Port of Seattle Commission Position 5 incumbent Fred Felleman and challenger Garth Jacobson both have backgrounds they say would help them be effective commissioners, with Felleman touting his first term as a good indicator of the value he brings to the commission.

Jacobson holds a tax law degree from the University of Washington, which he said is important because the port commission has taxing authority. He also has practiced as an attorney focused on state lands.

“I was the attorney that handled matters for the (Montana) Secretary of State when he served on the land board,” Jacobson said. “The issues of state lands are somewhat similar to those issues that the port authority deals with.”

Jacobson also holds a master’s in public administration from the University of Montana.

While Jacobson’s educational background is in law and administration, Felleman is a scientist.

“I have kind of an unusual background for a commissioner,” Felleman said. “I have a master’s in science and fisheries biology from the University of Washington. So they don’t have a lot of biologists on the commission ever.”

Moving to Washington from the East Coast in 1980, Felleman said he was initially attracted to the port position after spending years studying orcas in the Puget Sound.

“When you study a protected species, you get enmeshed, not just in the science, but you have to get a permit,” he said. “You have to go through the bureaucracy. You learn all the rigmarole; there’s always some sort of management conflict.”

Having worked as a biologist with the port’s governing structure, Felleman said he was ready to affect change; not just for the orcas, but for all people interacting with the port.

“I didn’t come here to stop the port,” Felleman said. “I came here to make it better. In the four years I’ve been here, I feel that there’s several things that I feel accomplished enough to want to be crazy enough to do it for another four years.”

He said he has moved the commission’s meeting time to noon, and ensured that public comment was at the beginning of each meeting in order to accommodate folks on their lunch breaks. He also helped replace the port’s executive director, and he established the energy and sustainability committee, which has begun efforts to make the port more sustainable.

“What we need to do is take responsibility for our own greenhouse gas footprint,” Felleman said. “We need to walk the talk… We’re watching the Olympics not have snow in them, right? We’re watching our whales disappear. We’re watching the oceans acidify, so I mean, I figured if I make a little bit of progress on a big organization, I can have a big impact.”

The port is about to enter a renewable natural gas contract at the airport, which is expected to reduce its greenhouse gas footprint by about 80 percent, he said.

He applauded the port’s commitment to hosting the Interbay tiny house village.

Jacobson said he was on the ethics commission for the state of Montana, ensuring that laws were created in an ethical manner. He said the port has been less than ethical at times, and he wants to ensure the port stays away from matters that involve conflicts of interest.

“I think that, you know, whenever you have so much money involved in operations, there’s always going to be a temptation to use that money for a personal gain,” Jacobson said. “And so I think that being aware of those issues is extremely important.”

Jacobson said his primary area of focus as commissioner would be issues at the airport.

“The reason I got into this was because of what I see as a very deteriorating airport situation,” he said. “I travel a lot, and I have seen the airport go from a place that was a really decent place to go to, to one that is just at times very miserable.”

He said taxes should have been spent more wisely at the airport, and that he would do a better job of prioritizing spending.

“I mean, they should have spent tax money on the infrastructure to increase the amount of TSA lines that would be available,” Jacobson said. “Instead, what they did was built a new building, from which you take a bus to your plane. And if you’ve ever had to do that, you feel like you’re in a third-world country, which is a real pain in the rear.”

He said the port should focus on vehicular traffic coming to and from the airport, and rerouting taxis to a location separate from loading and unloading zones could help the issue.

Noise pollution has decreased the surrounding homeowner’s property values and is a general nuisance, he said.

“It’s not just me,” he said. “It’s everybody that is either going to and through the airport to those living near the airport. And I think that the port authority has done a very poor job of managing that growth.”

The increasing number of flights is even making for too much overhead noise in neighborhoods like Queen Anne, he said.

Felleman said noise pollution at the airport also would be a large focus for him.

“I’m trying right now to get Joint Base Lewis-McChord to receive the heavy cargo nighttime flights,” he said. “JBLM isn’t that far away. We can share this stuff. Can we reduce the antagonism on the community at least in the evening?”

Felleman said his primary area of focus would be the waterfront.

If elected to a second term, he would double down on his efforts to electrify the waterfront, he said, from ferries to containerships to the cruise lines, by installing plug-ins at all docks.

He would also seek to protect the industrial lands surrounding the waterfront.

“If we don’t protect those industrial lands that everybody’s salivating for, you don’t have a port to do the diverse economic development that makes us a real city instead of just a dot-com,” Felleman said.

Jacobson is also concerned with the waterfront, but primarily with the traffic from cruise ships unloading all at once onto Alaska Way and in SODO, warning against the port building Terminal 46 to accommodate more cruise ships.

“That’s going to impact the traffic flow for the people going to the sporting events and people going to the ferries,” he said. “I mean, putting a major cruise terminal there will involve 5,000-plus people every time it docks… dumping a lot of cars out into that area.”

He also raised concerns over cruise ships’ carbon footprint, saying such ships pollute three to four times more than airplanes per passenger mile.

“You know, if these cruise ships are polluting that much, they probably should be reduced, not increased,” Jacobson said.

Felleman agreed with Jacobson that cruise ships are a large polluter, but insisted that fewer, but larger ships in the cruise and cargo industry docking at Seattle would reduce the carbon footprint and cut down on noise that could affect the orcas in the process.

The port commissioner also supports the Blue Carbon Project at Smith Cove, which is planting kelp and eelgrass with the hopes of restoring Olympia oysters. The eelgrass and the kelp absorb the carbon in the water and sequester it into the mud.