Doug Karlberg announces for Port

Doug Karlberg has submitted his announcement of candidancy for Commissioner of the Port of Bellingham.

Doug Karlberg has submitted his announcement of candidancy for Commissioner of the Port of Bellingham.


Doug Karlberg has submitted his announcement of candidancy for Commissioner of the Port of Bellingham. 
Wanna change course at the Port of Bellingham?

This potential course change is why I am announcing my candidacy for Port of Bellingham Commissioner, District 2, currently held by Commissioner Doug Smith.  The Port’s direction is controlled by three Commissioners, and two of them, a majority, are up for re-election this fall. Vote in two new Commissioners, and you have a guaranteed course change. 

This would be my course, if elected.

- Require all Port employees treat your hard earned tax dollars, with respect.
- Cut costs and generate real Operating Profits, not losses. Cuts begin at the top.
- Wean the Port off of the property taxes in eight years. Lowering property taxes.
- Require a Performance Audit on the Port of Bellingham.
- Revaluate the economic basis for the waterfront development.
- Reconsider the wisdom, and cost of the new Marina, considering how few jobs this really creates, and how a large yacht parking lot, benefits few residents of Whatcom County.
- Reconsider the use of the planned Marina to dispose of polluted waste, saving the taxpayer tens of millions in the process. Adding this land to the tax roll.
- Sincerely listen to the local ideas for the Waterfront. They are paying for it. 
- Eliminate most of the outside consultants.
- Any significant increase in debt or taxes for the waterfront will require a vote of the public, to certify broad public support.
- Continue the cleanup of the waterfront, preferably using local labor, when possible and cost effective.
- Refocus the on the basics, of operating a Port, and not real estate development. 
- Refocus the Port on creating durable, family wage, tax paying jobs, available to local residents. Now!
- Enter into a full, honest partnership with the City in developing the Waterfront.
- Remain flexible in developing the Waterfront, as the future unfolds.
- Develop the Waterfront slowly as customers with real money materialize.
- Create an incubator for new businesses, for future growth.
- Create opportunities for our kids to find work locally.
- Work with current Port customers to create more jobs.
- Treat all Port customers fairly. No special treatment.

What went wrong at the Port.

The Port, with scant prior experience, is now in the real estate development business.

The Port, based the Waterfront Redevelopment on a single idea. The waterfront land would be worth a lot of money, when the Port sells it. The real estate bubble was illusionary, and has burst. Their plan is now obsolete and cannot work without a subsidy.

The Port wants the City to put up most of the money to build roads, bridges, and utilities. Then the Port wants to locate non-tax paying entities on the Waterfront, and exempt them from impact fees. This is a shell game that the Port currently controls. The higher the subsidy, the higher the value of the land, but the Port puts up none of the subsidy. The taxpayers of the City and County do, and the Port pockets the profits. Any one can sell land with a taxpayer subsidy.

Everett has a similar project, and here is the Everett Herald’s view.

Nobody said it was going to come cheaply.
By David Chircop / Everett Herald Writer - May 3, 2007

But the price is still climbing for Everett's planned riverfront district of trendy shops and condos. Based on rough estimates, the bill is edging close to $100 million of public money on the slice of former industrial land along the Snohomish River.

The two-mile-long former mill site and dump is falling into private hands for a fraction of that figure - just $8 million.

A financial study conducted by Berk & Associates of Seattle predicts sales and business taxes will recoup the cost of what still needs to be done in five to 30 years. However, the financial projection does not take into consideration money ($100 million), already spent.

This is a failed plan, which the current Port leaders cannot admit. Instead we see defensiveness, arrogance, and a stubborn refusal to see the serious concerns, which are apparent to the public. All fueled with debt, that we co-sign with our property taxes.

The Port has sued the City, refused to attend meetings, squashed a Citizens Initiative, sent childish letters of complaint to important public funding officials, and now is resorting to circumventing the public process altogether.

The Port is in denial, and out of control. When elected officials are afraid of the ballot box, it is time for change. There is no excuse for this behavior.

Port spending has been out of control spending for decades now. The best financial measure of a Port’s spending controls is a Port’s Operating Margin. The Port of Bellingham has averaged a negative 24% for the last eleven years; over $30 million dollars lost. A worse record, I cannot find.

Recent Port statement: “In 2009, the Port will strive for a 10% increase in operating income.” 

This statement by the Port misleads the public into believing that the Port has Operating Profits, which it clearly does not, and has not, for over a decade.

For far too long, public port authorities have operated behind closed doors without any real oversight or accountability. It is time to change this.

The Change I will bring to the Port

The Port has a unique ability to shape our County’s economic future. Most major cities on the coast are ports. This is not an accident. This is the economic power of a port. I would not blockade our own port with condos. The future is difficult to predict accurately. We may need a working port in the future.

Our economy needs good paying durable, and tax paying jobs; Now! This is the key to reviving our local economy. Quit planning thirty years out, and focus on our immediate problems, which are jobs. Parking lots for yachts, luxury condos, retail, and tourist jobs produce very little durable benefit to Whatcom County and its’ taxpayers. It is time to refocus on the broad needs of our community. 

The taxpayer deserves honesty, integrity, transparency, and above all loyalty. I understand this.

One last issue. Listening is vitally important. Many dedicated folks apply themselves to solving our community’s problems. I can’t out-think hundreds of people. They do this for free, which I really like. Listening to them is simple respect, and it guarantees that we move forward with the best ideas, not my ideas. Thank you for listening, to me.

I am a lifelong resident of Whatcom County, currently living in Lynden. I have been a commercial fisherman for 37 years.

This where I stand. I would appreciate your vote. 

Remember that we need votes for two new Commissioners, to ensure change. Please consider Mr. Hayes for Port Commissioner, District 1.

About Doug Karlberg

Citizen Journalist • Belingham • Member since Apr 08, 2008

Doug has been a fisherman for over four decades, working out of Bellingham and Alaska. He focuses his civic energy on Port of Bellingham - on their policies and practices. [...]

Comments by Readers

Larry Horowitz

Apr 29, 2009

Congratulations and good luck, Doug!

You have my unwavering support.


Tip Johnson

Apr 29, 2009

Imagine, a real Port with real jobs! Woohoo! Thanks for runing, Doug.

It is definitely time to vote the incumbents out.  Their plan to convert the G-P lagoon to a marina could be as disastrous as blockading the port with condos.  Neither big yachts nor upscale condos are still a realistic economic model.  We need to restore productivity in our local economy.  The Port is uniquely able to assist that effort.  The current commission and staff won’t even try.

I know that discussion of the G-P lagoon has vacillated between a marina and a repository for contaminated sediments.  However, a third possibility is to retain it for its original purpose - water treatment.

A sixty inch industrial water line to the Central Waterfront becomes useless without the lagoon to receive its volume.  The water supply and lagoon should be valuable assets for recruiting family wage jobs.

Besides industrial treatment, the lagoon could receive much of Bellingham’s urban stormwater runoff, and pick up the combined sewer overflows that are currently dumped straight into the bay from the C-Street pump station, just a couple blocks away.

By preserving the lagoon for water treatment, we retain the opportunity to cultivate family wage jobs, while protecting our nearshore habitat from harmful shoreline discharges.  Water treatment is the key to restoring our bay’s health and protecting our restoration investments from future contamination.

The Port is on record refusing to consider these potentials for the lagoon.  They purposely included the marina in the No-Action alternative of the waterfront environmental review to avoid these questions.  Wrecking the lagoon and wasting the water supply could be on of the biggest rip-offs in Bellingham’s history.  Replacing that capacity would cost untold millions.

Doug, I hope you’ll consider this, and keeping the waterfront public, once elected!

AS of this writing, I heartily endorse both you and Ham.  Vote the rascals out!

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