Edi­tor’s Note: The fol­low­ing are the remarks that NPI’s Pres­i­dent, Gael Tar­leton, deliv­ered at the first reg­u­lar meet­ing of the Seat­tle Port Com­mis­sion for 2012, fol­low­ing her elec­tion as Pres­i­dent of the Com­mis­sion for the remain­der of the year. 

Thank you, fel­low Com­mis­sion­ers, for the oppor­tu­ni­ty to serve this com­ing year as Pres­i­dent of the Port of Seat­tle Commission. 

We are indebt­ed to Com­mis­sion­er Bryant for his three years serv­ing as Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent. He led the Com­mis­sion and Port with dig­ni­ty through a tough reces­sion and a peri­od of impor­tant insti­tu­tion­al reforms. He end­ed his term on a high note with the Port’s Cen­ten­ni­al cel­e­bra­tions. We are all grate­ful to you, Bill.

Now the Port enters its sec­ond century.

Every year there are new chal­lenges to meet and mile­stones to mark. As we con­front the changes that will inevitably come, we can reflect on eras past when tech­nol­o­gy rev­o­lu­tion­ized trade and trav­el by air and sea.

This sec­ond decade of the 21st cen­tu­ry has the feel of anoth­er era fifty years ago — the tumul­tuous decade of the 1960s. In 1962, Seattle’s World’s Fair bumped SeaT­ac pas­sen­ger traf­fic from 400,000 to 2,000,000 travellers.

The ship­ping con­tain­er rev­o­lu­tion­ized the mar­itime ship­ping indus­try and Ter­mi­nal 5 began con­struc­tion as the Port of Seattle’s first con­tain­er terminal.

And in Decem­ber 1962, the Port ded­i­cat­ed Shils­hole Bay Marina.

2012 is shap­ing up as one of those years that feels like a defin­ing moment for local ports com­pet­ing in a local economy.

  • We’ll know what the future of con­tain­er trade in Puget Sound looks like as glob­al ship­pers rede­fine glob­al trade routes in the Post-Great Reces­sion Era. Car­go, like water, seeks the path of least resis­tance. We can­not be in a race to the bot­tom – we must be in the race to build our future.
  • We’ll learn the plan for clean­ing up the Low­er Duwamish Riv­er – home to salmon, wildlife, ancient native tra­di­tions, and 80,000 jobs. As we seek to bal­ance many needs, let’s resolve to find solu­tions that “first, do no more harm” and in the long run, “pro­tect the best” of what we have here.
  • We’ll keep focused on the City of Seattle’s Shore­line Mas­ter Plan revi­sions – a 10-year covenant we make to bal­ance the needs of a work­ing water­front with sus­tain­able urban communities.
  • We’ll launch our Cen­tu­ry Agen­da cam­paign to gen­er­ate 100,000 port-relat­ed jobs – one hun­dred thou­sand jobs — in King Coun­ty and the broad­er region in the com­ing twen­ty-five years.
  • We will com­mit to con­tin­u­ing the Port’s role as an eco­nom­ic engine – and an engine of equal oppor­tu­ni­ty – for the 2 mil­lion res­i­dents of King County.

Open gov­ern­ment is here to stay in Wash­ing­ton State – and final­ly, web-based tech­nol­o­gy makes it pos­si­ble for the Port of Seat­tle to live up to the expec­ta­tions and promise of what trans­par­ent, account­able open gov­ern­ment looks like.

We have built a twen­ty-five year vision for sus­tain­ing a work­ing sea­port and air­port in the midst of urban Puge­topo­lis, along the shores of one of the most bio­log­i­cal­ly diverse inland seas in North Amer­i­ca, the Sal­ish Sea – more com­mon­ly known as Puget Sound. Ten years from now, we’ll look back on the start of our race to the future — and maybe, we’ll see this:

  • Wash­ing­ton com­pa­nies lead­ing a nation­al export recovery.
  • A city and coun­ty whose sense of place comes from its con­nec­tion to the moun­tains, rivers, salt water, and an urban port; and whose cit­i­zens and vis­i­tors are free to explore anew in the era beyond the viaduct.
  • An urban water­front trail con­nect­ing neigh­bor­hoods old and new – 11.9 miles from Shils­hole Bay to Fishermen’s Ter­mi­nal to Smith Cove Cruise Ter­mi­nal to the Low­er Duwamish and West Seat­tle – bring­ing the peo­ple back to the water­front they own.

All that we do in the com­ing year is just one more build­ing block towards a 21st cen­tu­ry future where the Port of Seat­tle is still the place where the world comes to us, and we go out to the world. Let’s keep doing our part.

About the author

Gael Tarleton is an NPI Advisory Councilmember and former Washington State Representative who led two Russian subsidiaries during the 1990s and lserved as a senior defense intelligence analyst on Soviet strategic nuclear programs at the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency from 1981-1990. She served on NPI's board from its inception through 2021.

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