One could quickly see the differences between Port of Bellingham commissioner candidates Dan Robbins and Michael Shepard. On their websites. On Robbins site, at the top of every page, is his personal phone number. I searched Shepard’s site in vain for a phone number - there was not even an email address. Just one of those online ‘Contact Us’ forms. Not even “contact Michael.” “Contact Us.” Of course, the form wanted my phone number.
Over coffee with Shepard, I mentioned these concerns - but he didn’t seem to know the specifics of his website. Following our coffee, his phone number and email address were added to his contact page. A bit late and a bit of false openness. To me, his campaign seems like a tightly controlled advertising push rather than a campaign by a candidate.
I will be voting to re-elect Dan Robbins to port commissioner. I was for his opponent four years ago, a smart woman, a financial whiz, liberal and an environmentalist. The Democrats and liberals were behind her. Well, she lost and now she no longer even lives here, having moved back to New York where she’s now working for one of the big banks that run America. Robbins is committed to Bellingham – whether in office or out.
So, four years ago, Robbins won. He interviewed with me twice during his 2013 campaign. Even though he knew I was against him, he didn’t shy away. A couple years after he was elected, we ran into each other at some social event and he asked why I hadn’t ripped into him in some Northwest Citizen article like his political advisors told him I would. They warned him against interviewing with me - a known card-carrying liberal. I told him he was doing a good job and he was showing more common sense than either of the other two commissioners.
Now he is running for reelection. I believe if we get a decent elected official in office we should treasure that and re-elect them. If a newcomer wants to run against an incumbent they should make a good case for why we should replace the incumbent.
Shepard has not shown us any reason to replace Robbins. Shepard is no doubt a fine fellow, but Robbins has four years of experience on the job. Shepard’s list of things he would do is an echo of what Robbins has been doing. You can see this by reading Shepard’s 10 issues then looking at the accomplishments Robbins has participated in over the past four years. One example is the issue of solar panel manufacturing. Shepard says we need to bring a firm to the waterfront and support them. Robbins has already done that; the ribbon cutting was this year.
Much is made of Shepard being a liberal and an environmentalist. At the port, we need business savvy, not pipe dreams. McAuley and Briscoe were supposed to be environmental heros on our port commission, but they have not done any more than Robbins. I’ll take a proven track record over carefully phrased promises.
There is also a very practical reason, separate from politics, to re-elect Robbins. If Robbins loses, the institutional experience of our port commission will be Bobby Briscoe, who is not up for re-election. He has been a commissioner for less than two years. Unfortunately, Briscoe misses most port commission meetings as well as meetings with advisory boards, agencies and other commissions. According to port documents I have obtained, Briscoe attended 11 meetings in 2016, while Dan Robbins attended over 100 and McAuley attended over 90. So far, 2017 records are no different, perhaps worse. Bottom line; Briscoe has not served us as we expect an elected official to serve, and McAuley is retiring. We need Robbins there so our port commissioners, not port staff, are running the port. We need institutional memory and experience in our three person port commission.
If, like myself, you are a strong believer in environmental considerations in all government decisions, you can vote for Dan Robbins with a clear conscience. He brings common sense to all decisions - and as a long-time watcher of the Port of Bellingham - I know that is the rarest and most needed asset in a port commissioner. We have it in Dan Robbins. Let’s keep it. Common sense serves both good business decisions and care for the environment.