THE ROOKIE walked right into the middle of a fish fight.
In his first week on the Seattle Port Commission, Lawrence Molloy, who ran as an environmentalist and reformer, joined all of his colleagues and voted in favor of bringing yachts into Fishermen's Terminal. Along the way, Molloy learned how complicated reforming government can be.
Angry fishers, led by Pete Knutson, fear the Port plans to push their gritty blue-collar industry out of Fishermen's Terminal in favor of well-heeled pleasure-boat owners. The Port Commission insists the only reason for the change is that the fishing industry's slump has meant there are too many vacancies at its terminal just west of the Ballard Bridge. While Molloy was up-front about his support for yachts at Fishermen's Terminal during his campaign, his rationale was that he hopes to provide more income to improve the facility for the fishing fleet.
Molloy officially took office on Jan. 1 and, being a win-win kind of guy, immediately looked for common ground between the Port and the angry fishers. Early in the week, he thought he'd found a no-brainer: encouraging the direct sale of fish at the terminal. "Meet the producer!" Molloy gushed as he explained his ideas. "$1.50 a pound for tuna off the back of the boat and the fisherman is euphoric." Currently fish are sold directly from the boats to the public off the terminal's western wall, but the height of that structure makes it hard for small boats to hook up to it. Molloy proposed "putting in a floater dock, and small boats could hook up there."
By week's end, Molloy had dropped it. "It's months and months of permitting work," he groaned. "I'm amazed. Here I am, the environmentalist, complaining about the environmental laws." Molloy had also discovered that due to the declining state of Washington's fisheries, there isn't a "12-month market" for fish sales. Only autumn's chum salmon run provides the small boats with the opportunity to sell directly to the public.
None of this left fisherman Knutson too impressed with the new politician. Knutson quipped, "He's like a kid with a pea shooter walking into the Pentagon. Nice guy, though."
George Howland Jr.