Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Waterfront Redevelopment: Changes in the Wind?

Apart from the upcoming elections in which 2 of the 3 incumbent Port Commissioners are being challenged, Jim Darling, the Port's Executive Director for the last 15 years has now resigned, effective July 10.

Port commissioners are expected to name an interim replacement at a June 2 meeting, but the search for a permanent replacement is expected to take months.
Does this mean the new Director will be chosen after the elections?
I hope so!

Mr Darling has served well in his capacity, but the challenge presented by acquiring the G-P and other contaminated industrial properties, committing to their proper clean-up, and then redeveloping the 220-acres waterfront with the City's partnership, has proved to be large, protracted and contentious.
This, plus the prospect of a new job while remaining in the area would be tempting to anyone in a similar situation.
I wish Mr Darling well in his new endeavor, plus, I salute him for moving on and not becoming so entrenched that his effectiveness is adversely impacted.

But, my main concern is that the Waterfront Redevelopment continues to move forward!
There is too much at stake to let this ambitious, but important undertaking fail.
While there have been significant differences between Port and City about scope and procedures, these are minor when compared to the vision of our community.
And, the enormous expenses -actually investments- envisioned will be repaid many times over when that long-term effort is completed.
We should not worry about a good return of this investment; and the returns will not only be economic ones, but also ecological and social in nature -as they must be.

Mr Darling's departure may portend other timely changes as well, including the election of up to 2 new Commissioners - that would constitute a new majority!

I believe Scott Walker has done a good job, but has been in office too long at 18 years and counting- even longer than Darling.

John Blethen would make a very able replacement who who has demonstrated a long-term and active commitment to the Waterfront Futures Group, the current Waterfront Advisory Group and related community efforts for over 30 years.
Blethen gets it; his successful business experience combined with his remarkable volunteering services give him the kind of perspective I'd like to see in implementing a waterfront redevelopment that is truly sustainable and would be just right for Bellingham.

Also, Doug Smith's service has been commendable, but he's been there as long as Darling has as well.

Mike McCauley is my choice to succeed Smith, and has both the smarts and energy to come up to speed quickly.
In his time in Bellingham, Mike has been both active and effective in neighborhood and related issues, which is refreshing example for younger folks.
Mike does his homework, has technical training, thinks logically and carefully and is willing to spend the time necessary to the job.

Aside from the daunting fiscal crisis now facing our nation and community, which is a concern to everyone, the idea of creating a truly sustainable, 'triple bottom line' new waterfront neighborhood must be committed to.
That is the single concept that is most essential to the unqualified success of our new Waterfront District!
It means a lot of things that together save money, preserve the environment, create jobs with new businesses, provide enjoyable public space and access to the Bay, and add revenues to the City, Port and County that will both pay back their investment costs and sustain each jurisdiction's respective levels of service.

So, rather than fret and worry about these changes -both real and possible- as problems, I see them as distinct opportunities!
That is because sufficient good work has already gone into this concept, that it is no longer dependent upon only its initiators
for its execution.
And, with a 25-year project expectation, it never could have been!
Both Jim Darling and former Mayor, Mark Asmundson, knew that when the opportunity for this partnership presented itself.
And, since that time, several members of the City Council & Staff have also moved on -myself included.
So, having new elected officials should not be a problem in the greater scheme of things, particularly in a community enhancing project of long duration, and even longer benefits.

The point is, a well-conceived project definition is a difficult thing to achieve by itself, even without ever building anything.
That work is well underway, although there do remain some significant points to clarify and make more certain -that must be done to pin down the costs, which will have to fit both the Port's and City's budgets and timely pay-off their debts.

I can think of no better candidates for Port Commissioner, who can help do this, than John Blethen and Mike McCauley.
They have the skills, the interest, the time and the commitment, and will bring 'fresh eyes' to the task.

Hopefully, they will also have a say in who gets hired as the Port's new permanent Executive Director, after they take office.

For those interested, here's a list, including my previous 13 posts on this subject, by date published:

Waterfront Redevelopment: Changes in the Wind? 5/27/09

Waterfront Redevelopment: Are Circadian Rhythms To... 4/29/09

Waterfront Redevelopment: A Grecian Flat Earth Day... 4/22/09

Waterfront Redevelopment: Can We Get On With It No... 11/19/08

Time for Big Changes at the Port of Bellingham! 11/16/08

Waterfront Redevelopment: Impasse or Opportunity? 11/10/08

Waterfront Redevelopment: A Rant About Election Ga... 8/19/08

On City Government, Football & Other Contact Sport... 1/12/08

Breaking Good News About NOAA 11/28/07

Waterfront Redevelopment: Mother Goose & the Docto... 9/9/07

Waterfront Redevelopment: Navigating Charbydis & S... 9/8/07

Waterfront Redevelopment: BEYOND LEED to a Triple ... 9/6/07

Waterfront Redevelopment: Incorporating Waterfront... 8/20/07

Waterfront Redevelopment: Mayoral Candidate Forum ... 8/1/07