Port of Seattle position 5 is a fight between like-minded candidates, but with different professional backgrounds.
The Port of Seattle commission seat that drew nine candidates for the primary is now a battle between two candidates who want to create jobs and expand business, but in an environmentally positive way.
While the two candidates have similar positions on Port politics, their backgrounds set them apart: Fred Felleman’s experience is in maritime while Marion Yoshino’s is in economic development in airport communities.
The Port of Seattle, governed by five commissioners, operates one of the state’s busiest seaports and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, as well as two cruise terminals and marinas, including Fishermen’s Terminal. As part of its primary mission, the Port serves as an economic-development agency, generating family-wage jobs and economic growth in King County.
Two seats are on the ballot for the Nov. 3 race. Felleman, 55, and Yoshino, 51, are competing for Position 5, the seat now held by Bill Bryant, who is stepping down after eight years on the commission to run for governor in 2016. After receiving 82 percent of the vote in the primaries, Courtney Gregoire is expected to win re-election for Position 2 against perennial candidate Goodspaceguy.
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The winners will have to work with the other commissioners to win back the public and the city after months of protests and hearings over using the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5 as a home port for Royal Dutch Shell’s oil rigs.
Felleman and Yoshino have both questioned the transparency surrounding the Terminal 5 lease and see the role of a commissioner as being a community advocate. They say there is currently a lack of integration of public comment into Port decisions and suggest creating something like advisory boards, or bringing members of certain communities into commission meetings for a dialogue rather than being limited to the two-minute public-comment period.
“The public has great ideas,” Felleman, an environmental consultant and marine biologist, said in an interview. “People who have been living near, and working with, the Port for decades have insight that the staff doesn’t.”
That is a large part of what led Felleman to run. For more than a decade he has been attending Port commission meetings, and was relegated to two minutes to suggest ideas or pick apart plans the Port had outlined, with no response required from the commissioners. He said he wants a chance to advocate for both jobs and the environment “from the table, not from the two-minute comment spot.”
He has spent decades trying to protect the environment while allowing business to continue, including working to ensure cruise ships stop discharging waste in the Sound and either use low-sulfur fuels or plug into shore power at terminals. Then-Gov. Mike Lowry appointed him to the Washington State Maritime Commission in 1993 and he also served on the finance committee for the Port’s Century Agenda. In 2013, he tried to join the Port, applying to the commission seats held by Gregoire and Stephanie Bowman, who were appointed when their predecessors left.
Felleman’s history of maritime activism has become both an asset and a detriment to his campaign. It has won him endorsements from many labor groups and the Puget Sound Pilots because they know him, but has lost him others to Yoshino, who is a new face willing to learn more about maritime. She has received funding from the CEO of Seattle-based Saltchuk Resources (the parent of Foss Maritime) and seafood companies such as Glacier Fish Company.
While Felleman has raised $72,500 compared with Yoshino’s $27,500, she has the experience as a public official and touts herself as the candidate who has actually created jobs.
She was a City Council member for Normandy Park and the economic-development manager for Des Moines. While working in Des Moines, she worked on the project to build the first business park on Port of Seattle property — now known as the Des Moines Creek Business Park. It was selected as the regional headquarters for the Federal Aviation Administration in April.
Yoshino’s previous involvement with the Port dates back to 1998, when she and other community leaders in South King County secured more than $100 million to construct soundproof school buildings in the Highline School District. Now, she says, with no other Port commissioner representing South King County, she wants to take on that role.
“We would really love to have someone from our airport communities on the Port commission,” she said in an interview with The Seattle Times. “We have a lot of economic opportunities with the business community that would like to partner with the airport and the airport has often been bureaucratic and unresponsive.”
When it comes to the airport, both Yoshino and Felleman know it needs to grow, but think the Port commissioners need to include more ideas from surrounding communities and businesses in the airport master plan, especially for logistical issues around getting to and driving at the airport. Both also question where some of the money from the planned $2 billion budgeted for upgrades will come from, citing concern over the conflicts between Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines over the International Arrivals Facility.
As a lifelong environmentalist, Felleman said he also has dreams of the airport reducing its carbon footprint by producing electricity, perhaps by incorporating solar panel installation into the master plan.
On the seaport side, as Seattle continues to grow, both Yoshino and Felleman want the planned modernization of Terminal 5 to move forward, keeping the Port competitive and bringing in more business. Both are against taking land away from the working waterfront as the city encroaches on Port property. Yoshino said it would be a terrible idea to convert Port property adjacent to the water, “which is a gift of geology” into condos or other nonmaritime uses.
Felleman takes it a step farther, saying it would be “criminal.”