Letter to the editor: Can we trust the current port commissioners?

Trust in elected officials is a big deal nowadays. I have to wonder if the citizens of Edmonds can trust that our current port commissioners will do the right things for the environment and tell the truth about it.

We all know that the current port commissioners tried to reduce the buffer around the Edmonds Marsh down to 25 feet, but they have yet to admit that would have been very bad for our environment and counter to the best available science.  Can we trust that they won’t try again to reduce the buffer and damage the marsh?

Why haven’t the current port commissioners admitted that both Harbor Square and the Dry Storage area are listed as “Hazardous Sites” by the State of Washington? If they were environmentally conscientious, wouldn’t they be telling the public about their plans to address these environmental issues? Can the public trust they will indeed deal with the problem?

Through a public records request from the port, the “Save Our Marsh” group was able to obtain documents pertaining to the cleanup of contaminants at Harbor Square. Those documents paint a totally different picture of the purpose, intent and funding of the cleanup operation than what the port commissioners are saying.

Why aren’t the current port commissioners being truthful about the cleanup? Why are they trying to get the public to believe the port invested almost $2 million dollars to benefit the marsh, when that is not the complete truth? Why aren’t the commissioners being truthful about the toxic contaminants that were knowingly left behind in the marsh soil?

These are only a few of the examples that raise concern about trusting these public officials. The time has come for citizens to vote for a change in the port. I voted for Angela Harris, Susan Paine and Lora Petso because I know they will listen to their constituents, be truthful, and uphold public trust.
Joe Scordino

20 Replies to “Letter to the editor: Can we trust the current port commissioners?”

  1. Powerful questions! Thanks for raising them Joe. Denying clear evidence is a frightening trend in politics. Since I can’t trust what the current port commissioners say, I am voting for a new slate: Harris, Paine and Petso.


  2. We have heard on numerous occasions, including the Port brochure, that they spent $1.7 million on the cleanup of Harbor Square (which is true) but not about the $4.9 million settlement the Port received from Unocal and various insurance agencies to pay for the cleanup and damages to Harbor Square businesses. There can be no future claims against these companies, so we hope that the extra money is enough to pay for all future cleanup of Port properties. Buying property that is known to be contaminated from prior uses is fraught with expensive repercussions that can last for decades. The Port has stated that they are interested in buying properties for economic development–we need to assure that future Port commissioners make good decisions about their land purchases.


  3. It should also be recognized that the Port first purchased the land, but not the buildings. The buildings were owned by Harbor Square Properties, providing lease income to the Port. The clean-up was initiated only after a law suit against the Port was filed by Harbor Square Properties, because the contaminated soil prevented them from obtaining financing associated with redevelopment of the properties. The clean-up was not associated directly with concerns for the Edmonds Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary.

    Harbor Square Properties retained Floyd Snyder Environmental Consultants to provide independent oversight of the clean-up being managed by Landau Associates. In a letter dated 9/29/2004 to Landau, Floyd Snyder outlined concerns shared by Harbor Square Properties and Floyd Snyder. Among these was incomplete excavation near the Edmonds Marsh. The letter stated that “all petroleum-impacted soil within the property boundary, which appears to include portions of the Edmonds marsh, will not be removed. However, it was disclosed at our meeting on September 22 that permission to excavate in this marsh area, up to the property boundary, has already been received by the City of Edmonds. As a result, there is no reason why excavation cannot be extended to the property boundary near the Edmonds Marsh, although the existing walkway will need to be removed and replaced.”

    The lawsuit was settled with the Port buying the buildings, essentially making Harbor Square Properties and the independent oversight of the clean-up by Floyd Snyder go away.


  4. I wish My Edmonds News would post that letter from Steve Johnston to City Council dated 3/17 (and paraphrased during public comment by Maggie Fimia) regarding his thoughts regarding the Marsh and illustrating his temperament towards the public. He used his Port Commissioner title as a bully pulpit towards a citizen who has voulenteered and dedicated hundreds of hours to educating individuals and students regarding our Marsh estuary. When the citizen asked for a public apology-he scoffed it off as just another day in his role as a Port Commissioner.


  5. Diane,
    Thanks for your comments about the Port Commission and to Joe Scordino for his letter. We’re voting for Angela Harris, Susan Paine and Lora Petso, all of whom offer transparency, integrity and respect for the public to the job of Port Commissioner.


    1. Cliff:
      Seems like in local elections you always oppose the incumbents, unless it’s someone in your neighborhood – like Lora Petso.


  6. Steve Johnston can’t even be trusted to be respectful of residents of Edmonds and of the Port who have opinions that differ from his own. In Johnston’s March 20, 2017 letter, posted by Teresa Wippel, above, Johnston attacks Joe Scordino, a private citizen who is selflessly passionate about preservation of the Edmonds Marsh. Johnston also demonstrates that, despite his campaign claim that the Harbor Square Master plan is a “placeholder”, as recently as March 20, 2017 he avidly advocated for a reduction of buffers to the Edmonds Marsh so that implementation of the Port Commissioner adopted Harbor Square Master Plan could proceed.

    Johnston’s attack of Scordino was an attack on all of us who agree with Mr. Scordino and value the many hours he invested in protecting the Edmonds Marsh.


  7. Ron: Well, Susan Paine, Angela Harris, and Lora Petso clearly offer different perspectives and priorities regarding the Edmonds Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary in relation to the type and scale of Harbor Square redevelopment than the incumbent candidates. The incumbent candidates’ election rhetoric regarding the status of the 5-story, residential-centric development which remains the Port Commissioners’ adopted Master Plan clearly conflicts with their own meeting minutes and statements made in previous election voter pamphlets. In other words, the current incumbent Port Commissioners’ don’t “walk the election talk.”

    It comes as no surprise that the majority of those writing letters to the editor and/or comments including you, Maggie Fimia, Mike Schindler, Phill Lovell, Darrol Haug, and Chris Keuss (former Port of Edmonds Executive Director) are all on record supporting the 5-story, residential-centric Harbor Square redevelopment plan.

    It’s time for new perspectives, honest discussion, and Commissioners who are willing to collaborate with all stakeholders on creative solutions for the betterment of Edmonds’ waterfront properties and shoreline ecosystems.


  8. Correction: Johnston’s attack of Scordino was an attack on all of us who agree with Mr. Scordino and value the many hours he INVESTS in protecting the Edmonds Marsh.


  9. Integrity matters, so I applaud all of those who have commented about the lack of trustworthiness demonstrated by the incumbent Port commissioners. Thanks to all of you.

    If you care about integrity, you might also consider that those who have the most money to spend on elections — the incumbents — are campaigning as never before in Edmonds and Woodway. Their money is paying for expensive newspaper ads that appear on the most advantageous page, the back page, as Mr. Gouge’s ad did, for tons of campaign signs, and for pro-Port marketing products like the two shiny, color brochures that were mailed to Edmonds and Woodway citizens by the Port. “Must be nice” to be able to spend that kind of money to hold on to power at the Port.

    What is definitely NOT nice is the vast number of challengers’ signs (those of Petso, Paine, and Harris) that have been removed, pushed over, or hidden by the signs of the incumbents. One of Angela Harris’ signs that I installed near PCC has been partially hidden by one of Mr. Faires’ signs. These campaign sign wars are disgusting and those who are stealing or moving the signs of others must not believe in democracy or the First Amendment. It may seem like a petty issue, but it speaks volumes about integrity and respect for the property of those with differing points of view.

    The rudeness that I’ve seen demonstrated at forums by a couple of the incumbents who have tried to upstage their challengers with their big voices and laughing and gesturing when one of the women was trying to speak is simply despicable. If you’re thinking, “Oh, that’s just politics as usual,” please help discourage that attitude by not rewarding those who practice those kinds of behaviors.

    Harris, Paine, and Petso have shown respectful courtesy at forums and other public gatherings. Let’s reward their appropriate behavior and their wise approach to governance, the environment, and sound business management by starting afresh with the three competent female challengers. They deserve our votes. Thank you!


    1. Sadly, last week someone stole my Lora Petso sign from right in front of my house. I still have my Susan Paine and Angela Harris signs up though and I was proud to cast my vote in support of Petso, Harris, and Paine.


  10. One more thought about the power plays that I’ve observed in this election is the refusal by Mr. Gouge to answer the questions posed by The Beacon editorial staff to all of the candidates for either the Port or Edmonds City Council. Mr. Gouge was allowed by The Beacon to submit, instead of his answers, his own personal statement. I was surprised that The Beacon gave in to that kind of power play and that Mr. Gouge could have his way with the Beacon publisher and put his carefully crafted statement before the readers, some of whom might not perceive this as a “my way or the highway” position that we see in power politics from city level to federal government. In a democracy it is OUR duty to speak Truth to Power. That’s what Harris, Paine, Petso, and some of the City Council candidates are doing in this heated election. Let’s support and reward their courage.


  11. Equally as bad as the content of the letter is that Mr. Johnston had someone else read it to the City Council for him. If someone writes a letter disparaging people that is going into the permanent public record, they should also have the courage and integrity to present it in person. If you couldn’t be at that meeting, civility would dictate that you read the letter aloud yourself at a different meeting. Using a proxy to disrespect an Edmonds citizen who selflessly gives up his weekends to work with Students Saving Salmon collecting water samples, planting native plants, and returning salmon to our local streams is not the conduct we expect from a Port of Edmonds commissioner.


    1. It was Maggie Fimia who read an excerpt of Steve Johnston’s letter into the record at City Council. As indicated in my comment above, Ms. Fimia was an outspoken supporter of the Port’s 5-story, residential-centric Harbor Square redevelopment plan with limited protective buffers for the Edmonds Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary.


  12. The other aspect of trust is how our elected officials react to a new political landscape.

    When the City Council created the protective buffers, the Port Commissioners were obligated to change their Master Plan, but they didn’t.

    It’s frustrating to know that the sitting panel of commissioners have access to how other similar Port Districts put together their projects, and some are creative, innovative and respect the environment. And they didn’t.

    This is the reason why it’s time for a change.


  13. Steve Johnston’s letter, now posted in My Edmonds News, is yet another example of trustworthiness of our current Port Commissioners. Instead of arguing the science about buffer widths in his letter to the City Council (which is perfectly acceptable), Steve took the dishonorable approach of attempting to discredit me with false statements. I asked him retract his lies and apologize, and he instead apparently obtained assurance the Port would cover his legal costs if he was sued for defamation.

    That disgusting behavior is not what Edmonds wants from public officials. I reiterate the need for a change in Port Commissioners. Edmonds citizens need to get out and vote for Angela Harris, Lora Petso and Susan Paine so we can have confidence that the Port is trustworthy.


  14. I have held off on commenting on this latest thread as I really do not know the current commissioners personally and have only lived in Edmonds for two years. However, as a retired professional biologist who has been involved in environmental issues for many years in Arizona, Florida and New Mexico and who chaired the Science Committee for Save Our Marsh, I have read documents prepared by the Commission with a certain amount of unease. It is vital that we have an honest discussion on environmental issues, including the Edmonds Marsh, and it seems to me that this is not happening. Certainly economic issues have to be addressed, but what good is a community that rejects the very reasons that we live here for short term gain? The very serious problems of Puget Sound need to be addressed if we are to have a chance of continuing to live in a environmentally stable part of the world. Edmonds Marsh is a small, but important, part of the Sound’s ecosystems and should be preserved and enhanced with a better buffer and by daylighting Willow Creek. I am concerned that narrow short-term goals are being used to obscure the need to keep the Marsh and the Sound itself from deteriorating further. I thus have concluded that we need new leadership on the Commission. My wife and I thus support the candidacies of Angela Harris, Lora Petso and Susan Paine.


  15. I want to save and improve the Edmonds marsh for all time, and so would my late husband — a noted conservationist who was one who helped establish the North Cascades National Park.

    Why are the incumbent Port commissioners so anxious to disregard this jewel of Edmonds? They are eager to spout their past assistance to the well-being of the marsh but, as has been proved, they did not finish what they began.

    Shortsighted? Yes. The present commissioners are willing to violate nature by encouraging development of properties adjacent to the marsh. What time cannot replace they hunger for a moment’s profit. They are seemingly heedless of what poisons and pollutants would enter the marsh with further property development. Do we not want to save what we can of nature for our children and grandchildren?

    I have already voted for three persons (Lora Petso, Susan Paine and Angela Harris) who are deeply concerned about the direction the Port is headed. They are intelligent, young and committed to doing the best for Edmonds and for the environment. Please consider their qualifications — and the breath of fresh air they will bring.


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