Friday, October 26, 2007

Local Politics: Ports in a Storm

So we're back, with another report of distant thunder - this time involving an election I CAN vote in, but election shenanigans I have only second-hand.

The Port of Seattle has a great deal of power (SeaTac, the Ports, cargo contracts, a lot of land) pays badly, and could stand a bit more daylight, so it is no real surprise that there is a lot of skullduggery going on in its halls. And of late, it has been rocked with scandal (a golden parachute for the previous port director) and controversy (Yuletide decorations at the airport). So it is time to throw the dastards out, right? Well, yes and no.

For Position 2 we have incumbent Bob Edwards up against reformer Gael Tarleton. Mr. Edwards is near the epicenter of the recent platinum retirement deal, and we would be good to return him to private life. But the challenger has some suitable baggage of her own, in the form of long employment at and continued support from he folk at, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC- but it has one of those names that just slides off the memory. If I was running AIM or Hydra, I'd look at a joint venture with these guys).

What is SAIC? It is one of those large corporations that provides the bodies to do the work that government no longer wants to do, putting it in the same category as Haliburton and Blackwater. So there is a legitimate question going on here, and while Ms. Tarleton vows to recuse herself from any SAIC business with the port, and SAIC doesn't have any deals with the port (though it did earlier in the decade)the company does have a nasty image, as shown in this Vanity Fair article.

So the Edwards camp takes that nugget of negativity and runs with it - running a mailer in the more liberal areas (didn't get it here in the farmland, of course), screaming "Port Security from the company who brought you the Iraq War!" and a big picture of Bush. Painting Ms. Tarleton as a crony of our horribly unpopular administration. Now Edwards would be considered the conservative and Republican candidate for the position (looking at his contributors and supporters, it is a sea of red), so attacking the President shows chutzpah beyond all measure, and confirms the fact that he will pull any amount of wool over the voters' eyes to keep his gig.

Now, scrape away all the screaming, and there is a concern here, which kept me away form Tarleton in the primary. But given a choice between a potential scoundrel and one who has already proved himself in that department, I'm going to go with the new kid. Vote for Gael Tarleton, remember your reservations, and keep an eye on her afterwards.

For Position 5, another incumbent Alec Fisken, and another challenger, Bill Bryant. Throw the incumbent out, right? Wrong. Fisken is the reformer in this case, and has been facing an uphill battle against the powers that be. Bryant's supported by the money, though you wouldn't know it from the banner he running under (always check who is doing the supporting for these "non-partisan" posts). The Seattle Times in particular was disingenuous (at best), wrapping itself in reform banners while declaring Fisken a "loner" on the board. Well, let's keep him, then add more reformers so he won't be alone. Vote Alec Fisken.

More later (and I am sad to say that there IS more),