Three political novices are seeking to end the 16-year tenure of Port of Tacoma Commissioner Connie Bacon this year, saying the commission needs new blood and fresh ideas.
Those three rival candidates – professional engineer Dave Dormier; security and emergency management consultant Eric Holdeman; and entrepreneur and convicted sex offender Andre “Dr. Dre” Young – contend the port needs a new perspective. The three are running for Bacon’s seat.
Young, who spent decades in prison and in a sexual offender treatment center after conviction of six rapes, says he’s changed his life since he was released in 2010 and he wants to do something positive for the community.
Bacon is one of three incumbent commission members running for re-election this year. The other two, Don Meyer and Dick Marzano, drew no opponents.
The port in the past has been undisciplined about launching major projects and too narrowly focused about its job development initiatives, the three contend.
But Bacon says her experience both on the port commission and as the former head of the World Trade Center Tacoma equips her well to guide the port into a more prosperous future.
In campaign literature, Bacon notes that she and other port commission members have successfully piloted the port through the recession when shipping activity fell steeply.
“We now have expanded shipping lines and cutting edge marketing strategies while at the same time we have implemented aggressive efforts to protect and enhance our environment,” Bacon said.
But Bacon’s rivals point to failed strategies that the port took while Bacon was a commission member.
“The failed expansion of the port has now saddled Pierce County taxpayers with $600 million in debt and even more in unfunded obligations,” maintained Holdeman, the port’s former security chief.
Holdeman referred to the port’s aborted attempt to establish a rail storage yard and logistics center near Maytown in Thurston County and the never-completed effort to create a $1 billion terminal for NYK Lines on the Tideflats.
The Maytown project stalled when vigorous local opposition in Thurston County challenged the project on environmental grounds and when those same opponents persuaded Thurston County politicians to drop their support of the project. The Port of Tacoma sold most of the property at a bargain price to a company that mines gravel from the site.
The NYK project would have created a huge new container terminal between the Blair and Hylebos Waterways on Tacoma Tideflats. The port bought acres of land and businesses for the terminal, but halted the project when the recession took a big slice out of trans-Pacific container traffic. The project termination was a mutual decision by the port and NYK, but it left the port with considerable developable but unproductive property.
Bacon and other port commission members acknowledge that the port jumped into projects that ultimately couldn’t be carried out, but the incumbent commissioner notes that the commission in recent years has taken steps to remedy those problems and to set a new course.
The commission replaced the port’s chief executive officer, set new priorities and established financial safeguards.
The port’s governing body developed a new “10-year plan with specific strategies we need for sustained economic growth at the port,” she said.
That plan, now 15 months old, in most categories is meeting or exceeding its goals.
The port last year signed a deal that brought four new container shipping lines, the Grand Alliance, from Seattle to Tacoma. That arrangement has pumped up the port’s container volumes.
And the port early this year signed an agreement with Targa Sound Terminal to use the vacant land where the Kaiser Aluminum Smelter once stood for a bulk liquids storage and distribution facility. Targa will bring in crude oil and biofuels from the Midwest and North Dakota for distribution to Northwest refineries and retailers.
The port, under the direction of new chief executive John Wolfe, has signed tenants such as boatbuilder Safe Boats to make productive use of formerly unused port buildings.
Even with broader industrial development focus, said candidate Young, the port’s vision is too limited.
“It is my contention that present port commissioners are too traditional with their prism of the world and the maritime business,” Young said. “It will be my endeavors to expand, pursue and obtain export and import contracts with Africa, Central and South America.”
Dormier said the port is limited by insufficient rail yard capacity.
“We are constrained by limited rail yard capacity and over-the-road capacity,” he said. “I will champion a rail capacity expansion similar to the Maytown rail project along the Tacoma Mountain Rail system in Pierce County. The expanded capacity will reduce delays moving freight through the port and increase jobs.”
Holdeman favors a closer alliance with the Port of Seattle to make the region more competitive for maritime business.
“We need a different working relationship with the Port of Seattle,” he said.
“Short-term gains in getting business from the Port of Seattle does nothing for long-term economic viability of the Port of Tacoma. The real competition is from international ports in Canada, Mexico and the soon-to-be-expanded Panama Canal.”
In addition to boosting rail capacity, Dormier pledges to work for completion of state Route 167 between Puyallup and the port and better access to Interstate 5. Bacon has been an advocate of the SR 167 project on her time on the commission.
Young says he’ll be an advocate for training more students in the maritime trades through a port alliance with local schools and universities.
Bacon says following the tried and true formula is best for creating new jobs.
“The best thing the Port can do to create jobs outside our core business is to continue to do what we do best – grow the maritime business in Tacoma,” she said. “This business now creates over 110,000 direct and indirect jobs statewide. That is the definition of the port being an economic engine.”
Port of Tacoma Commission Position One
Occupation: Port of Tacoma commissioner, 16 years
Job history: Executive director World Trade Center Tacoma, 5 years; special assistant to Gov. Booth Gardner, 8 years; small business owner, 7 years.
Education: Bachelor’s in economics and journalism, Syracuse University; master’s in public administration, The Evergreen State College.
Family: Married to Albert Bacon; three children, five grandchildren.
Born: Plainfield, N.J.
Occupation: Registered professional civil engineer, 23 years. Has worked on major projects for ports, railroads and industries and on environmental restoration tasks.
Job history: Before joining his present employer, Rupert Engineering of Auburn, Dormier worked for the Harris Group in Seattle.
Education: Bachelor’s in civil engineering, University of Idaho
Family: Married, four children
Born: Boise, Idaho
Home: Gig Harbor
Occupation: Director, Center for Regional Disaster Resilience; security and emergency management consultant.
Job history: Former security director, Port of Tacoma; former Army infantry officer for 20 years; worked for King County and the state in emergency management positions.
Education: Bachelor’s in education, Concordia University
Family: Married, two children, four grandchildren
Andre “Dr. Dre” Young
Occupation: Entrepreneur, owner of Toyi Toyi Enterprises.
History: Young has been convicted of six rapes. He spent 20 years in prison and 20 years in the sex offender treatment center on McNeil Island before his 2010 release.
Education: Lists a degree from the University of Puget Sound.
Website: www.toyitoyienterprisesinc.comJohn Gillie: 253-597-8663 email@example.com