Port of Seattle Commission (Pos. 4) – John Persak

Candidate Questionnaire

1. Your name

John Persak

2. Candidate for:

Seattle Port Commission, Pos. 4
Party Affiliation: Democrat

3. Campaign information

4. If elected, what positive changes will you champion that will benefit the 31st LD?

I am running to ensure that the Port of Seattle remains the people’s port, and that public decisions prioritize living wages and the need for a livable planet and communities. As Seattle’s new Port Commissioner, I will be accountable and accessible to ensure the Port of Seattle supports our working waterfront, our fishing community, and our airport communities by creating good paying jobs for our families and prioritizing environmental stewardship. I am committed to democratic progressive values, and have I fought for the rights of workers and communities for many years. I have been serving on the Port’s Environment & Sustainability Committee for the past year, and have a unique understanding of both the issues that need to be addressed and the key stakeholders and solutions that can be brought together to fix them. As Seattle’s new Port Commissioner, I intend to do exactly that.

As a Seattle Port Commissioner I will be able to bring both labor and environmental issues to the table to ensure all Commission actions work toward combating climate change through a fair transition. These values, combined with my hands-on policy experience on Port issues such as environmental sustainability, freight mobility, labor relations, and land use will be essential to be an effective voice on the Port of Seattle Commission. The Port is a public asset that is a huge driver to our regional and state economy, but that is not without impacts to communities and the environment. I believe the Port can be a leader in the green energy economy and I will do everything I can to advance this goal. I believe that all of these issues will improve the quality of life for residents of the 31st legislative district.

5. What are the three most critical issues you expect to encounter in the office you are seeking?

Throughout my nearly 20 years in the maritime industry, I have acquired the knowledge, experience, relationships, and vision to make a difference at the Port, and I am inspired by the historical relationship of workers and their unions over the decades. I believe that workers rights and good paying jobs will continue to be one of the most critical issues that I address as a Port Commissioner. This will include protecting our industrial land base, especially our working waterfront, to make sure our maritime-based economy can continue to thrive and provide a solid base for our middle class families.

Second, equity issues need to be addressed by the Port, as environmental and social justice issues are prevalent in many pockets of King County. My experience in working on these important issues is that disenfranchised communities often bear the brunt of environmental impacts, both because housing tends to be less expensive in industrial areas and residents lack the access to impact decisions on land uses and policies that may be harmful to their interests. I understand this first hand, as the recent Heath Impact Analysis of the Duwamish area (where I live) provides comprehensive examples of these issues and resulting impacts. The HIA also presents a paradox: how can these communities benefit from reversing the impacts of pollution, when the resulting rise in livability scores raises rents and promotes gentrification, which displaces the very communities that promoted these environmental health improvements? We need to find a way for policymakers to make relevant and effective decisions on community priorities that don’t have unintended consequences.

I support community-centered policy making bodies that are culturally relevant and knowledgeable of the economic circumstances of the community as most likely to be successful, but the Port must be willing to engage these communities and remain committed to supporting the outcomes. There has been a great degree of success with this model around the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition as a technical advisory group to the community in making sure that disparate groups are enfranchised in Superfund Cleanup as administered by the EPA. I advocated for this model along with environmental allies on the Port’s Energy and Sustainability Committee this past year, and as a Commissioner I will ensure the implementation of the policies adopted in April 2017.

Finally, I believe that the Port needs to be a stronger environmental leader. We are extremely fortunate in King County to live in a region endowed with so much wildlife, marine diversity and natural beauty. A substantial portion of our regional economy, including airport and cruise ship tourism, fishing and shipment of Washington products, is dependent upon a healthy ocean economy. As a Port Commissioner, I would feel a strong duty to restore and protect in any way possible our marine environment to ensure those industries dependent upon it could continue. This includes promoting shipping that causes less ocean noise for marine mammals, uses cleaner fuels and has the lowest possible air emissions.

I feel that the same sense of duty applies to SeaTac International Airport and its resulting air pollution as the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and harmful diesel particulate emissions. Since growth is planned that will increase these emissions, the Port needs to better focus on carbon reduction strategies to make the largest impact in the shortest amount of time, in order to meet the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Such strategies include increasing the use of biofuels, electric-powered ground equipment, cold ironing, fuel saving aviation technologies, better use of transit and electric vehicles for passenger transport, solar technologies for on ground operations and building management, and funding/planning that promotes efficient freight mobility. All of these strategies should be used to reverse carbon outputs in relation to economic growth, and will help improve the quality of life for residents most impacted by the airport.

6. Please give us an example of when you had to a make a critical decision that, due to its impact on others, was difficult. Tell us why you made your decision and what, if any, actions you took to mitigate any negative results.

My past experience in collective bargaining informs this example. Most often, decisions have to be made toward the outcome of coming to agreement between a union and an employer that falls short of the ideals of those on both sides of the table, when reaching a tentative agreement. Explaining the process of the outcome and the limitations to meeting expectations to key stakeholders and opinion makers is crucial to both coming to an agreement, as well making a presentation and gaining acceptance of the overall outcome.

7. What methods will you employ to communicate with your constituency on a regular basis?

I will always have an open-door policy as a Port Commissioner, and regularly use social media to connect and communicate. I will also be happy to hold town hall style meetings and to meet with various constituent groups as concerns arise.

8. What other information would you like us to consider?

I am grateful and proud to have earned the endorsement of numerous organizations and leaders,
including the following as of June 26th:


I have received the following endorsements, all of them sole endorsements unless otherwise noted:

1st District Democrats * 11th District Democrats * 34th District Democrats
36th District Democrats * 43rd District Democrats * 46th District Democrats
47th District Democrats * 48th District Democrats * 32nd District Democrats (dual)
41st District Democrats (dual) * King County Young Democrats (dual)
Martin Luther King jr. County Labor Council *
Pierce County Central Labor Council
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587 * LU 196 Pile Drivers and Divers
IAM District 751 * OPEIU Local 8 * IBEW Local 46 * SEIU Local 6
Teamsters 117 * Inlandboatmens’ Union (IBU) * Masters Mates and Pilots
International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 19, 23 & 52
International Union of Operating Engineers Local 609 * ILWU Pensioners Club, Seattle
Sailors Union of the Pacific (SUP) * Teamsters Joint Council 28 * Laborers 1289


State Representative Nicole Macri (D-43rd) * State Senator Maralyn Chase (D-32nd)
State Representative Mia Gregerson (D-33rd) * State Representative Noel Frame (D-36th)
State Representative Gael Tarleton (D-36th) * State Senator Bob Hasegawa (D-11th)
Martha Kongsgaard, Past Chair, Puget Sound Partnership Leadership Council
Terri Mast, National Secretary Treasurer, Inlandboatmans’ Union
Peter Goldman, environmental attorney
Eugene Wasserman, President, North Seattle Industrial Association
Marcee Stone-Vekich, Former Chair, 34th District Democrats
Vince O’Halloran, Secretary/Treasurer, Puget Sound Ports Council Maritime Trades Department*
Dave Westberg, Business Manager of IUOE Local Union 609
Gordon Baxter, Principal, Count Consulting
John W. Lockwood, Rear Admiral US Coast Guard, ret.
Complete list, updated daily, is at PersakforPort.org

Signed at: June 26, 2017


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