of Seattle Commission was the very picture of the white Puget Sound establishment. In a few weeks, it could be controlled entirely by progressives, with a majority of commissioners of color. Two well-funded candidates, both younger women of color, are running to oust two incumbents under this thinly veiled argument: Our opponents are old and in the way.
We’ll get back to the two hot races for the commission in a bit.
Here’s why you should care about this. The Port is a giant enterprise, governed by five politicians who get elected by the voters of King County in off-year elections that almost nobody pays attention to. The commissioners, who basically work for free, control an operating budget of some $700 million and construction projects worth tens of millions more each year. The Port owns Seattle
Tacoma International Airport and hundreds of acres of some of the most valuable waterfront land in the world, including a very swanky headquarters at Pier 69.
And that’s a vast underestimation of the larger impact. The port is primarily a landlord. The airlines, shipping companies, restaurants, and other businesses that use the port’s facilities handle far more. For example, the parent company of Alaska Airlines, one of the port’s largest tenants, had $8.7 billion in gross revenue in 2019. Washington’s fruit, grain, wine, and other commodities pass through its massive cargo terminals on the way to foreign markets, passing the gargantuan flow of consumer goods headed from Asia to the shelves of Costco, Target, and Wal-Mart. Most of the Alaska fishing fleet is docked at Fisherman’s Terminal in Ballard. You get the picture.
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