Toshiko Grace Hasegawa is running for Seattle Port Commission Position 4 against incumbent Peter Steinbrueck. Governor Jay Inslee appointed Hasegawa as Executive Director of the Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs, in 2018. “Part of that work has involved coordinating with our Port on contract opportunities for women and minority owned businesses, and helping to expand awareness and legislation addressing human trafficking,” her website notes. One thing that struck us in her questionnaire and interview is that Hasegawa is a big supporter of high speed rail and has creative ideas to leverage Port resources to make it happen. As the daughter of State Senator Bob Hasegawa, Toshiko has close ties to the labor community. She lives on Beacon Hill. Check out Hasegawa’s campaign website for more info.
The Urbanist Election Committee has followed up on our questionnaires with Zoom interviews to fill in the gaps. We released our Primary Endorsements in late June and endorsed Hasegawa. Since she is the only challenger she automatically advanced to the general election and isn’t on the primary ballot. Primary ballots should have arrived in your mailbox and must be postmarked August 3rd. No stamp needed as postage is included. For voter information or to register to vote, visit the State election website.
Below are Toshiko Grace Hasegawa’s questionnaire responses.
The Port itself is set to meet its carbon reduction targets earlier than anticipated, but the region as a whole is stagnating. How can the Port do more to address stagnating emissions levels around the region?
The Port has a huge role to play in reducing pollution and more quickly reaching our environmental goals. I believe there are some immediate actions we can take to systematically address regional issues with pollution.
First, we should invest in large-scale green infrastructure projects, including the construction of high speed rail. This will reduce the number of short trips airplanes take out of SeaTac to nearby destinations like Portland and Bellingham, which will effectively reduce carbon emissions impacting airport cities and neighborhoods, as well as reduce noise pollution. High speed rail will move both passengers and cargo, and will also address issues of mobility and congestion around the port to the benefit of travelers, workers and residents alike. Other large-scale infrastructure projects that help the region to more quickly move away from the fossil fuel paradigm and towards sustainable infrastructure including: the electrification of the port; off-shore wind; implementation of solar panels; and ensuring all new buildings constructed at or by the Port are green.
I also believe the Port can incentivize commercial and recreational boaters to transition to electric engines by implementing a “Clean Boats Program”, which would subsidize the cost to go green.
What strategies would you push at the Port of Seattle to develop more alternatives to single-occupancy vehicle trips for Port employees and visitors?
High speed rail will be a great option for folks to move about the region without driving to and from the airport and then taking a plane to get to where they’re going. Currently, the waterfront is backed up with truckers trying to drop their loads; and passengers trying to get to and from the airport. High speed rail will reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips at both the Seatac and the Waterfront.
Commuters driving to work every day also add to pollution and congestion. Catching the ferry is a great alternative to driving to work every day. We should continue to invest in greening our ferry fleets as part of a sustainable blue economy. I also believe that the Port can use some of its land to develop workforce housing, so workers can live close to where the jobs are at. This not only will reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips, but will help address the growing housing crisis.
Finally, the Port can collaborate with the City to implement the Seattle Master Bike Plan. SODO is notoriously unfriendly to pedestrians and bikers with light rail, train tracks, and transit corridors criss-crossing the region. Creating safe bike lanes is a priority.
The Port Commission backed a low carbon fuel standard at the state legislature this session. What statewide policy priorities will you focus on?
I was proud to work with the legislature and advocates to help pass the Low Carbon Fuel Standard in my official role as Executive Director of Washington State’s Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs. As a Port Commissioner, I will continue to track issues in Olympia and lend my voice towards legislation that will help us effectively and equitably meet our environmental and sustainability goals.
I will also be constantly vigilant of right to work laws and other attacks on labor that would undermine the power of unions and the wellbeing of workers. I am proud to live in a State with some of the strongest labor laws in the country. Covid-19 really demonstrated the important role unions play in protecting workers during times of crisis. In a time when workers rights are under fire and undermined by the Supreme Court, we need all hands on deck to protect labor.
I will also advocate for resources to address the growing issue of labor trafficking and economic exploitation, which is astoundingly common place throughout King County due to our positionality as a “hotspot” on an international trafficking circuit.
The development of a portion of Terminal 46 as a new cruise ship terminal has been put on hold by the current Commission. Do you support this project and are there any conditions that would cause you to change your answer?
No. I believe Terminal 46, which is positioned in an industrial area, should be retained for break bulk and cargo. Instead of yet another cruise line, we can use funds to electrify that terminal so big container ships can plug in. Other Ports have already gone totally electric, but the POS isn’t keeping step with the times. Electrification is a necessary and long overdue step towards contending in the global marketplace. The cruise industry is at a standstill right now, and won’t reboot until 2022 at the earliest. I don’t believe expanding cruise is the future of our region’s economy. I’m not going to change my mind on that.
What is your position on the issue of a second regional airport in the Puget Sound region?
The issue of a second regional airport in the Puget Sound region is currently being discussed at the legislative level and recommendations are expected next year by the committee. I believe the Port of Seattle needs to be a voice advocating for a second regional airport which is built with sustainable infrastructure that won’t produce the same carbon emissions as we have at SeaTac and will help the flow of goods through the region. I also believe that, for all construction projects, the Port should consider bids from unionized labor and WMBEs. I believe the construction and maintenance of this new airport can create many new jobs for working families.
People living in airport and industrial communities have some of the most negative health outcomes in the region. What role do you see the Port of Seattle playing in rectifying this?
We have a critical role to play in improving the livability of airport Cities and neighborhoods. I grew up a rock’s throw from the Port in the South Seattle neighborhood of Beacon Hill. I’ve seen first hand how the Port impacts us.
Airplanes are the biggest culprit of air contamination leading to high infant mortality, incidence of asthma, and other significant health disparities. We need high speed rail now.
Our water is sick, too. I grew up buying salmon from the natives on the docks of the Duwamish. Now, it’s one of the most endangered rivers in the United States. Communities of color who are major consumers of seafood don’t understand the health risks. The Port MUST empower ELL and POC communities with translated information.
The Tribes are the original stewards of the lands and waters of this region, and are leading on restoration efforts. However, the Port does little more than “check the box” when engaging with them on clean-up projects. I will establish a Memorandum of Understanding with the tribes to codify our communications with them.
I believe we can also plant trees and native flora in Port buffer zones, utilizing them as green areas.
What do you see as the Port of Seattle’s role in reducing sprawl in the region?
The Port owns a ton of vacant land near where jobs are — instead of selling this land off to private developers, the Port should develop dense, affordable housing for workers to live close to where jobs are at.
Balancing dense housing and efficient cargo delivery requires investments in reducing congestion at and around the Port. This means investing in bike paths, FAST corridors specifically for shipping trucks, and high speed electric rail that can move both people and cargo.
What do you think the City of Seattle’s industrial lands taskforce should focus on?
The City of Seattle’s industrial lands task force must focus on strategic land banking. It is incredibly important that the Port efficiently facilitates the loading/unloading of cargo, so that workers, travelers and residents aren’t impacted by absurd backlogs. Strategic land banking also protects residents from the impacts of industrial work. Tree canopy and greenspace are also beautiful and improve the overall landscape, and neutralize industrial outputs of pollution. Finally, strategic land banking will allow zoning enough space for high speed rail, bike lanes, affordable housing for workers. These strategic land banking objectives pursued by the City of Seattle’s industrial lands task force will lead to the economic recovery and stabilization of the region.
What role do you see for the Port of Seattle when discussing the future of Interbay’s armory?
Currently, the Interbay armory belongs to the National Guard and it is through the state legislature that the national guard can move to a new location. I believe it is important for the Port of Seattle to carefully consider the recommendations put forth by task force members who have been working intentionally on this issue.