The Port of Seattle Commission candidates who win in next month’s general election face steep challenges that include moving goods stranded aboard cargo ships in Puget Sound, bolstering the Port against the effects of climate change, and working toward bridging the growing gap between the region’s haves and have nots.
In the election — with ballots required to be postmarked by Nov. 2 or placed in county drop boxes by 8 p.m. that day — three challengers face three commission incumbents. Broadly, everyone agrees on the objectives: sustainability, building resilience into the Port’s supply chain operations, providing more opportunities to underserved communities and embedding diversity and inclusion into every step.
On some matters, like expanding shore-side infrastructure to power berthed ships with electricity instead of engine fuel, they couldn’t be more unanimous.
But candidates also have varying perspectives on which policies and projects will help the Port achieve its objectives, which initiatives are feasible and which take priority.
Position No. 1: Sigler vs. Calkins
Norman Sigler, an executive search recruiter who previously worked in finance for three airlines, positions himself as the “aviation commissioner” with an intimate understanding of airlines. The Port’s aviation division was budgeted to be more than 80% of the $680 million Portwide operating revenues for 2021. Sigler ran for mayor in 2009 and for Port commissioner in 2015.
Ryan Calkins previously ran his family’s import business, which he says gave him a strong understanding of maritime international shipping and the supply chain. He now consults for a nonprofit supporting low-income entrepreneurs. Calkins has been a Port commissioner since 2018.
Sigler has raised more than $3,000 toward his campaign so far but has not spent anything. Calkins has raised more than $120,000 and spent about half. Calkins received contributions from Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines, which together had about two-thirds market share at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in 2021, as of August.
Both candidates are prioritizing equitable opportunities and robust environmental agendas. Sigler wants to set aside more of the budget to support neighborhoods surrounding Sea-Tac Airport and address noise pollution and particulate matter from planes.
One of Calkins’ first-term achievements was leading the effort to establish Maritime High School, which welcomed its first freshman class last month. It was built to provide pathways into the maritime industry, especially for women and youth of color.
Sigler hopes to accelerate the Port’s carbon-neutral goal to 2030. He acknowledges it’s an ambitious goal. Sigler said he’ll seek to join Washington’s Clean Tech Alliance, which facilitates research, education and job creation around clean technology.
Calkins’ “next big project” will be focusing on offshore renewable energy, which includes ocean turbines. He has been vocal about including research and assessments on the topic in next year’s budget, he says. He continues to lobby for 2050 environmental targets to be accelerated to 2040.
On air pollution, Sigler suggests having fewer flights but larger aircraft for closer destinations, like Portland. Calkins is a strong proponent of electric aviation. He helped the Port set its goal to reach a 10% blend of sustainable aviation fuel by 2028 and 50% by 2050.
Position No. 3: Mohamed vs. Bowman
Hamdi Mohamed and Stephanie Bowman both have careers helping underserved communities. Mohamed is a policy adviser for King County Executive Dow Constantine focusing on equity and economic development, having previously worked with the district office of Democratic U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal. Bowman has been a commissioner since 2013. In her professional capacity, she leads Washington ABC, a social impact organization creating opportunities for low-income residents.
Both candidates have raised most of their money from individuals. Bowman has raised more money from businesses, including Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines.
Mohamed has roots in South King County. The daughter of a trucker and Sea-Tac Airport worker, she hopes to be among the first Port commissioners from the area. “The Port’s leadership should reflect the diverse community of King County,” said Mohamed. “The voices and perspectives of cities like South King County should be at the table.” Mohamed hopes to address air quality and noise levels for airport communities with more detailed local monitoring, environmental reviews on flight track changes, and alternative noise metrics.
Bowman says she has spent much time asking small, minority business owners how the Port can support them. She has helped create hundreds of paid internships for underserved youth over the years, including nearly 300 positions during the pandemic through the Opportunity Youth Initiative. Bowman highlights her work reducing insurance requirements and making sure invoices are paid out quicker for Port contractors, which she says has helped women and minority-owned businesses access opportunities.
Mohamed is a strong backer of the Northwest Seaport Alliance, which Bowman led the creation of while serving as Port president in 2014 and 2015. But Mohamed says the Port pays $2 million annually in leasing fees to NWSA on Terminal 46, which she believes should be renegotiated.
Bowman has sought to make the Port of Seattle more competitive with her oversight on the modernization of Terminal 5. She said she is working to set a goal of generating 5,000 new green jobs at the Port over the next 10 years. “I believe that residents of King County think the Port is operating well,” said Bowman.
Position No. 4: Hasegawa vs Steinbrueck
Both candidates have their own government careers. Hasegawa advises the governor and Legislature as executive director of the Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs. Steinbrueck is a licensed architect, has been Port commissioner since 2018 and was commission president in 2020. Steinbrueck was a Seattle City Council member from 1997-2007.
Hasegawa’s top priority is promoting a flowing supply chain. She attributes Port congestion to “leadership that didn’t have the sense of urgency to address the projected growth that we knew was coming to our region.” One of her proposed solutions: modernizing Terminal 46 and finding a new tenant to focus on cargo shipping.
Steinbrueck contends the Port has been looking for a new cargo tenant for two years but says it could all be for naught, since the U.S. Coast Guard is considering acquiring more than half the terminal.
Hasegawa is keen to bring her focus on equity to the Port. Her ideas: on-site child care for employees at Sea-Tac Airport, and an expanded Small Works Roster to make more small businesses competitive for Port contracts.
In his first term, Steinbrueck helped launch the South King County Fund, a $10 million, four-year program to create opportunities and support for underserved communities near the airport. Toshiko contends that “is a drop in the bucket.”
Steinbrueck admits the figures are “not where they need to be,” but points to his work on Port police reform and noted that 12 of the 52 recommendations made in a Port policing report targeted diversity. He seeks to expand Priority Hire, which helps workers from economically distressed neighborhoods access job opportunities at the Port, beyond King County.
Both candidates agree transit to and from the airport must be improved. Hasegawa suggests getting Port employees ORCA passes. Steinbrueck says light-rail hours need to be expanded and he would like to see express trains running to the airport.
“This election boils down to one thing,” says Hasegawa. “It’s whether voters want more of the same, or whether they want to do something different.”
Position No. 1
Name: Norman Sigler
Occupation: Executive search recruiter
Endorsements: 34th Legislative District Democrats
Name: Ryan Calkins
Occupation: Consultant for nonprofit
Endorsements: Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Rep. Adam Smith, Executive Dow Constantine, conservation groups, local elected officials, Port unions, The Stranger, The Seattle Times Editorial Board
Position No. 3
Name: Hamdi Mohamed
Occupation: Adviser to the King County executive
Endorsements: Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Rep. Adam Smith, King County Executive Dow Constantine, conservation groups, local elected officials, Port unions, The Stranger
Name: Stephanie Bowman
Occupation: Nonprofit director
Endorsements: Former Gov. Christine Gregoire, Former Gov. Gary Locke, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Port unions, local elected officials, The Seattle Times Editorial Board
Position No. 4
Name: Toshiko Grace Hasegawa
Occupation: State government adviser
Endorsements: Gov. Jay Inslee, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Rep. Adam Smith, Port unions, local elected officials, conservation groups, The Stranger
Name: Peter Steinbrueck
Occupation: Architecture and urban design consultant
Endorsements: Local elected officials, Port unions, The Seattle Times Editorial Board