Gael Tarleton, who is running for state representative in Seattle’s 36th Legislative District, should be one of the best new legislators in Olympia. She has had a career in international security, including work on seaport security in an age of nuclear weapons.
She is one of five elected commissioners at the Port of Seattle, where she has been engaged and effective.
Under the top-two election system, both she and her opponent, Noel Frame, are Democrats. They share many opinions — about women’s rights, for example — but they are different.
Frame has nothing to offer like Tarleton’s civic résumé. Frame is a social activist, promoted by the party’s left and by the teachers union.
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The attacks on Tarleton are backed by the Teamsters union, which has fought the Port as part of a national campaign to unionize truck drivers who haul shipping containers. The Teamsters have made an issue of air pollution from the trucks, attempting to make creation of a union an environmental issue.
The issues are separate. The truck drivers aren’t employees of the Port or of anyone; they are owner-operators, and the federal appeals court has said the Port has no right to require that they become employees.
The Port does have a responsibility for clean air. For the past two years it has had a program to retrofit aging trucks with filters and scrap pre-1994 vehicles. Tarleton says almost 300 trucks have been scrapped. On Tuesday, the results were announced: Toxic exhaust from heavy trucks on Port property is down 53 percent.
More improvement is coming. Under the Port’s Clean Truck Program, in 2015 four-fifths of the trucks will have to meet 2007 emission standards, and by 2017 all of them will.
That’s not talk. It’s results. The credit is not exclusively Tarleton’s, but she deserves part of it. Her work at the Port gives her a strong qualification to join the Democratic caucus in Olympia.