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Meet Bill Fishburn – Candidate for Port Commissioner, Port of Olympia

Our Series on Progressives at the Local Level

Photo by Aaron Cain/Rigged Media Group

When getting into politics, one can enter a multitude of avenues. One such avenue is that of a port commissioner, whose job it is to regulate the resources associated with port business on the behalf of the public at large. Progressive Army was able to catch up with Bill Fishburn, a candidate for Port Commissioner, Thurston County, District 2 in Washington State, who is challenging incumbent Bill McGregor.

About the Position

When I first heard rumblings of local progressives getting behind Bill Fishburn I admittedly knew very little about the position of Port Commissioner. A quick google search will lead you to Revised Code of Washington 53.04.010, a document which outlines the purpose and structure of port districts and their responsibilities. On a broader level, Kit Oldham, in his essay titled “Port of Seattle, Founding of” gives the background as to the creation of the position:

The legislature passed the Port District Act, which Governor Hay signed into law on March 14, 1911. Drafted by Cotterill, Thomson, and Seattle Corporation Counsel Scott Calhoun, the Port District Act authorized Washington voters to create public port districts that could acquire, construct, and operate waterways, docks, wharves, and other harbor improvements; rail and water transfer and terminal facilities; and ferry systems. A port district would be a government body, run by three elected commissioners, independent of any existing county, city, or other government, with the power to levy taxes and issue bonds.

Bill Fishburn described the historic importance of the Port District Act as a “progressive populist movement” that aimed to “take back control of public resources from private railroads.” This was needed because, as Fishburn explains:

Private railroads at the time had taken control of waterfronts and the access to those waterfronts. The public felt those waterfronts should be equally accessed by everyone and not controlled by special interests.

With his eye on the past, Fishburn lays out his platform within the spirit of the Port District Act, focusing extensively on making the portmore inclusive of the public” and “finding ways to better involve smaller county towns and cities in the Port’s business.”  Fishburn also has an explicit desire to improve/promote the lives of veterans using his position to provide career opportunities, hiring veterans, and making sure veterans have access to and knowledge of their earned benefits. More specifically within the scope of the Port Commissioner position, Fishburn has goals to see “a Port engaged in business and commerce of the future – things like clean, renewable energy; public internet; holistic plans that have set the Port on a path to 21st century viability.”

Getting Involved

If anything good came out of the Bernie Sanders’s primary and Trump winning the 2016 presidency, it lies in the new blood that entered the political arena as a result. Bill Fishburn went through, as many of us Sanders supporters did, the utter disgrace of the Democratic Primary process. But, as Fishburn tells the Progressive Army, Trump winning the presidency pushed him into political action:

I lost two weeks of sleep over the election, and I spent a lot of time over those two weeks complaining about how flawed the Electoral College is and how broken our system is. At the end of those two weeks, I felt like I had to be a part of the solution and if I wasn’t, then I was just contributing to the problem. At one of the meetings I attended, someone passed around a pamphlet of all the upcoming local races. That’s when I thought I could make a difference by serving in a public office.

It’s not that Fishburn hasn’t been involved in his community; Fishburn tells the Progressive Army that he has been involved in a lot of community activities, to include: Cub Scout den and pack leader, PTA president, starting a nonprofit for band parents, cofounding a community garden nonprofit, the Hispanic Roundtable of South Sound, and the board of the Girls Scouts of Western Washington. In describing why he is running for Port Commissioner, Fishburn explains, “public office seemed like a natural next step.”

Another aspect of Fishburn’s involvement in his community, his strong sense for what is right, and his willingness to put himself out there to make a positive change came in the wake of the Philando Castile shooting. Fishburn describes the shooting as a “personal tipping point” that hit him so hard emotionally that he encouraged dialogue and used his influence within his position as President of the Hispanic Roundtable to host a community potluck with local law enforcement to begin the tough conversations needed within his community.

The Election

As described in the introduction, Bill Fishburn is running for Port Commissioner, Thurston County, District 2 within Washington State. Since he is the only challenger to the incumbent, who hasn’t faced a challenger since 2007, a primary will not be necessary. The general election will be held on November 7th, 2017 and you must be registered to vote by October 30th.

You can register to vote in the state of Washington online or in-person at your local election office.

Bill Fishburn’s campaign can be reached in a number of ways:

Email: fishburn4port@gmail.com
Web: www.FishburnForPort.com
Facebook: www.Facebook.com/FishburnForPort
Twitter: @Fishburn4Port
Phone: 4F4-PORT-002 (434-767-8002)

Written by Andre Roberge

Andre Roberge

Father, Husband. Went to school for philosophy (university of WA) and now I work for a train company -- Interests include Labor Law, TILA, Unions, Paid Family Leave, Healthcare, Philosophy of Science, Fantasy Football and Open Government-- Fanboy of The Take Down with Nick Nowlin and The Way with Anoa. Follow Andre on Twitter @SubvertingPower.

Andre Roberge is a Researcher and Writer for Progressive Army.

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