Opinion

Return Van Schoorl and McGregor

The Olympian believes that the current leaders of the Port of Olympia need to be retained by voters in the November general election.

Yes, we've had disagreements with some of the past actions of Port Commissioners Bob Van Schoorl and Bill McGregor. But they clearly have the vision and experience to guide the port through this critical time in its history.

In the District 1 contest, incumbent Bob Van Schoorl, 60, seeks his fourth full term in office, challenged by former Thurston County Commissioner George Barner, 66.

In the District 2 race, commission appointee Bill McGregor, 59, seeks to complete the final two years of the position vacated by Steve Pottle last year. He's challenged by Bill Pilkey, 70, a financial planner.

Van Schoorl vs. Barner

Van Schoorl, a retired Army officer and budget director for the state Department of Natural Resources, has been in office since 1994 and deserves some of the credit for bringing projects such as Anthony's HomePort, the Port Plaza and the Olympia Farmers Market to the port peninsula area.

But at the same time, he's served as a lightning rod for port critics who charge the port with acting too much like a private business and not enough like a public agency supported in part by tax dollars.

Articulate and filled with vision of a port that blends economic development with public access to the lower Budd Inlet shoreline, Van Schoorl has the political savvy to make sure the port is a key player in the cleanup of dioxin in lower Budd Inlet.

He acknowledges that perhaps it was a mistake not to require a full-blown environmental impact statement for the controversial Weyerhaeuser Co. log export project. The project has triggered numerous lawsuits and hefty legal bills for the port.

And he's voicing some healthy skepticism about a Port of Tacoma-Port of Olympia partnership that could lead to a Maytown cargo center.

Barner, who was a popular Democratic county commissioner from 1977 to 1993, is a South Sound product through and through. The 1960 Olympia High School graduate is well-known by longtime residents for his raspy-voiced version of the rock-and-roll anthem "Louie-Louie."

Barner said his overriding reason for returning to political life is to restore public confidence in the Port of Olympia with a new ethics policy, improve access to open public records and create a family-friendly port with shoreline properties accessible to the public. Kudos to Barner for making public accountability a major port issue.

This is a valuable, yet incomplete vision of the port, which ignores the port's role as an important economic development engine in South Sound.

Barner's ideas for commuter jet service at Olympia Regional Airport and commuter ferry service between Olympia and Seattle are skeletal at best.

Re-elect Van Schoorl to the port commission.

McGregor vs. Pilkey

In the District 2 race, McGregor brings 27 years of experience in the port industry, including time as Port of Olympia director of operations and director of the Port of Grays Harbor.

This is both a blessing and a curse. On the plus side, McGregor has valuable experience with day-to-day port operations, experience that should serve him well as an elected official.

However, he needs to assert himself more in port commission business and make the clear distinction between his past job as a port employee and his current role as a publicly-elected port commissioner.

Pilkey has a long history as a candidate dating back to 1984, running without success for a variety of state and local offices. He's just never resonated with the majority of voters in any given race.

In his campaign, Pilkey makes some salient points. The Port of Olympia is a money-losing operation that relies in part on property taxes. And, he said, the port needs to get more serious about environmental cleanup of port properties, before trying to market them. He, too, wants a port more open to the public.

The fear is he lacks the political leadership skills to make a real difference.

Elect McGregor to the port commission.

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