“It’s been six months,” said Commissioner Toshiko Hasegawa when we spoke last week, half a year after she won her race for position four on the Port of Seattle Board of Commissioners. “I blinked and we’re here.”
Hasegawa won as the endorsed candidate of the Stranger Election Control Board, and while it would be nice to think that we always make the right decision, we’ve been known to get a few things wrong. So it seemed like a good time to check in and see how our previously endorsed candidates were working out.
It should be noted that Hasegawa’s opponent, Peter Steinbrueck, made headlines in April when he co-authored a Seattle Times opinion piece describing car traffic in Pike Place Market as “zesty,” so that’s at least one indicator that we made the right call.
And if nothing else, Hasegawa’s been busy.
“In the first three months I took 150 meetings, between trainings and meet-and-greets and tours,” she said. “I think one of the things that has totally caught me off-guard is how much red tape there is around what projects you’re allowed to talk about or positions you can take on various issues.” (Surprised by red tape? In Seattle? Surely you’re new.)
As her campaign indicated she would, Hasegawa has taken the lead on issues related to the environment and labor as co-chair of the Sustainability, Environment, and Climate Committee, as well as the Waterfront and Industrial Lands Committee, among other roles.
When we first interviewed her back in September 2021, we started the conversation with some questions about transportation; so that seemed like a good place to begin six-months in.
TRANSPORTATION TO THE AIRPORT
At our September 2021 endorsement meeting, Hasegawa said, “I would love to get to a place where all people felt like they could utilize mass transit to get to the airport.” She still stands by her objective of getting 100% of riders to Sea-Tac via transit.
“That should always be our goal,” she said. And she’s particularly focused on making the journey easier for Port employees, especially airport workers, by taking advantage of low-cost or free transit. Under state law, employers with at least 100 workers are required to implement Commute Trip Reduction plans. But that leaves a clumsy loophole when it comes to sites composed of many small employers, like the airport. Currently, the airport employs around 24,000 workers, but only Delta, Alaska, and the TSA have more than 100 employees each.
Hasegawa wants to address this omission of airport workers through a ground transportation action plan. It would be a voluntary program, she says, and the Port has just hired a consultant to figure out exactly how it would work.
“Expanding the footprint of cruise is an absolute nonstarter,” Hasegawa said in September, citing cruise ships’ heavy environmental toll.
Since then, she’s been pleased to see any plans for further cruise ship expansion are, as she put it, “dead in the water,” including on Terminal 46, where an expansion was previously considered.
Hasegawa wants to prioritize cargo shipping (also pretty dirty) at T46, while temporarily leasing space at the terminal to the Coast Guard and upgrading infrastructure. To mitigate the environmental impact, she wants to see upgrades to stormwater management (already underway) and a switch from fossil fuels to electrification (currently slowly rolling out to Terminal 5, then a terminal in Tacoma, then Terminal 18, then Tacoma again, and then maybe T46 if we’re lucky).
In addition envisioning those upgrades, Hasegawa is researching clean-energy successes at ports in other countries. Earlier this year, she took a fact-finding trip to Spain to learn about wind energy. She’s also exploring the possibilities of hydrogen power.
Seattle’s Port Commissioners are heading out on a retreat later this month, with plans to kick around dollar figures for next year’s budget; those numbers will be finalized in November. Among Hasegawa’s priorities are funding Orca passes for all Sea-Tac employees and an employee child care program. She’s also keeping an eye on Duwamish River cleanup, and wants to set aside $150,00 for a study into revitalizing Port-owned Həʔapus Park.
Hasegawa’s also excited to work on a green corridor for cruise ships. Still in its planning stages, the initiative launched in May seeks to solidify an area where cruise lines agree to restrict their emissions. That project is emblematic of the Port’s unique capacity to push for better conditions not just locally but internationally.
Key to that effort, Hasegawa says, are sanctions for companies that violate whatever agreement eventually materializes. “What’s the point of best practices if folks are in violation?” she says. “Whether they’re in Puget Sound waters, or somewhere else.”