I will be voting for Ken Bell and Renata Kowalczyk for Port of Bellingham commissioners. That's right - I do not want Mike McAuley to continue as port commissioner even though I was one of those who encouraged him to run last time. Mike has been a big disappointment. Ken is far superior in his understanding of how our port should operate as well as what is best for our waterfront and local economy going forward. Mike is a well liked, sort of “ah shucks” guy during a campaign, but as we have seen over the past four years, he can quickly forget his campaign talk. I have greater hope for intelligent thinking and good decisions from Ken Bell. And this is an election for the future of Bellingham's economy, not a vote on who is a nicer, “gee whiz” guy.
Four years ago, a few of us encouraged four challengers to run for port commissioners - with the plan to create two primary races and force discussion of port issues during the primary campaign and thus more awareness of issues by voters. In past elections, port incumbents have ignored challengers, instead using the money of the “powers that be” for a media blitz in the last three weeks before the election. By forcing primaries, we brought the issues into the open before the August primary. One incumbent arrogantly thought he could ignore the primary, and the challenger, until the media blitz - and one of our four challengers won. The winner was Mike, but it could have been any of the other three.
Ken Bell is a superbly qualified candidate. He understands the needs of businesses in the private sector. He understands ports. He has ideas we need in Bellingham. A port district is, in the end, an industrial development agency. The present port commission, with McCauley going along, works for port revenues and against private business revenues. How? With unfair and sliding-scale rents that can leach profits from renters, and by spending taxpayer money to buy buildings and compete with private developers.
Mike aids these and other regressive port policies by also not even being aware of what is happening around him. Mike promised in his first campaign to get to the bottom of the toxic pollution on our waterfront - and he has abysmally failed in that. He promised to seriously look at using the treatment lagoon to aid our light manufacturing businesses - and has turned a blind eye to that. He is not good for his word.
Friends who raised the issue of airport noise now have promises from Mike - but he has ignored them for the last three years. They are naive to think he might do anything for them in the next four years. We gave him a chance and he proved himself not up to the job. He is unable to handle the complexities of being a port commissioner. We can all give him credit for being a decent guy and fighting against the absurd firing of Charlie Sheldon, the former port executive director. But soon after that, he allowed himself to be guided by the port's attorney, Frank Chmelick, and Port Commissioner Scott Walker. End of hope. The coal port is not an issue in this campaign as the county council makes that decision, not the Port. Ken Bell has my vote.
Renata is also very well qualified and I think she and Ken Bell would bring great change to the port. Dan Robbins, while qualified and with good ideas, has two things going against him. He seems unable to listen to and understand what others are saying, and will be a continuation of our tone deaf commission. Second, he has exaggerated his business record. Renata is better qualified when it comes to business and finance. And Renata has shown a great ability to listen and learn from what we have said. She gets it. Renata has my vote.
I will be posting next on the other campaigns.