Last time I checked, the Port Of Seattle ran Sea-Tac Airport and the Port Of Seattle Commission was elected by the voters of King County. There are currently about 2.1 million residents of King County. And there are maybe 150,000 people living in ‘the airport communities’ so the airport communities are at best a mere seven percent of the population.
What I’m trying to say is this: If you still believe that we live in a democracy, the voters of King County like how things are going here at Sea-Tac Airport. The voters and their representatives, at the municipal, State and Federal levels have voted time and again to keep expanding the airport and to never do anything to hinder its flow of tax revenues. Because the big picture is: the airport is very, very good for King County and the State Of Washington as a whole. It is important to remember that it is we who are the outliers.
So when I go to a StART meeting or any public get together and I hear activists try to brow beat mid-level management at the FAA or the Port for doing their job (ie. serving the voters of King County and the United States Of America) it kinda pisses me off. Seriously. They’re not only getting angry at the wrong people, they’re getting angry at people who have absolutely no authority to help them. And those poor souls have to sit there and take it as proxies for the people you can’t get in to see. No wonder they don’t want to be there! They’re being treated as glorified Comcast Phone Reps. And who wants that job! 😀
There are only five people in the entire Sea-Tac eco-system who are worth talking to: the Port Commissioners. Full stop. They set policy. And if you’ve been doing your homework, you know that the Port Commission has a unique level of authority unlike most any other airport operator in the United States. They actually could effect meaningful change almost overnight if they chose to. Do you see any Commissioners at the StART table? I’ll wait.
IMPORTANT: the Port Of Seattle is not your partner. It is your opponent. You can’t get angry with them at these meetings because they are representing the interests of the overwhelming number of residents of the State Of Washington. When you ask them to do something and they hem and haw they’re not necessarily screwing you. More often they’re trying, as politely as possible, to let you down as easily as possible. What I think makes activists so crazy is that they tend to forget this. There’s this sense that somehow the Port ‘owes’ us something. THEY DO NOT FEEL THAT WAY. Because the majority of King County voters do not feel that way. So just get over it.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The StART can be very useful for getting into the weeds in terms of educating local leaders and getting certain low-hanging fruit tasks handled (Larry Cripe’s Reverse Thrust issue for example). Those kinds of strictly technocratic issues should definitely be worked on through the StART. That is all the StART is and viewed as such it can and should be considered a useful tool.
Not So Useful
However, the StART has become a whipping boy for cities and activists who use it to complain about what they aren’t getting from the Port Of Seattle. But it was never designed to be anything more than what it is. Again, it gives people a chance to vent their spleen, which may be therapeutic, but so what? And again: you’re yelling at the wrong people. They can’t help you.
IMPORTANT: the StART is not a focal point for change. At best, it is a meeting place where members of cities can develop their own political group outside of the StART. The airport communities must develop their own united political entity if they are ever going to effectively change the system.
Who You Should Be Angry With
If you want to be angry with someone, I suppose you can be angry at the rest of King County for not giving a shit about us. Oh they say they care about Orcas and the salmon and the environment and all that shite, but they give us no media coverage. Total hypocrites. They loooooove their free shipping and their trips to Peru too much, what can you do?
But if you actually want to be productive, be angry with your city leaders. For decades it’s been clear that all the airport communities needed to band together politically in order to have any chance of fighting the Port Of Seattle and the bad socio-economic effects of Seattle’s explosive growth. Have they done so? Of course not. The cities tend to be incredibly defensive of their own turf which is ridiculous given how tiny they are. This has made it all too easy for the Port to have its way.
Just one example of jingoistic politics was when Dave Kaplan famously yelled at two city council members-elect from SeaTac for daring to come into Des Moines to give public comment on a proposed water tax. Look it up on Youtube. I think it’s no coincidence that ‘Mayor Dave’ now works for the Port.
Each city can avoid doing anything about Sea-Tac by simply showing up at a forum like the StART and wagging a finger along with the rest of the community when they know darn well that they should have been banding together all along to create legislation at the State and Federal levels. Have they done this? Hell no. With one or two notable exceptions, all efforts to obtain relief, create legislation and organize the community have originated with private citizens. And all such efforts have come many years too late to be effective against Sea-Tac’s relentless expansion plans.
Remember: The Port Of Seattle informed us all of its latest expansion plans starting in 2012. We had plenty of notice. Our leaders spent years doing nothing to get ready so is it any wonder we’re unprepared?
The only way to effectively fight the Port Of Seattle is to quit whining for better treatment. All that has done is to create a constant culture of victimization which is making our entire region weak: politically, socio-economically, spiritually.
And worst of all? Your leaders never want to speak up on your behalf. Haven’t you noticed? In public they have only good things to say about the Port Of Seattle. In public they still want to press for more ‘economic development’ and ‘partnerships’. They have lots of pictures with Port Commissioners shaking hands, holding shovels, planting trees. If there are problems of ‘impacts’? Why those get handled quietly–and the StART is a great place for that because it’s another dark room that the public never sees. They want to have it both ways.
You Have To Change
Dear reader, we all have to change. We have to get past our anger because it’s made us weak. We have to stop trying to get the Port Of Seattle to be something it is not because it is doing exactly what the overwhelming number of King County voters want and to expect otherwise is simply insane. They will never change. Instead we have to change. We have to get our city leaders to change. We have to tell them that they can’t have it both ways: they can’t partner with the Port on Monday and fight ‘the impacts’ on Tuesday. We have to tell them that we want a long-term plan for the region that doesn’t depend on the Port Of Seattle and that we want them to start working on that plan now.
You activists out there: How many of you have ever demanded a single thing from your city councils? I didn’t think so. This is another hard lesson we need to learn: They are no more your partners than the Port Of Seattle. You’ve given them your trust far too easily and that has been a grave mistake. You must teach them that they will need to earn your trust.
The only rational way forward is to start organizing the airport cities together in a political coalition that is willing to speak up; that is willing to advocate for our interests; and that is willing to vote together at a county and State level–just like any other healthy political caucus.
Quit whining, SKC. Point your anger in the right direction and tell your city leaders it’s time to get in the game.