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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 Orange for Port of Vancouver District 1

The Columbian
Published: October 18, 2023, 6:03am

Don Orange originally was elected as Port of Vancouver commissioner with a platform of opposing a proposed oil terminal. Six years later, the terminal plan is long dead and the port has enjoyed record revenue. Orange is not solely responsible for those victories, but they demonstrate why The Columbian’s Editorial Board is recommending him for reelection in the Nov. 7 general election.

As always, this is merely a recommendation designed to foster discussion. The Columbian urges voters to study the issues and the candidates before casting an informed vote.

In Orange, they will find somebody who has served effectively for one term while representing District 1 on the port commission. They also will find somebody who has helped the port demonstrate that environmental concerns are not necessarily an albatross for economic interests.

“Today, the port is stronger than ever with record revenues and exciting projects on the horizon,” he writes on his campaign website. “Instead of oil trains, the waterfront has put Vancouver on the map as a national travel destination.”

During an interview with the editorial board, Orange spoke of how the port has “inspired economic development that is environmentally friendly.” Regarding the future, he said, “I think what we need to do to a certain extent is ‘green’ the jobs we have.”

In one example, he noted that operations at the port are “slowly” converting machinery to being powered by electricity rather than fossil fuels. He added, “We have a climate action plan, and it’s a tough one.”

Despite those environmental actions, Orange said, employment at the port and companies that operate there has increased from 4,000 to 7,000 over the past six years. He predicted employment close to 10,000 by the end of the decade.

Orange, a retired small-business owner, brings a thoughtful, forward-looking approach to guiding port operations. The editorial board is confident that his challenger, Russell Brent, would do the same.

Brent has been a longtime restaurateur in the area and has an impressive list of community service and leadership. He stresses his history of job creation and focuses on the port’s role as an economic engine for the area.

He told the editorial board that port leadership can “improve transparency” and can do a better job of marketing the port’s importance to the region.

“I will focus on the port’s opportunities: the waterfront, economic development for our region, and developing a skilled workforce,” he writes on his campaign website. “I’ll make sure our port meets its important obligations to protect the environment, be transparent and open for public review, and exhibit fiscal responsibility.”

Regarding the port’s climate action plan, he told the editorial board, “I think it’s great. For a port of that size, it’s up with the best.”

The board believes that Brent would be a strong port commissioner, but it is difficult to see why voters should replace somebody who already is an effective commissioner.

The Port of Vancouver USA in recent years has established a strong environmental ethos and has moved forward on projects such as the Terminal 1 site next to the Interstate 5 Bridge. It also has maintained a significant impact on the economy, generating $58 million in revenue in 2022.

Don Orange has been a part of that. The Columbian Editorial Board recommends that voters allow him to continue his work as port commissioner from District 1.