Seattle Port Vote of Conscience: JACK BLOCK, JR. YES! (Tarleton, please no!)
Thanks to Jeffuppy for previous Washblog story ( Port of Seattle Candidate has ties to Ports contractor) and additional links to sources that I use in this story.
Jack Block, Jr., is a highly-qualified, well-endorsed, and well-spoken candidate for Seattle Port Commission. The Municipal League gave him their highest rating for the position: OUTSTANDING. Gael Tarleton, another candidate for the same position, told me in a phone conversation last week that he's not an appropriate or qualified choice for the position. With all due respect, she's mistaken.
Like Jack Block, Jr., Ms. Tarleton is also well-spoken, endorsed, and qualified, with an OUTSTANDING rating from the Municipal League. Unlike Block, who is a Burien City Councilmember and was the Deputy Mayor for that city in 2006, Tarleton hasn't served in elected office. So we can't see behind the curtain of public decisions she's made to reassure ourselves if we have doubts about her progressive bona fides. And there are some pretty profound conflict-of-interest questions to be asked here, as I discuss below. There's no way to answer these questions but to take the word of Tarleton and her friends (she offered to give me contact information for colleagues and friends who can vouch for her) that there really are no real questions to be asked here. But Ms. Tarleton is drastically better-funded than Mr. Block. So it's quite likely that she'll win this race. She has the time and money to advertise her considerable qualifications -- and to downplay Mr. Block's considerable qualifications. I believe that we've got race here that's a poster child for campaign finance reform.
Block's raised a total of $23,445, including 117 contributions from Washington State. Tarleton's received more that 4 times that amount, including more contributions from out of Washington state -- 122 of them -- than Block has received from in-state. Nearly $19,000 of Tarleton's contributions, about 80% of Block's total, are from people associated with one company, Science Applications International Corporation. (1) Ms. Tarleton told me that she left SAIC because she did not approve of the direction it was going in. She is running as a reform candidate. We have seen supposed reform candidates for the Port before who turned out to be the greatest supporters of special interests. Ms. Tarleton had no need to accept these donations from a company that has a direction she did not approve of, that she has personal investment in, that has substantial financial interest in the port, and that is, by many accounts, a major war-profiteeer. I believe this disqualifies her as a reform candidate.
SAIC is an $8 billion company accused -- with good reason -- of war profiteering, which has $7 million worth of contracts with the Seattle Port (2) and interest in gaining much more. Ms. Tarleton, who was an SAIC Vice President and has "somewhat less than $50,000 of personal investments in the company, (3) told me in a phone conversation that she left the company well before 9/11 because she did not approve of the direction in which it was going. Yet, she has made the decision to accept a very large amount of money from people connected with SAIC. In our phone conversation she told me it was really more like $5,000 she had received from SAIC-related contributors -- she wasn't counting any of the people who had retired, including the company's founder and his wife.
Vanity Fair's March 2007 article, Washington's $8 billion Shadow, tells us that SAIC is larger than the departments of Labor, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development combined, and that it helped pressure US Congress to enter the Iraq war - and that has profited tremendously from that war with massive documented waste.
A 2006 New York Times article, Conflict of Interest entangles US Port security, tells us that SAIC has spent multiple millions on lobbyists and that one of its main business products is radiation detection equipment for Ports that could be a $2.5 billion to $5 billion market in the US. The article goes on to point out that, while SAIC is not the only manufacturer of such machines, "it was the first to integrate the technologies and it had the only device, one company official said, that could efficiently scan a container as it passed through a major port on a truck at a speed fast enough to avoid bottlenecks." Evidently, we've already reached $2 billion in this market. I don't know what percentage of that is SAIC, but I can guess that it's a goodly portion. According to the U.S. Government Accounting office, the US has spent $2 on these devices for our ports, which are only 17% to 45% effective. (4)
Jack Block Jr.'s qualifications
A long-time area resident Jack Block Jr. was elected to his first term on the Burien City Council in November 2003. He was elected by his fellow Councilmembers to a one-year as Deputy Mayor in 2006. Jack is a third generation longshoreman and a member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 19 where he serves on its executive board. He is also a former teamster (Consolidated Freightways) shop steward. In 1998, Jack was a founding member of, and past chair of, the Burien Parks and Recreation Board. Jack's diverse interests include aviation, motorcycling, United States history and public service. Block serves on the National League of Cites Hispanic Elected Officials Committee and the Association of Washington Cities Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Block's votes -- from 2005 through the present (Block took office in 04) can be found in the Minutes that are available here: Council Agendas and Minutes. I asked him to summarize for me some of what he considers his major contributions and he sent me the following list. I spent about an hour perusing the public documents available on the list above and, in the limited time I had, this statement seemed to check out.
Seattle Port Vote of Conscience: JACK BLOCK, JR. YES! (Tarleton, please no!) | 92 comments (92 topical)