In Our View: Again, Orange for Port Seat

Revelations about subterfuge, secrecy on opponent’s part make choice clear

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For the past four years, a proposal to build an oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver has been marked by subterfuge. Members of the port commission, representatives of oil interests, and now a candidate for a seat on the commission routinely have demonstrated disdain for the sensibilities of Clark County residents while attempting to obfuscate the facts surrounding the proposal.

Following new revelations about the campaign for a seat on the commission, The Columbian’s Editorial Board feels compelled to reiterate its support for Don Orange in the Nov. 7 election. As we noted in an Oct. 15 editorial recommending a vote for Orange (http://tinyurl.com/ybhy895s), decisions made now will define the city for generations to come.

Orange has been transparent in his opposition to the terminal proposal, which is undergoing review by a state agency. The three-member port commission periodically has an opportunity to end the lease that port officials approved with Tesoro Corp. and Savage Cos., and it is expected that Orange would team with Commissioner Eric LaBrant to scuttle the project.

That clarity is more than we have seen from Kris Greene, Orange’s opponent for the commission seat from District 1. Greene currently insists that he has not made up his mind regarding the proposal and is waiting for final reports about its potential impact. Yet he has accepted $370,000 in campaign donations from the companies that are planning to build the facility — a fact that belies his claim of neutrality. (At the same time, it must be noted that Orange has accepted an in-kind donation of $290,000 worth of goods and services from the political action committee of Washington Conservation Voters).

In addition, Greene previously said that he would not be involved in a challenge to Orange’s eligibility for the position — a challenge that proved unsuccessful. As reported by The Columbian, recently leaked emails reveal that Greene and his campaign were directly involved with the effort to remove Orange from the ballot.

This continues a pattern that has tainted the proposal. In providing approval for North America’s largest rail-to-marine oil terminal, port commissioners employed secrecy that violated their duty as public servants; a court has determined that the Open Public Meetings Act was violated. Tesoro and Savage, in a mailer to voters, overstated expected tax revenue from the project by 25,000 percent. And the companies have presented wildly varying projections for how many jobs would be created.

All of this has created mistrust among the public. Greene’s actions have only increased that mistrust and have raised questions about whether he is beholden to citizens or to the companies involved. Even if voters support the oil terminal, they should question where Greene’s allegiance would lie the next time a multinational conglomerate desires to put its footprint on Vancouver.

The election for port commissioner will not be the final word on the terminal, but it is largely seen as a referendum on that proposal. While The Columbian editorially opposes the terminal, we have an equal amount of enmity for a process that frequently has insulted the intelligence of Clark County residents. The lack of transparency and the subterfuge involved have demonstrated that two current port commissioners and the companies behind the project have little regard for the public.

That public deserves better, which leads us to reiterate our support for Don Orange in the race for Port of Vancouver commissioner.