Gael Tarleton serves on the Port of Seattle Commission, which has been braying the last few months with vague criticisms and unsubstantiated claims that a Sodo basketball arena may cripple our maritime industry.
Tarleton is also running for a new office—as the big-money frontrunner in the race—to represent the 36th District in the legislature. So it was probably inevitable that her election opponent, Noel Frame, took a jab at Tarleton's part in the anti-arena campaign:
My general election opponent has been an obstructionist and naysayer on the arena proposal. She has acted as a mouthpiece for the Port and powerful maritime interests (many of whom are funding her campaign) who seek to undermine the proposal to protect their own narrow interests. In doing so, she has repeatedly offered unsubstantiated and now debunked claims: for instance, that the arena will jeopardize 100,000 future jobs the Port will create. Only after media scrutiny did she concede to the Seattle Times that the 100,000 jobs figure was “aspirational” rather than built on actual growth projections and that most of those jobs, if they ever materialize at all, will happen due to growth at SeaTac Airport, rather than along the waterfront.
It's a solid hit on Tarleton.
Frame is using a popular, comprehensible issue to expose Tareleton's Achilles’ heel. She's is already considered cozy with big money donors, and her arena crusading may confirm the suspicions of her critics: Tarleton works foremost for her financial backers, with her mind already made up, facts be damned. That's the hit, anyway. But given that the port hasn't backed up its claims after several months (especially after its triple-whammy of studies last week), Tarleton can't pull a rabbit out of her hat now.
It's not necessarily black and white (Tarlton is nice, nuanced human)—and by national political standards she's practically Dennis Kucinich—but it could nag the minds of voters who don't want Hanjin, Cosco, and SSA Marine representing them in Olympia.
UPDATE: Tarleton has just emailed a campaign statement without explanation that responds to Frame. Sort of. I've posted it below.
Taxpayers and voters of the 36th District expect elected officials to know how to scrutinize deals that involve taxpayer dollars. The SODO deal is a proposal from hedge fund managers to spend public money to support private developer interests. Political pandering to private developers does not create or protect union jobs, and risks undermining our collective responsibility to honor the Growth Management Act and SEPA. That is why voices from labor, environment, and maritime businesses have called on elected officials to proceed with caution. With hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars at stake, we cannot risk suffering from buyers’ remorse. It is not my job to increase the profit margins of private developers on the backs of working people, union jobs and taxpayers. As an elected official, it is my job to make sure that public dollars are spent in public to serve the broadest public interests. There are 33,000 people with family-wage jobs going to work every day in SODO. There are 15,000 fishing and maritime jobs in the 36th District’s Ballard-Interbay manufacturing industrial district. The public owns Key Arena and Seattle Center in our district but there is no plan for their future. During the past four and a half years, I’ve saved taxpayers millions of dollars by insisting on tough government audits while helping to create 7,000 jobs.