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Need for port reform is very real

By On

I'm endorsing Ham Hayes and Doug Karlberg for Port Commissioners. You will be receiving your ballot in the mail either today or tomorrow. It's time for us to act intelligently.

What started as campaigns to make the Port more responsive to our economic needs and public process has now become a need to rid the Port of two corrupt commissioners - Scott Walker and Doug Smith.

During routine research on Port finances, Ham Hayes stumbled over a 10 year record of the Port giving $180 million in low interest bonds to Scott Walker's employer, BP Refinery (formerly Arco). During this same time, all other businesses in Whatcom County received only $13 million of these very valuable bonds. These bonds are intended for local businesses that need help to grow and aid our economic development. BP is not local and has no such need, with the result that the interest money saved simply went into their billions in profits. They had plenty of money to improve their refinery. Not a penny went to the Conoco Phillips refinery or to Intalco.

When asked to defend these bonds, Scott has twice avoided answering directly. First, he said Ham does not understand, then later said they just gave the bonds to whomever asked. He admitted the Port did not tell local companies about the bonds. He also tried to say it was a State program, when in fact, it is the Port that makes the recommendations to the State.

I will be voting for Ham Hayes in the 1st District primary. He has decades of solid business experience, including the management of large, multi-million dollar projects. He has integrity. He has the management skills to direct our Port away from the past 10 years of money losing operations and move us forward toward becoming a force for creating good jobs and good local companies in all parts of Whatcom County.

A vote for John Blethen is also a good vote for Port reform. He and Ham are running for Scott's seat. John has spent many years as a local activist and is a favorite of local enviros. Ideally, we would have Ham and John in the general election.

Then we have Doug Smith of the 2nd District. Doug has been feathering his own nest while a commissioner. His company, Com Steel, has built an unknown number of buildings for those who get land leases from the Port. When asked how many, at first he could only recall one - and then two more - and then admitted there might be more. He didn't know. This is good old-fashioned corruption. Nothing subtle about it. You want a lease? Then do business with me.

In his only appearance at a forum, Smith had only one reason for us vote for him - because his two challengers have not been to many Port meetings. Doug Karlberg, a fisherman for 37 years, noted that the fishermen have never seen Smith down on the Port docks. And this is sufficient reason alone to toss out Smith. He uses the Port for his own benefit and has had little involvement in Port affairs.

I urge those of you in the 2nd District to vote for Doug Karlberg or Mike McAuley. Mike is a very intelligent guy and would be far superior to Smith. But Doug Karlberg has many years of professional experience with the Port and I am endorsing him. Karlberg has an amazing grasp of the facts and issues surrounding our Port of Bellingham. He uncovered the study that shows our Port is a money-losing Port - totally putting the lie to Walker and Smith saying they are managing our finances well.

A PLEA

It is not enough for any of us to just vote for one of the challengers. If you love this county and want it to have a solid economic future, you also need to get your family and friends to vote for a challenger. It would be a fatal mistake to think at least two challengers will make it to the General Election and you can vote for one then. If the challengers do not get high vote numbers in the Primary election, they will not be able to raise money and run effective campaigns this fall. The two corrupt incumbents will simply sit out much of the campaigning and spend thousands in the final two weeks on media. And win again. It is the harsh truth of our politics.

I've been a critic and supporter of the Port for 30 years. The Port is the agency that can help us, as a county, to thrive with a healthy economy. We have the opportunity now - these next two weeks of the Primary voting season - to change this. But only if each and every one of us takes action to get the challengers enough votes to be taken seriously in the general election.

About John Servais

Posting Citizen Journalist • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]

Comments by Readers

Tip Johnson

Jul 31, 2009

Vote for either of the top two Port candidates. It’s that simple.

As luck would have it - literally the luck of the draw - both Port incumbents appear at the bottom of the ballot list of three candidates for each district.  That makes voting easy.  No worries about name recognition or the problem with the Herald completely ignoring this important Port election.

Vote for either of the top two Port candidates. It’s that simple.

And tell your friends. Port reform is possible starting today. Get out the vote.

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David Camp

Aug 02, 2009

One timely issue - the “National Search” for the replacement POB CEO, using a high-priced (non-local) executive recruiter, is ongoing. The Port Commissioners want this position filled before the election, according to discussion at a June Port Commission meeting. Larry Boone, POB HR director, told them the search process should be complete by November. I think, given the high possibility that we will have new Port Commissioners, the selection of a new CEO should wait until the new Port Commissioners are sworn in, especially since the interim CEO is well-regarded. To do otherwise is, IMHO, potentially subverting the will of the people. Not a new tactic for the Port, I suppose.

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