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Guest op/ed: Let’s bring transparency and partnership to our Port to return our Sonics

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“as the President of the Port Commission in 2016 my opponent led an ongoing effort to block the Sonics’ return...I promise to find out what happened behind closed doors”

In an election in which there seem to be two sides to every local issue, there is one thing all of us candidates agree on: It's time to bring back the Sonics. Fans and civic allies have said for years that the Seattle region has the fan base, the consumer demand, and the media revenue to support a franchise. We have an incredible sports culture hungry for the NBA, and an appreciation for the community benefits we lost when the Sonics were shipped off to Oklahoma City.

But we candidates must do more than just pledge our support. We must be committed to taking the steps needed to build a world class facility, to address transportation issues, and to secure a franchise. Unfortunately, as the President of the Port Commission in 2016 my opponent led an ongoing effort to block the Sonics’ return. Beginning in 2012, he vocally opposed a privately financed effort to bring back the Sonics, throwing cold water on the first realistic plan to restore professional basketball to our region. Furthermore, he led an effort at the Port of Seattle to block progress using his official capacity and taxpayer resources to construct specious arguments meant to divide our community and pit workers, businesses, and fans against each other.

Sadly, this pattern is not limited to the Sonics, and exemplifies the reason we need new leadership in local government who will not only reinvigorate efforts to bring back the Sonics but also act as a better steward of public assets. We must unite around efforts to improve our regional economy, civic engagement, and community investments. We must demand more from elected leaders.

I promise to bring new transparency to the Port when I'm elected. I will ensure that negotiations around arena placement and finance are conducted openly and with the public's interest in mind, not just those of the well-heeled or well-connected. And I promise to find out what happened behind closed doors during the first set of failed negotiation so we don’t waste another decade on fruitless talk.

As a business owner and potential Port Commissioner, I view efforts to bring back the Sonics as complementary to the Port’s mission to support economic development in the region. NBA franchises, especially those that don't rely on public support, create new revenue for the restaurants, bars, hotels and other small businesses around the arena. A team will help retailers, hoteliers, and others in the tourism and hospitality industry, as fans travel to and from Seattle, for games. In addition, major sports franchises build community and create a strong sense of civic connection. Finally, as we all recently saw with the Seahawks Super Bowl victory in 2014 and Sounders 2016 MLS Cup, these events bring real joy and pride to a city and its residents.

Together, and with your support, we can and will remove the barriers to a return of our Sonics. We can make sure our tax dollars are not spent on efforts to derail progress in restoring a team or building an arena, and we can align the leaders of our region to speak with one voice in support of this important cultural, economic, and civic goal.

Ryan Calkins is running for the Port of Seattle Commission, Position 1. For over ten years, Ryan ran an import company, working directly with shipping operations at the Port. He now works for Ventures, a nonprofit that supports low-income entrepreneurs as they start and grow their businesses. Prior to being in business, Ryan worked in Latin America for human rights and disaster relief nonprofits. Ryan and his wife Lindsay, an attorney, live in Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood with their three children, the oldest enrolled in Seattle Public Schools. Ryan was born and raised in Edmonds.