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News / Opinion / Editorials
The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

In Our View: Reelect Eric LaBrant as port commissioner

The Columbian
Published: October 12, 2021, 6:03am

Because of his experience, his broad vision for the Port of Vancouver and the port’s unprecedented success, Eric LaBrant has earned another term as port commissioner. The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends that LaBrant be reelected to Position 2 on the port’s commission.

As always, this is merely a recommendation. The Columbian trusts that voters will research the candidates and the issues before making an informed decision for this nonpartisan race.

In LaBrant, voters will find a candidate who was involved in neighborhood politics and then became an outspoken critic of a proposed oil terminal at the port. That motivated him to run for port commissioner in 2015; since then, he has brought a thoughtful, forward-looking approach to oversight of the port.

Last year, the Port of Vancouver reported record revenues of $50 million — a 15 percent increase from the previous year. This was despite — or perhaps because of — the global economic chaos created by the coronavirus pandemic. Regardless of the reason, the financial success of the port demonstrates that one of the region’s primary economic engines is running smoothly.

Notably, the port’s success points out the importance and the efficacy of moving toward a green-energy economy. Revenue was boosted last year by the port’s status as a hub for importing wind turbine components, proving the economic benefits of rejecting the proposed oil terminal years ago and instead preparing the port for the future economy.

That reflects LaBrant’s vision of addressing climate change while enhancing the port’s bottom line.

“I don’t necessarily see climate and business as something that needs to be balanced,” he said during a remote interview with the Editorial Board. Climate and economic concerns can enhance each other rather than being viewed as opposing ideals.

Challenger Greg Seifert says he had not made up his mind on the oil terminal before the project was halted in 2018. He supported the economic benefits but says safety concerns were not fully addressed.

Seifert has strong experience in the business community. He is former president of Biggs Insurance Services and has held leadership positions with the Columbia River Economic Development Council, Greater Clark County Rotary and other organizations. He currently is a precinct committee officer for the Republican Party.

He argues that the port’s success should be attributed to port managers who handle day-to-day operations rather than the commissioners — “they tend to be passive.”

Seifert stresses the need for port leadership to be involved in protecting and rejuvenating Vancouver Lake. “I will be in the middle of that,” he told the Editorial Board. “What I see is that not one individual has taken this on.”

The Port of Vancouver owns a flushing channel between the lake and the Columbia River, and multiple entities have an ownership stake in the lake — including the city of Vancouver, Clark County and the port. LaBrant says, “The port’s role has been in spearheading those leadership efforts.”

The candidates are equally enthusiastic about a proposed development at the port’s Terminal 1, which sits between the Interstate 5 Bridge and The Waterfront Vancouver development.

Overall, LaBrant demonstrates a broader vision for the future of the port and its role in a changing economy. The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends Eric LaBrant for Port of Vancouver commissioner, Position 2.