Port politics is often not for the squeamish, either on its own merits - the ports have had their ethical challenges over the years - or in the sometimes roughhouse nature of their local battles. (Ask Oregon's Betsy Johnson about her years with the relatively small Port of St. Helens.) Bloggers have begun to find undercovered territory here, and the Port Observer site in recent months has been looking more aggressively at the Port of Seattle.
Consider this summary from a report the Observer site posted a few days ago:
Port of Seattle Commission candidate Gail [actually Gael] Tarleton says she wants to restore accountability and transparency to the Port of Seattle. But an investigation by The Port Observer of Tarleton’s own involvement with a controversial ports contractor raises troubling questions about her own ties to special interests.
Prior to her current position at The University of Washington's Office of Global Affairs, Tarleton was a long time employee (1990-2002) of Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), a large contractor for the U.S. defense and intelligence communities with a troubled history.
The Port Observer has learned that in addition to a wide array of other business, SAIC sells multi-million dollar gamma ray container scanning equipment to ports around the world. In recent years SAIC has been aggressively courting U.S. Ports in an attempt to sell this equipment.
The port has five commissioners, and this year election is up for two of the seats, those held by Bob Edwards (seat 2) and Alec Fisken (seat 5). There's plenty of interest in both, with five challengers (Tarleton among them) for Edwards' seat and three for Fisken's.
You might gather from the Port Observer's report that Tarleton is a connected insider, but apart from her role as a challenger to Edwards (who has been on the commission nearly eight years, is very well connected around Renton and other King County local government) there's her campaign rationale: "King County citizens deserve decisive and open leadership from the Port of Seattle. Furthermore, our citizens want their elected officials to focus on the real issues of environmental standards, port security, living wage jobs and of course, accountability. The Port of Seattle, to date, has failed us on each." And adds, "Never-ending scandals, mismanaged property tax dollars and a complete lack of transparency have all contributed to a severe public distrust."
That said, she's pretty well connected herself: Her list of endorsees includes a large portion of Seattle's Democratic legislative delegation, most of the local Democratic Party organization and - showing some breadth here - the Alki Foundation.
Her web site doesn't shy from the SAIC Global Technology connection; it's prominent in her campaign bio, along with her earlier role as an analyst for the Department of Defense. Interesting background for a Democratic-backed candidate. Most of the facts don't seem greatly in dispute. More to the point is, what will Seattle voters make of them - solid experience that could help improve a troubled district, or a list of ties and links that could lead to hard questions down the road? An investigative story, or a proudly-cited piece of relevant experience?