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Monday, August 13, 2007

OP-ED = THE SEATTLE PORT COMMISSION, ETC

OP-ED PORT [draft]

I became involved in Port of Seattle matters during the 2005 election as supporter of a candidate whom his firm then forced to withdraw when it prohibited all employees from holding public office. Meanwhile I've made pleasant and more or less thorough acquaintance with the various commissioners and the CEO preceding the ascendancy of Tay Yoshitani; and with the by no means uncomplicated issues facing the port in the world such as it is - ah, yes, "the world such as it is!" As the child of a father who ran a fishing fleet I have always found ports sexy, and I think, perhaps mistakenly, that my take on the Port is benign and not colored by immediate self-interest.

In light of these considerations, I am wondering whether the Seattle Port Commission is still able to do the job for which it was designed. Something certainly is quite puzzling, if not amiss, about the way it is currently set up. Judging by the 100s of thousands invested in the last and current commissioner campaign you would assume these offices to be worth more than 6 k per annum. What is really at stake? Not only does the job pay a pittance, commissioners who take their jobs seriously, lacking support staff or a budget for over- and insight, will - on top of whatever other job they have - spend many many hours at slave labor wages poring over contracts and the like; something only millionaires and the retired can afford - unless civic minded beyond the call of duty. The Port C.E.O., knowing of the comparative ignorance of the commissioners, has little choice but to want them to be compliant. However, under these circumstances the commissioners would seem to be easily beholden to the businesses with interests before the Port, which pour such large sums into these elections; certainly not entirely unselfishly I don't think.

The commissioners only perk are much derided junkets to air and sea port related cities where you can either have a good time or, once again, take your job seriously; that is, you can get yourself a translator and, say, haunt the docks; certainly a good thing to get out of Seattle to get an other than rain-drenched p.o.v.!

Thus I ask myself, ought not the commissioners, when their supporters' contractual interests come before the P.O.S., recuse themselves, as some candidates with multiple interest already promise to do? If the answer is yes, would the commission still be a functioning entity?

But what if it were an appointed commission of specialists in the various areas that the P.O.S. touches, and if such a commission were sufficiently funded and staffed, might it not do a far better job? And work far more cohesively with the executive? That certainly is the case at other Ports that also run their affairs far more efficiently per cargo ton.

The second matter of ethics that I find odd is that the previous Port CEO promised to raise money to defeat the re-election of a sitting commissioner, as in the 2005 election he had campaigned for the re-election of a different commissioner. Ought the Port C.E.O. be permitted political activity; no matter how justified it may seem to him from the point of view of running the port? The commissioners themselves also take action to support or defeat each other. Not the sort of thing that is needed I don't think in this instance. It strikes me as though the commission is about to implode.

Taking a less than Seattle-centric p.o.v., I also feel that a regional or perhaps state-wide perspective ought be taken. The age-old {!} competition between the ports of Tacoma and Seattle makes little sense; together they could draw far better contracts with the big stevedoring and shipping companies. Taking the ports of Everett and Olympia, and the birth place of grunge, Grey's Harbor, into state-wide consideration might even make better sense.

Michael Roloff

[is a writer, the former co-publisher of Urizen Books, former visiting scholar in Germanics at the U.W; and member of the Seattle Psychoanalytic Society

http://www.roloff.freeservers.com]


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MICHAEL ROLOFF http://www.facebook.com/mike.roloff1?ref=name Member Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute and Society this LYNX will LEAP you to all my HANDKE project sites and BLOGS: http://www.roloff.freehosting.net/index.html "MAY THE FOGGY DEW BEDIAMONDIZE YOUR HOOSPRINGS!" {J. Joyce} "Sryde Lyde Myde Vorworde Vorhorde Vorborde" [von Alvensleben] contact via my website http://www.roloff.freehosting.net/index.html