Creating Jobs and Rebuilding Our Economy
The Port of Seattle is responsible for generating nearly 200,000 jobs in Washington and is the 17th largest airport and eighth largest seaport in the nation. Every cruise ship that lands at the Port generates nearly $2 million in revenue for our local economy. It is often quoted that one-in-three jobs in Washington is trade-related and the Port is a pivotol engine for our trade-based economy. When the Port is performing well and operating in the black, jobs are created. It’s that simple.
The downturn of the economy in late 2008, devastated our state’s economy and our job market. Although we appear to be rebounding, the recovery has been sluggish. Despite a struggling recovery, there is good news at the Port: record numbers of containers passing through the Port, a budget operating in the black and a forecasted record number of cruise ships coming through our Port this year. This good news means more jobs.
Gael, in conjunction with her colleagues at the Port, has taken steps in the last few years to create jobs and rebuild our economy. These reforms have led to the creation of more than 4,500 jobs since the Great Recession started, with another estimated 1,200 to 1,500 new jobs in 2011. A few of Gael’s accomplishments relating to creating jobs and rebuilding our economy include:
- Gael worked to ensure construction of a new rental car facility at Sea-Tac Airport, creating nearly 3,000 new jobs and contracts to more than 50 local companies.
- Gael designed a port-financing plan for the South Park Bridge replacement, ensuring this critical corridor is protected, creating more than 300 construction jobs.
- Gael supported the completion of the Terminal 30 conversion to container shipping, creating more than 350 new jobs for the International Longshoremen and Warehousing Union members.
- Gael voted in favor of 2010 Capital projects for the airport supporting environmental mitigation, airfield improvement, panel replacement and construction of a new sky lounge for Delta Airlines’ expanded international flights. These 2010 capital projects created 220 new jobs.
- Gael voted in favor of moving forward with funding for transportation projects that mitigate the impacts of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Project, specifically implementing Phase 1 of new FAST Corridor project on Spokane Street. Estimated new jobs created: 775.
- With passage of the 2011 Port Jobs Investment Plan, nearly 1,500 jobs will be created through 100 capital projects.
- Gael supported a port version of “Helmets to Hardhats” program, an apprenticeship program for returning Iraq and Afghan war veterans to ease back into the workforce.
- The Seattle Port Commission unanimously passed Gael’s “clean trade initiative,” which expands the Port’s trucking retrofit program while protecting trade and meeting federal clean air standards two years ahead of schedule.
Safeguarding Our Environment
Prior to Gael’s election, the Port had a reputation for setting and implementing only the minimum environmental standards required by state of federal law. Bad headlines about cruise-ship waste dumping, diesel-spewing trucks idling in neighborhoods and PCB-tainted soils all lead to the perception that the Port was a reluctant environmental player. One of the reasons Gael ran for the Commission was that she saw the potential of the Port to act as a leader in adopting strong environmental standards for the air, water and land, consistent with the values of the people of King County. A few of Gael’s environmental accomplishments include:
- Gael encouraged the start of efforts to a composting pilot program at Sea-Tac Airport, now one of the most extensive in the nation.
- Gael championed the first-ever grant to support congestion relief, expand safe bike/pedestrian paths and improve air quality in the SoDo, South Park and Georgetown neighborhoods. Thanks to Gael’s constant urging, Port staff aggressively pursued environmental federal stimulus dollars andmore than $30 million in federal grants are now coming to the Port for port vehicle electrification, shore power hookups, and pre-conditioned air to reduce greenhouse gas emissions created by idling planes.
- Gael pushed for and secured funding for electric car chargers at Sea-Tac airport for hybrid electric and all-electric vehicles.
- Gael insisted on the completion of the stormwater run-off tank prior to the start of the Rental Car Facility construction, protecting a salmon-spawning creek nearby. Further, the new rental car facility at the airport will use closed-loop recycling and cleaning of wastewater, further protecting our region from the harmful effects of stormwater runoff.
- Gael pushed for a clean-energy solution for the rental car companies’ shuttle buses and the into a new Port-owned fleet will be 100 percent hybrid and reduce shuttle bus trips by an estimated 30 percent.
- Gael led the revision of the Memorandum of Understanding with the cruise ship industry to prohibit any ship from dumping waste into Elliot Bay and also require them to use low sulfur fuels and “shorepower” to reduce impacts on water and air quality while cruise ships are docked.
- Gael supported a Lower Duwamish Habitat Restoration Plan where 56 parties have all agreed to allow the Port to create 23 new restored habitat wetlands on privately held land on the river.
- Also, the newest taxi service contract will provide for 100 percent clean energy taxis.
- Responding to constituent concerns over rising public health issues, Gael led community stakeholder meetings to alleviate port diesel truck emissions in South Elliot Bay neighborhoods. The group, co-chair with Seattle City Councilwoman Sally Clark achieved dramatic results: 100 trucks now park for free on Port property and are off neighborhood streets and 100 additional truck-parking spaces will be available in 2011.
- The Commission in early 2011, passed Gael’s green-trade initiative that accelerates efforts to meet federal clean air standards two years ahead of schedule.
Protecting Our Ports and Our Citizens
With nearly 30 years as a security and intelligence expert, Gael was a natural choice to lead efforts that protected our Port and King County citizens. Prior to her election, the Port did not have a long term plan to deal with manmade or natural disasters. Gael’s experience protecting our nation’s ports from nuclear, biochemical and natural disasters helped move the Port in a new direction as it dealt with its own long term goals. Now, the Port is a regional partner leading the way in protecting our airport and our seaport while also combating national issues like human trafficking. Below are a few of Gael’s accomplishments that are related to protecting our ports and its citizens:
- Gael currently serves on the Tri-County Regional Executive Policy Committee, a regional effort to support Puget Sound emergency response and recovery plans.
- Gael encouraged the Port to team with State Representative Tina Orwall, supporting legislation that passed in 2010 making flood insurance available to companies at risk of potential losses from a Howard Hanson dam break.
- Gael led a 2010 Human Trafficking Forum in collaboration with federal, state and local leaders to prevent the trafficking of women and children through our airports and seaports.
- In 2009, Gael led the first-ever Commission sponsored “Maritime and Port Security Summit,” designed to get local businesses, government agencies and law enforcement talking about how we keep our area safe in a struggling economy.
- Gael has been a keynote speaker for Department of Homeland Security, U.S. State Department, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory conferences on regional, national, and global port security challenges and programs.
- Gael worked to support hotel and restaurant workers’ rights for sick leave.
- Leading collaboration efforts with the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy, Gael helped create a regional plan to share resources and facilities in the event of natural or man-made disasters.
- Through Gael’s leadership on creating free truck parking at the Port, diesel-spewing trucks are now not idling in neighborhoods near the Port, which is improving air quality and public health and making neighborhoods safer.
Reforming the Port and Restoring Common Sense
If you have followed the Port throughout the last two decades, you would note that the Port’s reputation as a bad environmental player was only eclipsed by its reputation as a bad neighbor. Historically, there did not exist a systematic approach to stakeholder or citizen engagement at the Port, thereby causing friction between our urban port and the communities it borders. Gael recognized in her first term that the Port’s history of applying a “one-size-fits-all” strategy to address the challenges the Port faced wasn’t working. Coupled with mismanaged money, failed audits and scandals, the Port’s detachment from its citizens in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s had severely damaged the public trust. Gael recognized that reforming the Port also meant listening to citizens and applying some common sense to government. Below are a few of Gael’s reforms and common sense accomplishments during her first term:
- Gael is the only Port Commissioner to vote against a CEO salary increase every time it’s come up for a vote.
- Gael led efforts to secure free Wi-Fi at Sea-Tac Airport.
- Gael voted to hold the line on the Port’s tax levy, which has actually led to reducing the overall property taxes collected by $2.4 million between 2008 and 2011.
- Thanks to Gael’s leadership, the Port’s Audit Committee now meets monthly in public, creates an annual internal audit workplan and has added a volunteer committee member from the public. More than 100 internal audits have been completed in three years, collecting more than $4 million in fees owed to the Port that have never been collected.
- Within her first month in office, Gael wrote the “Transparency Code of Conduct” motion to move the Port away from its history with closed-door meetings and inaccessibility to the public.
- As chair and member of the Audit Committee, Gael directed the Port to put the operation of two money-losers up for competitive bid – the Odyssey Museum and the Port’s in-house food vendor. This competitive bidding process saved taxpayers more than $1 million.
- Under Gael’s leadership, the Port staff adopted new policies for small-works contracting and consulting projects, and implemented new community outreach with women- and minority-owned businesses to help more companies qualify for Port contracts and procurement projects.
- Gael worked with airport staff and the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services to create services and signage for deaf, blind and other disabled passengers travelling throughout the airport.
- Gael spearheaded efforts to create new taxi licenses that reduce “deadheading.” Previously, when a taxi driver is stationed at the airport, they are prohibited from picking up a fare on their return trip back to the airport, causing empty cabs and senseless burning of fossil fuels.
- All Port projects and their schedules and budgets – approximately 85 active contracts and more than 600 contractors, tenants or suppliers – are now online, through Gael’s urging, and accessible to any citizen who wishes to see how public money is being spent.
- All Commission and Audit Committee meetings are now streamed live on the web and archived on the Port’s website.
- Gael has encouraged employees to participate in and take ownership of the Port’s new “Workplace Responsibility Program” – a forum where employees can share best practices regarding workplace ethics, customer relations, health and safe work environments and fair employment practices.