Tacoma Urbanist

Jan. 7, 2008 at 12:10am

State Legislator Seeks To Thwart Port of Tacoma's Momentum by Merging Ports

Port of Tacoma to Merge with Ports of Seattle and Everett?

Frustrated with the Port of Tacoma's success in luring business away from the Port of Seattle, Republican legislator Glenn Anderson will introduce state legislation to merge the Ports of Seattle, Tacoma and Everett and remove their independence according to the Puget Sound Business Journal:

British Columbia merged its Vancouver-area international ports Jan. 1, and state Rep. Glenn Anderson thinks it's time for Puget Sound ports to do the same.

The Republican lawmaker from Fall City plans to introduce legislation that would form the Puget Sound Port Authority, which would operate the ports of Seattle, Tacoma and Everett as a single agency with reduced local control.

His proposal calls for an 11-member port commission, with two elected commissioners each from King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. The remaining five commissioners would be appointed by the governor.

Was this simply a benign move to create an efficiency of scale for the ports?

Not according to the Cunningham report:

          Lawmaker Has Plan To End Seattle Vs. Tacoma Competition
Anderson says he was inspired by the merger of the Vancouver Port Authority in Canada with the Fraser River Port Authority and the North Fraser Port Authority and by the decision of NYK Line last July to move their Pacific Northwest operations from the Port of Seattle to the Port of Tacoma.

Commentary: One of the few issues in which Tacoma trumps Seattle and now we see an effort to squelch it through a state bill. An appointed body convened by the legislature may seek to remove any advantage Tacoma has acquired.  At the state level, Pierce County has far fewer legislators than King County.

It would also remove some of the accountability of local port commissioners to Pierce County residents on issues such as pollution reduction which has been a continued concern of the Port of Tacoma.

Tacoma residents would end up having only 2 commissioners out of 11 who would run the Port of Tacoma.

If his bill passed, 5 members of the panel would be appointed by the governor.

In short, the Puget Sound Business Journal article on the legislation reads like a plot from Seattle in a South 5 episode.

Now we get to see if Pierce County state legislators can hold their own in Olympia in opposing such a measure. Its also an election year.

comments [9]  |  posted under tacoma, washington


by andrew.austin on 1/7/2008 @ 7:08am
Interesting that Anderson is from Issaquah, not seattle, and is a Republican. Gov. reform is tough in a short session, but it could happen. On the other hand with all the problems the port of SEA has had (porn on computer, wasting millions of taxpayers dollars) I don't think too many people will be apt to give a bigger port more control and tax dollars.

by Erik on 1/7/2008 @ 10:59am
I don't think too many people will be apt to give a bigger port more control and tax dollars.

Hopefully not from our delegation. However, they might try to sell it as a way to keep the "drive to the bottom" from happening. (Tacoma is the bottom they would say).

The disturbing dynamic as that the Port would still levy their taxes upon us and be controlled almost completely by people out of the county. The worst of both worlds.

There have been time when Tacoma has not fared well with statewide institutions.

I doubt there would have been such a proposed law if the Port of Seattle took away business from the Port of Tacoma.

by Erik on 1/7/2008 @ 11:55am
Now a new blogger has discussed the issue in opposition:

In light of recent news about how the Port of Seattle is being run, I’m not optimistic about a move prompted by a legislator from Fall City (obviously an interested party) to merge the Port of Tacoma, the Port of Seattle and the Port of Everett.


One would think this would be pretty big news: merging of three Washington ports. Yet, no msm sources have picked it up yet other than the Seattle Business Journal.

by michael g. on 1/7/2008 @ 5:23pm
Mixing apples and oranges, if we got funding for a comprehensive streetcar system and light rail to the SeaTac out of it (and/or all day Sounder service), I could be bribed into supporting a regional port merger. Till then, no way!

by andrew.austin on 1/7/2008 @ 7:22pm
"Yet, no msm sources have picked it up yet other than the Seattle Business Journal."

This is probably due to the fact that during the legislative session hundreds of bills are proposed every day. The majority of them never get heard in committee, the majority of those never get voted on, and then a very very slim minority every become law. If they reported every big idea put forth in OLY every year in the form of a bill the papers would be overwhelmed. If this moves into and through a comittee then I am sure it will get some press.

by Tacoma John on 1/7/2008 @ 10:25pm
The port of Tacoma is not only out-competing the port of Seattle, it is positioning itself -- much to the dismay of the News Tribune naysayers -- for tremendous success in the future. There are clearly people fighting this outside the world of fair competitive business. Look no farther than Seattle-based SSA (partners with the Puyallup Tribe for a private terminal) and the port of Seattle itself and their well-paid Olympia lobbyists.

The people of Tacoma and Pierce County OWN a highly successful port that creates a very high LOCAL return in terms of economic impact, infrastructure development and environmental work.

Look no farther than our "partnership" for Prop 1 and regional transit. We pay the taxes, yet the lions share of the projects and benefits are in King county.

We should all fight like f*cking hell to keep Seattle from using the state legislature to STEAL our port!

by Erik on 1/8/2008 @ 12:03am
The people of Tacoma and Pierce County OWN a highly successful port that creates a very high LOCAL return in terms of economic impact, infrastructure development and environmental work.

Yes, the disturbing thing is Tacoma taxpayers paid to have the Port of Tacoma be able to be placed in this position and now we would have to pay state tax to have the State of Washington squelch our Port's success.

It looks like the recent problems at the Port of Seattle may slow the down some.

by Erik on 1/9/2008 @ 12:49am
Now the Everett paper is picking up the story. Looks the the Port of Everett opposes the plan:

Port Commission President Connie Niva said the port will visit the Legislature in Olympia next week to check on legislative issues, including the superport proposed by Anderson. She said she understood the theory but didn't like the loss of local influence.

"The idea of combining Tacoma and Seattle has been around for a decade," Niva said. "It's more strategic if they have one administration because we're in a very competitive place. Would it work better is the question. I don't know if that would work."

The idea may have lost some of its luster Tuesday as the Seattle newspapers both led with stories about the federal government launching a criminal probe into the Seattle port based on state audits claiming millions of dollars were wasted because of poor contract supervision.


by Erik on 1/13/2008 @ 12:28am
The Port of Tacoma now opposes the proposed merge as well. They should. (Via TNT)

Port of Tacoma commissioners are not enthused about a legislative proposal to merge the ports of Seattle, Tacoma and Everett into one Puget Sound Port Authority.


Commissioner Ted Bottiger said that Tacoma has "a lot to lose" when it comes to the bill, especially in terms of the tax levy that the commissioners often tout for remaining unchanged.
Commission Connie Bacon said an 11-person commission would make it difficult to respond to business in an efficient manner.


Rep. Glenn Anderson, R-Fall City, is pitching the bill. The 2008 Legislative session begins Monday.

Eagan said that the port opposes the bill and supports retaining "local control."

"The staff intends to aggressively argue against that legislation in Olympia," Eagan said.