In the Nov. 7 election, King County voters face a choice in whether to stay the course on the Port of Seattle by re-electing John Creighton or shaking things up with newcomer Ryan Calkins.
In the Position 1 race for the Port of Seattle commission, longtime board member John Creighton is defending his seat against Ryan Calkins, a former small-business owner whose company was long a customer at the Port.
Among the differences between Creighton and Calkins are how to handle Chris Hansen’s proposal for an NBA arena in Sodo; the best way to plan for future growth at booming Seattle-Tacoma International Airport; and how to levy Port taxes on local property owners.
But the race may also hinge on whether King County voters want to inject new blood into the commission that has overseen growth at the Port but also dealt with public-trust issues over the past year, including the resignation of the former CEO who gave himself a secret pay raise.
Calkins ran his family tile business, which imported through the Port, before selling the company earlier this decade and going to work at Ventures, a Seattle nonprofit that supports low-income entrepreneurs. He is endorsed by the likes of the Sierra Club, The Stranger and the Seattle Weekly. He’s raised $67,000, and his top donor is the Washington State Democrats.
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Creighton, the longest-serving commission member, previously led the Port’s Century Agenda, a plan that aims to grow business and create more jobs. He’s backed by the Washington Conservation Voters, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and several local unions. He’s raised $149,000 (more than twice as much as any other candidate in any Port race), and his top donors include the Port firefighter union, Delta Air Lines and developer Martin Selig. He’s defending himself against a lawsuit brought by former Port employees who say Creighton ousted them to help some small minority-owned firms that donated to his campaign.
Here’s where they stand on some key issues:
Creighton wants to start a conversation now about a potential second major airport, since it could take 20 to 30 years to build one, with Paine Field in Everett used as a “stopgap” site in the meantime. He said SeaTac — among the fastest-growing airports in the country — can’t sprawl out any farther and will reach capacity in coming decades, though he doesn’t have any early ideas on where a second airport might be.
Calkins said the Port should focus on advancing high-speed rail service in the region to accommodate growth, citing its success in places like Europe. In the short term, he wants to focus on addressing local community concerns like road traffic and air pollution.
Calkins said the Port should re-examine its current flat property-tax rate — about 15 cents per every $1,000 in assessed value — which he calls regressive, by exempting the lowest-income residents from the tax. He hopes extra terminal business would make up the revenue gap, but if not, he’d charge a higher tax rate to owners of the county’s most valuable property.
Creighton defends the current tax structure as long as the revenue is used “for public good” — things like road projects, cleaning up brown field sites and adding noise insulation near the airport.
Creighton, like the current commission, is a hard “no” on the Sodo arena and is concerned in general about development in the area. He’s worried an entertainment district in Sodo would create gentrification and eliminate blue-collar jobs in the area. He acknowledges the traffic issues of revamping KeyArena but calls it the “less bad” of the two options.
Calkins isn’t necessarily in favor of an arena but is more open to growth in Sodo. He says he would “go back to the drawing board” to seek a “grand bargain” to preserve industrial lands in Sodo while also accommodating growth in the area.