Dragging the port elections out of apathy's shadow

Even though Seattle calls itself a progressive city I often see instances where we fail miserably at election time. When it comes to picking candidates for offices like the Port of Seattle we really blow it.

The Port of Seattle actually should be called the Port of Martin Luther King County because they represent the county and are elected countywide. It's a position that most people know very little about and it seems that those who run the port would prefer to operate under the radar.

So when it's time to elect someone we often are faced with candidates that we have ignored until right before the election. On top of this, the port operates so differently than the city or county that we simply don't know enough about it to make rational decisions. As a result, we are faced with a position and candidates that we know very little about, and many voters will often skip over the position or just vote for the most familiar name.

This year the election for the port could be, and should be, different.

For the first time in my memory a strong and well-qualified Asian American candidate, Lloyd Hara, is in the race for the open seat in Position 3. Hara has served the city as treasurer and as the regional director of FEMA, and that background makes him more qualified than 90 percent of the people who have ever served on the Port Commission.

Now we get back to the issue of Seattle being a progressive city. I am not advocating that Seattle vote for an Asian American just because one is running. The issue is much more complicated than that.

I am advocating that Seattle does what is in its best interest now and in the future by putting a well-qualified Asian American on the port since nearly all the business our port does - close to 90 percent - is with Asian nations.

Every other major port from Vancouver, Canada, to Los Angeles realizes how important this is and has Asian Americans in key positions. I am sure that the experts will site numerous reasons that Seattle is losing business to their competitors and few if any will admit that this issue is important. But as a major multi-racial power in the world, it's time for America to grow up and learn how to best utilize its valuable human resources.

America is blessed to have Americans of every nationality at its beck and call but this means little if we fail to utilize these resources.

When Gary Locke went to China as governor, he was treated like a returning hero. He will also play a major role when the Chinese leader makes a visit to the state in the near future. Velma Veloria, another Asian American, ran the statewide office responsible for trade during the Locke administration, and both should somehow continue to play a major role in this area in the future.

We should have a major delegation of Asian Americans representing this state, as good will ambassadors, every time a boat or plane goes to Asia to discuss trade. Lloyd Hara can make that happen. Every major and minor Asian leader supports his run for the port and the city should take note of that.

But when the major newspapers talk about the port race they totally ignore Lloyd Hara. James Vesely, Seattle Times editorial page editor, wrote a recent Sunday opinion which proves this point. He made a case for the two other major candidates and acted as though Lloyd Hara was not even important enough to mention.

This oversight is bordering on criminal if we are truly concerned with the long-term health of the port and the region. What we continue to do is act as though groups like the unions and real estate developers have automatic slots, yet none of those groups have a chance at impacting the port the way a quality Asian American candidate like Lloyd Hara could.

We really need to upgrade the port commission and not let it continue to be just a neat place for retirees who enjoy travel. We need more out of this position and the people who we elect to represent us.

America is the most powerful nation the world has ever known and its ability to stay on top will depend on how well we use our human resources. Trade is an area where our multi-racial population can make the largest impact, and we should start by putting Lloyd Hara on the port commission.

Have a word or two for Southeast Seattleite Charlie James? Write him via editor@sdistrictjournal.com.[[In-content Ad]]