The 2016 Election: It Ain’t All Bad

Peter Schrappen On Watch

Given the current presidential noise, I’m going to leave sex out of this column. Good grief, have we had enough already with the dumbing down of issues of national significance? When I’m embarrassed when my eight-year-old daughter enters the room during the presidential “debate”, then it’s either time to give up or to look harder for a bright ray of sunshine.

Fortunately, I do not have to look too far for some good news. For one, there’s the Washington Maritime Federation-organized summit with key maritime leaders that occured in Alaska mid-October. This leadership conference is all about strengthening ties between our two trade-dependent states. Second, there’s the continued joint lobbying between sportfishing user groups and boating businesses. These two groups held joint candidate interviews throughout the summer to find champions who understand that salmon fishing is not just a way of life; it’s a way to make a life when you sell aluminum boats.

OWPull1116Then there’s an event at the Seattle Yacht Club where both candidates for the Office of the Lands Commissioner will meet with boaters to learn about our issues. Lands Commissioner? What does that have to do with boating? The title is misleading. This office is really the head of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which oversees the 2.6 million acres of state-owned aquatic leases in Washington, not to mention the many more acres of forest land. This position is of critical importance because yacht clubs, boatyards, marinas, and other groups or individuals who do work on the water have an aquatic lease. The DNR sets the rates and conditions for these leases. Plus, it runs several other boating programs like the Derelict Vessel Program, which retrieves troubled boats before they sink.

In my opinion, this spot is second only to the governor for importance in state boating activities. Keep in mind that we are coming off of eight years where boaters were seen more as a problem than an asset to our community by the incumbent, Commissioner Goldmark. His infamous op-ed in The Seattle Times pretty much sums up what he thinks of boaters: “We must keep boat sewage out of Puget Sound (with a No Discharge Zone [NDZ])”. You may remember that NDZs have nothing to do with boat sewage–but I get it, we are any easy target, especially for someone who doesn’t appreciate the economic and quality of life impacts of boating.

I digress. With Commissioner Goldmark opting to not run for the always-difficult third term, he’s stepping aside and two political newcomers are vying to take over. The stakes are high, and the competitive office couldn’t be more important. Maybe you hear me rubbing my hands together!

Given how important this race will be, the question becomes: How can I learn more about both candidates on the issues I care about? Scenario A would have you email them your list and wait patiently for a response. I can’t imagine that there is a high rate of success with that approach.

Before you get frustrated, let’s try Scenario B. Because you are a faithful reader of this column, you have likely sent your dues to the Seattle Yacht Club (SYC), the Recreational Boating Association of Washington (RBAW), and/or the Northwest Marine Trade Association (NMTA). With your dues come fun meeting notifications like this one: an invite to attend a forum to meet with both candidates, Steve McLaughlin and Hilary Franz. This is a free opportunity to hear about their visions on how boating fits into Washington, and it’s yours simply for being a member of a group that gets stuff done. How cool!

On Monday, October 17, at the Seattle Yacht Club, both candidates gathered with 60 or so boaters to hear from us about our legislative agenda. It’s a remarkable thing, refreshing to say the least, that they care what we think and that together we stand to gain so much more than if we went our separate ways.

When this legislative cycle is over, historians are going to wonder how the campaign for our nation’s presidency devolved to such a low level. I would say two things to that: no, there was never a “Golden Age” of campaigns, and let’s focus on the positive. Let’s look closer to home, to events like this forum, to see how we can ensure that campaigns aren’t all ugly. There is a role for everyday people, and many of these same activities are the ones that Washington, Jefferson, and the rest of our Founding Fathers envisioned.

That’s not a bad deal for a $20 membership fee for RBAW.

Peter Schrappen

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Peter Schrappen currently works for the Northwest Marine Trade Association as their Government Affairs Director and the Clean Boating Foundation as their Executive Director. Additionally, he serves on boards of the Boating Safety Advisory Council, the Washington Boating Alliance and the U.S. Superyacht Association.

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