The GSBA Blog


Face to Face with Port Commission Candidates

by Anthony Derrick, Public Policy Task Force member
| Oct 09, 2017

F2F PS Hero













[Part I of the series looking at Seattle City Council candidates can be found here]

For the second race of the morning, candidates for Port Commissioner John Creighton and Ryan Calkins had a frank conversation with GSBA members about the challenges facing the port. As before, candidates started by laying out their previous support of the LGBTQ community [video]. During Creighton’s previous term as a commissioner, the Port began tracking LGBT business relationships for the first time, and extended employee health plans to cover domestic partnerships. Calkins, on the other hand, spoke about his personal relationships with LGBTQ leaders like Zach Silk and Brady Walkinshaw.

The first question posed to them was by Elise: As the most important economic engine in our region, what is the biggest challenge facing the port, and what will we do about it [video]? Creighton argued that the biggest issue is the growth of the airport. As a major transportation hub and economic player, an expanding airport is a good sign for the region, but how does it remain a good neighbor to the community while growing within its space? For Calkins, the biggest issue facing the port is the consolidation of major shipping lines and production. Seattle is facing pressure from many other seaports along the west coast, and we need to make sure that the port’s 60,000+ jobs are preserved.

The next two questions from Steven and Gunnar focused on inclusion at the port, both for POC and LGBTQ people [video]. Addressing what the port is doing now and could do better, Creighton emphasized existing initiatives present in the port like hiring goals, creating pipelines for youth and people of color, and pushing the port to do more business with LGBTQ organizations and small businesses.

Calkins argued that the port needs a more welcoming public face, including advertising the port as a safe harbor for people who don’t “fit the mold.” As examples, he suggested making the port a sanctuary for immigrants and refugees, and making sure that there are gender-neutral bathrooms at the ports. In order to create a more inclusive environment, he said, it is important to recognize the systemic obstacles POC and LGBTQ people face.

Gladys Gillis and Roger Nyhus asked about the Port's history with tracking LGBTQ and minority small business contracts and the resulting data collected [video]. Commissioner Creighton said that though the Port of Seattle has been tracking LGBTQ inclusion since about 2013, that the data shows that they can do better. He asserted that the Port is working on outreach, in part with GSBA, to better reach the small business community. He stated that 90% of businesses awarded contracts in the recent round of bids at Sea-Tac went to small businesses and that I-200 would not be a limitation for doing even more work with small minority businesses. Calkins advocated for a more streamlined process to lower barriers to entry for small businesses. He also wants to push for greater transparency at the Port of Seattle.