It would be difficult to find two candidates for Port of Walla Walla commissioner who are more different than Michael Fredrickson and Barlow Corkrum.
This should make endorsing one of the candidates easy, but it isn't. Both have strengths and weaknesses.
Fredrickson, the incumbent, has an impressive grasp of how the Port operates and a clear vision of its mission.
Corkrum, the challenger, has serious concerns about the Port Commission's approach. He believes, for example, the taxpayer-funded organization owns too much property - thus taking it off the tax rolls - and he feels the Port competes too much with private industry. Corkrum doesn't believe Port Executive Director Jim Kuntz is worth his annual salary of $160,000 and he would like to see him fired.
Corkrum is also concerned about the lack of transparency in the way the Port goes about doing the people's business. While the Port might meet the letter of the law concerning the state's Open Public Meetings Act, he feels it skirts the spirit of the law.
Fredrickson disagrees. He points to the Port's meetings that average five hours in length. He said commissioners make a point of rearranging the meeting agenda so topics of interest are discussed when those interested are present. And he notes few people attend the meetings anyway except the commissioners and staff.
Corkrum is on the mark here.
As a result, we find this race for the Port Commission very close.
Corkrum, who has run for this office twice before, is a much better candidate than in the past. He has taken a more thoughtful approach to the issues, although some of his jabs at Fredrickson are fueled with hyperbole. He talks about the Port not taking the minutes of its meetings. It does. Corkrum would be better served to simply contend the Port's meeting minutes are not as detailed as they should be.
Corkrum makes a strong case on the need for the Port to engage the public. He is right to insist the meeting agendas should be followed and not changed unless there is a compelling reason. He is also correct that allowing meetings to drone on for five hours or more is ridiculous
However, we believe Corkrum's views on economic development are somewhat unrealistic. Attracting industry is highly competitive and expensive. It does require the Port to be aggressive and to own property so it can move quickly when an opportunity arises.
Still, Corkrum is bright and would grow into the job. For those who disagree with the Port's approach, Corkrum is a reasonable alternative.
But we find Fredricksons's philosophies on economic development more in line with ours. We believe the Port is generally doing a good job working to attract new businesses and industry to the area.
It is for this reason we give Fredrickson a slight edge in this contest, although we hope he takes some of Corkrum's concerns about transparency to heart.