Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: Port of Tacoma

Dec.
27th

Norm Dicks: Embodiment of a better Congress

Congressman Norm Dicks

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

To understand what Washington will lose when Norm Dicks leaves Congress five days from now, you have to meet the man.

He comes across as a latter-day Teddy Roosevelt: beefy and bombastic; exuberant, gregarious and dominating; funny, friendly and full of stories. Though he talks nonstop, he’s no bore: The ideas just come too fast.

After about 10 minutes, you realize Dicks is not merely a consummate politician, but also a man of rare intelligence and insatiable curiosity. Once he’s on one of his favorite subjects – stealth aircraft, for example, or Puget Sound cleanup – you start to wonder if anyone else knows as much as this guy.

At 72, he still looks and talks like an irrepressible ex-Husky linebacker, which he is. On the issues he follows, he’s also a formidable intellectual with a dazzling grasp of technical detail and broad context.

Many of the tributes now being paid to Dicks amount to inventories of the projects and funding he brought home to Washington and the 6th Congressional District during his 36 years in office.

None of those lists is complete, though, because he’s done so much. Here is a sampling: Read more »

May
8th

Grist for Gritty Tacomans

Two recent articles in The Seattle Times struck a chord – and not in a good way.

First, on Sunday, Jon Talton wrote about how competition between the ports of Seattle and Tacoma is hurting both because they’re taking business from each other rather than from other ports. After noting that Tacoma has the advantage over Seattle of more capacity and dockside rail, he makes the case for a regional port authority (and you know it wouldn’t be called the Port of Tacoma-Seattle.)

The ports of Seattle and Tacoma are run by smart people who understand the threat and the

Read more »

March
10th

Memo to Seattle: Cooperation runs both ways

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Ah, yes, cooperation. A favorite theme of Seattle leaders when it comes to the Port of Tacoma.

The port is suddenly poised for a massive expansion. On Thursday, the “Grand Alliance” – a consortium of three big shipping lines – announced plans to shift their cargoes to Washington United Terminals on the west side of the Blair Waterway.

NYK Lines, OOCL and Hapag-Lloyd may wind up moving as much as 400,000 cargo containers through Blair, a surge that will again make Tacoma the state’s leading seaport and bring Pierce County a slew of high-paying jobs.

Unfortunately, Tacoma’s gain is Seattle’s loss. The Grand Alliance now operates out of Terminal 18 at the Port of Seattle. Ships, cargo and jobs will simply be moving down the Sound a few miles.

The news has been greeted up north with barely controlled apoplexy. The Port of Seattle issued a statement pointing to its $1 billion investment in seaport infrastructure – which could wind up under-utilized – and the loss of livelihoods on its waterfront.

“We continue to call for a dialogue about how the two ports can cooperate in order to maximize return on taxpayer investment,” the statement continued.
Seattle Port Commissioner John Creighton described it as the latest round of a “race to the bottom” that is keeping his port from raising its rates and threatening the maintenance of its terminals.

In reality, it’s not a race to the bottom so much as a response to opportunity. Tacoma’s port has immense capacity inside the Blair. Washington Waterways Terminal, for example, sits on 102 acres; it offers six immense cranes and an on-dock rail yard for direct transfer of containers from ship to freight train.

Ideally, the port would be snagging shipping lines from, say, British Columbia. But these businesses own calculators, and they grab value where they find it. It’s a competitive world, even within the Puget Sound region.

Ask the Tacomans who are still feeling the aftershocks of Russell Investments’ move to Seattle two years ago.
Read more »

March
3rd

Norm Dicks, congressman and patriot extraordinaire

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

With Norm Dicks, there are no six degrees of separation. If you live in the South Sound, you’ve been touched directly by his work in Congress.

Dicks’ decision to not run for re-election this year isn’t welcome news, but it’s not a shocker, either. He is 71 and has held his seat in the House of Representatives going on 36 years. All good things must end, and Dicks’ long run in Congress has been a decidedly good thing for this region.

The worst that can be said about the exuberant Bremerton Democrat is that he is an old-fashioned pork-barreler who has brought home the bacon to his state and his beloved Sixth District. But that’s another way of saying he has been very adept at looking out for his constituents.

The “pork” he delivered has stood the test of time. For example, he engineered funding for Interstate 705 – the Tacoma Spur – which extended the reach of Interstate 5 to the heart of Tacoma and the city’s waterfront.

Dicks was the prime mover behind the restoration of crumbling Union Station into a stunning rotunda hung with Chihuly glass. He secured federal grants for other urban redevelopment projects, all of which helped kick-start the dramatic revival of downtown Tacoma in the 1990s.

He was a key player in the historic land claims settlement with the Puyallup Tribe of Indians and the creation of the bypass highway around the Tideflats, breakthroughs that greatly expanded the capacity and potential of the Port of Tacoma.

He accelerated the cleanup of Commencement Bay. He was behind countless improvements at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and helped bring the Air Force’s C-17 transports there – a move that enhanced the base’s strategic importance at the time when military installations were being closed and downsized across the country.

Many of Dicks’ individual accomplishments would have been enough – all by themselves – to crown the career of any House member. For example, he – along with Sen. Henry Jackson – turned Madigan Army Medical Center into a reality.
Read more »

Oct.
31st

Harbor tax hurts Port of Tacoma every which way

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

The Port of Tacoma faces some tough challenges, the biggest of which – the global economy – is beyond anyone’s control.

But one of its problems could be fixed relatively easily by Congress. A perverse federal harbor fee puts both Seattle and Tacoma at a disadvantage compared to the ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert in British Columbia. U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, has been looking at a legislative solution; we hope he’ll act soon.

The fee in question is the Harbor Maintenance Tax, .125 percent of the value of cargo imported through U.S. ports. Port of Tacoma officials estimate that it adds an average of at least $150 to the cost of every container unloaded in Puget Sound. Canada imposes no such tax, and the $150 or more that shippers save by going through British Columbia amounts to a big penalty against Tacoma and Seattle. Read more »

Oct.
29th

Ken Miller: What Tacoma has to sell

Ken Miller, a commissioner of the Tacoma Housing Authority, is one of the city’s most thoughtful guys. He’s written this analysis of Tacoma’s prospects; a shorter version appears in tomorrow’s print edition.

By Ken Miller

We hear a lot about whether Tacoma is “open for business” and the strategy for growing our economy.

It’s an important but puzzling conversation. I decided to study up.

Just the Facts

My first step was to find out whether Tacoma is actually losing business, and if so, at what rate. I contacted the city’s Tax and License office, where business licenses are issued and cancelled. If you sell goods or services, you need a license. It’s the best way to get a business headcount.

At the beginning of 2011, Tacoma had 22,243 active business licenses, ranging from Greyhound Bus to doggie day care. Through September – nine months later – 435 businesses closed. This is bad. But 1,883 businesses opened, which is good. Even better than 2010, when Tacoma added a net total of 1,345 new businesses.

A Little Theory

It’s not that simple, though; otherwise everyone in the business community would be happy, right? So I turned to a couple of theorists for help.
First I considered the late Jane Jacobs. In The Wealth of Cities she distinguished between a business that re-circulates local money and a business that exports value. This is the difference between the corner candy store and Brown and Haley.

Jacobs asserts the only way to grow the local economy is to be a net exporter of value. It’s the only way to put more money – new money – into the local economy.

This is the distinction underlying the downtown-vs- neighborhoods debate, or the choice between clean water enterprise zones versus tree-lined streets full of shoppers. It’s the difference between Go Local and “think globally, act locally.”

Next I looked at Michael Porter’s Competitive Strategy. After all, we’re working on a competition problem: how can Tacoma attract or keep businesses, rather than losing them to South Carolina or Federal Way? Tom Pierson, President and CEO of the Tacoma Chamber, made this point in his recent op/ed in the News Tribune. He described two recent out of state “raids” on local businesses.
Read more »

Oct.
6th

Trade agreements would be good for both Washingtons

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Free-trade pacts with Korea, Colombia and Panama – a hot topic in the other Washington – could heat up business in this Washington if they’re passed.

In fact, this state stands to be one of the biggest winners if Congress approves the long-delayed pacts in the next few weeks. The Korean pact alone could generate $10 billion in increased exports and tens of thousands of jobs.

Being the most trade-dependent state, Washington stands to be a huge beneficiary of increased shipping through the ports of Tacoma, Seattle, Olympia and other entry points if tariffs are eliminated or phased out on beef, cherries, apples, other agricultural items and manufactured goods. More goods being loaded onto ships headed toward Korea means more jobs and bigger payrolls.
Read more »

Sep.
8th

Strange sympathy for Longshore lawlessness

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

What are Washington’s Longshore unions thinking? How can raw thuggery in Longview possibly deserve sympathy strikes in Tacoma, Seattle, Everett and Anacortes?

Longshoremen at the Port of Longview on Thursday looked and acted like they were out to confirm every stereotype of ugly, brutish union goons.

According to news reports, at least five hundred of longshoremen and supporters – some wielding baseball bats and crowbars – overwhelmed police, broke into a terminal, held security guards hostage and sabotaged boxcars.

The provocation appears to be a police attempt Wednesday to prevent longshoremen

Read more »