Opinion

Election View: Robert Briscoe running to ensure port is economic engine

I have walked the docks since I was 4 years old and I’ve seen many changes over the 41 years I’ve been commercial fishing out of Squalicum harbor. The fortunes of our maritime businesses have ebbed and flowed over the years. With waterfront re-development on its agenda, the Port of Bellingham has a unique opportunity to once again take advantage of our strategic marine location. After years of wondering when something would happen, and complaining when nothing did happen, I am stepping up to offer my leadership to the Port of Bellingham.

Our working waterfront provides family-wage jobs for Whatcom County.

The port owns 237 acres of Bellingham waterfront. While creating attractive public access to the shoreline and a connection to the existing downtown core is important, we need more than more parks, coffee shops and low-paying service jobs. In order to create the living-wage jobs this county lacks, the port must focus on the infrastructure that supports sea-going trade and maritime business. The fishing and seafood processing sector alone currently produces about 1,800 direct jobs, an additional 1,000 indirect jobs, and $320 million in business income for Whatcom County residents. All county maritime businesses based on port property produce over 4,000 jobs, and there is ample room for growth.

The port commission hasn’t had a fisherman on it since Pete Zuanich retired in 1995, 20 years ago, and it’s time to refocus on marine trades, fishing, and transportation, the core responsibilities of public port authorities.

Let’s get to work. My goals for the port are to:

Prioritize reconstruction of Blaine Harbor industrial area, including environmental cleanups and dock, street, and bulkhead reconstruction, to allow Blaine’s processors, shipyard and fishing fleet to prosper once again;

Continue overall improvement of facilities for commercial fishing and seafood processing to attract a larger fishing fleet and more companies that bring living-wage jobs to Whatcom County;

Recruit additional shipbuilding and manufacturing companies to port properties;

Maintain a high-quality airport for both commercial and general aviation;

Make sure the airport serves local residents first by seeking direct connections to Alaska and an eastern hub;

Revitalize Bellingham’s seagoing trade by improving barge facilities and aggressively recruiting business for the shipping terminal.

Decades of working in ports from California to Alaska have prepared me for the decisions that lie ahead.

I am a fourth-generation commercial fisherman, born and raised in south Bellingham. I am a life-long independent businessman operating commercial fishing vessels in all four coastal states. I’ve also served as president of Puget Sound Crab Fisherman Association. My wife Carol and I live in Blaine and are the parents of two grown sons, and grandparents of four boys.

My father and mother worked for the Port of Bellingham labeling canned salmon at the Fairhaven terminal in the winter months and commercial fished in the summer months. My dad was also the president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union local 15, and my mom, Marlene, was the secretary-treasurer for more years than she can remember.

Primary ballots will be mailed July 15 to District 3 voters.

Three candidates filed for the Port of Bellingham Commission District 3 seat, requiring a primary election Aug. 4. District 3 includes all areas west of the Guide Meridian, including Ferndale, Blaine and Birch Bay. All Whatcom County voters receive ballots for the port commission race in the November general election.

The Port of Bellingham’s mission is to fulfill the essential transportation and economic development needs that in turn support Whatcom County’s overall economic vitality. The port is supported by taxes levied on all Whatcom County property, not just within the city of Bellingham. Besides Squalicum Harbor facilities, the port operates the Cruise Terminal, Blaine Harbor, the airport, and on-shore real estate.

There’s a lot to do and I’m ready to work hard for the people of Whatcom County, who are the real owners of the Port of Bellingham. Let’s maximize the returns on our investment. I would be honored to have your vote.

The Briscoe for Port campaign can be reached at 1043 Peace Portal Dr, Blaine, WA, 98230, or briscoeforport.com. Voters can reach Bobby at 360-739-7590.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

This is one of a series of commentaries from candidates in the Aug. 4 primary election. Robert “Bobby” Briscoe, Jr., is one of three challengers in the non-partisan election for a 4-year term as Port of Bellingham Commissioner District 3. District 3 includes Lummi Island, Ferndale, Blaine and other northwest county communities. Incumbant Jim Jorgensen is not seeking re-election.

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