Bob Donegan is hilarious. No wonder. He’s the president of Ivar’s Inc. and a sense of humor is one of the job requirements if you’re following in the footsteps of Ivar Haglund, the Olde Seattle icon who back in 1938 founded the restaurant and seafood company that bears his name.
But while he’s one of the funniest people you’ll ever meet, Donegan is serious about the need for Seattle’s business community to pull together – a topic he’ll address Tuesday, February 26, at the next monthly meeting of the Manufacturing Industrial Council.
The meeting starts at 3:30 p.m. Donegan is scheduled to begin speaking at 4:45 p.m.
Donegan is serving a term as Chair of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. He hopes to use part of his leadership tenure to help build a stronger working relationship between the iPadding, spiffy chamber-types downtown and the knuckle dragging flatlanders who still wonder whatever happened to all the pay phones?
Donegan will be preceded at the MIC meeting at 4 p.m. by another guest speaker, Robie Russell, a Seattle lawyer and former Region 10 director for the federal Environmental Protection Agency who is an expert on federal Superfund cleanups.
The timing of the joint appearance is not coincidental.
The Duwamish Superfund initiative is scheduled to take a major new turn at the end of February when the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to publish its preferred plan for the Duwamish cleanup. Russell was engaged in Superfund initiatives in Portland and Tacoma, and he’ll offer insights into what might be expected here.
The Superfund is rooted in the Duwamish, but it poses issues that apply more broadly.
State regulators are considering a plan to dramatically increase the amounts of fish that are considered safe to eat from state waterways. And the fish-consumption issue is simmering while the state is still searching for an equitable and effective way to control pollution in stormwater runoff.
The threads of these concerns weave together into a tapestry of assertions that run throughout the political fabric of the Emerald City.
Waterways can’t be clean enough. People should be free to eat as much fish as they want from wherever they want. Mother Nature got it right the first time. Mankind ruined everything. We owe it to past, present and future generations to restore the environment to the way it used to be.
Who can possibly be against any of those things? Not any one running for elected office in or around Seattle – at least, not if they want to win.
But, the rhetoric creates expectations that our public resources and private wallets might not be able to fulfill, and if there is going to be a voice of reason in the civic dialogue, it might need to come from the business community. But the business voice on such issues often echoes Simon and Garfunkle: namely, “Sounds of Silence.”
Which brings us back to Donegan.
A lame joke could be inserted here about having someone from the seafood industry talk about regulations to promote fish consumption – especially, given Ivar’s history with “Acres of Clams,” and the wisdom of eating clams that might still be found in the Duwamish River.
But, the issues are serious. Should you eat clams from the bottom of the Duwamish River? And, should the government encourage you to do so? And should the Duwamish be cleaned up to a point where you could eat the clams? And how much should the public or private sectors pay so you can eat them? And, are there better public uses or more public benefits that could be provided with those resources?
Food for thought – if not ingestion.
Few people know it, but Donegan played a pivotal role in resolving the decade-long dispute about the future of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Elected officials dominated the celebratory press conferences, but Donegan was the indispensable person who pulled together a small group of people from the retail and industrial sectors who helped bring the viaduct debate to a productive conclusion.
You may or may not like the deep bore tunnel project that resulted from these efforts, but if not for Bob, the debate might still continue.
As for Ivar, you couldn’t find a better pair of shoulders to stand on if you want to see the benefits of pulling the community together.
Ivar was the most visible Norwegian in Seattle in an era when Snoose Junction was at the heart of Ballard and broadcast radio was on a par with the Internet. In those days, Ivar surfed the airways while singing songs about the joys of living on the shores of Puget Sound. In addition to being a successful entrepreneur, he was a community leader in the best sense who did things like pick up the tab for Seattle’s Fourth of July fireworks, just for the heck of it.
If you weren’t around, you might not “get it” when it comes to Ivar, but you can get a taste by clicking on Ivar’s photo above. The link is to an old Ivar radio jingle in which you can hear what Ivar believed about humanity in general and Seattle humanity in particular.
Dances With Clams
Or, visit the Ivar’s web site and its terrific corporate timeline which – what the heck! – ends in the year 2027 when Ivar introduced a new line of clam elixir called “Clam Nector for Her.”
How can a corporation celebrate something that happened in a year which has not yet occurred? Well, welcome to Ivar’s.
Like Sig Hansen tells Edgar on Deadliest Catch, there’s a right way, a wrong way and a Norwegian way and Ivar brings out the best from the time when the Norwegian Way was the Seattle Way. And, overall by golly, it all worked out pretty darn good.
The meeting with Bob and Robie Russell will be at the Georgetown campus of South Seattle Community College just north of Boeing Field.
Let us know if you are attending so we know how many chairs to put out. RSVP to Tory Gering at 206-762-2470, or by email at email@example.com.