« Take Action for Campaign Finance Reform | Main | Sacking Attorneys and Packing the Courts »

February 27, 2007

Interview with Governor Gregoire

I am an unabashed fan of Governor Gregoire, even in this time when she is taking a bit of bashing in the blogs over her reputed changes in position on the Viaduct.  I like her inclusive, get-everyone-to-the-table style of governing and think it generally works well and we’ve benefited as a state. Gov_gregoire

Every time I talk with legislators in this state about how things are going, they praise her for her ability to get things done and to give others the credit.  I talk sometimes about “transformational candidates or electeds”.  I’ve had legislators say that term fits the governor, someone who will change the way things get done in order to make sure that things get done, someone who recognizes that there is some serious need for a combination of good governing and aggressive tackling of key issues.    

Her ability to communicate to the public about what she is doing, well . . . . that is less than ideal.  She is clearly of the school that thinks that her efforts should speak for themselves.  Well, we wish. 

In a recent interview I did with her, it was clearly frustrating for her that the press focuses so much on conflict and not on the openings that she creates for resolution. 

I recently talked with the governor about two critical topics and got in a question on a third.  We went into some detail on education and global warming.  I asked a critical question about a third, the Viaduct. 

Let’s take the Viaduct issue first since we’re still on the front page. 

As a resident of Seattle, I will have to ask if there is any way the surface and transit option would be entertained by the state.

Gregoire:  Absolutely.  We did entertain it earlier but couldn’t make it work. We have a set of criteria we have to meet.  We have to maintain safety.  We have to meet capacity for both moving freight and people in that corridor. 

We’re not accommodating increases in capacity if we either rebuild the viaduct or build a new tunnel.  There won’t be an increase in today’s capacity.  It’s now somewhere in the neighborhood of 110,000 per day.

So, no matter what we do, we still have to maximize transit and surface.  No matter what happens, there has to be a comprehensive transit component.  We will need to be able to increase the capacity for moving the increase in population we are expecting.

Then, too, what we decide to do has to be fiscally responsible and friendly to urban design.

That’s why we’re working with Ron Sims.  The state is saying, “Show me what you’re talking about here”.   We’d like to see what the possibilities are.

The rest of the interview is over the fold.

Interview with Governor Chris Gregoire

Education

This is the centerpiece of Gregoire's proposals. She proposed spending $1.7 billion more on public schools than in the past budget cycle - including $130 million in new early learning policy changes and $343 million more on public schools.

Clearly your priority is on education, which I applaud.  Share a bit about why this is so important to you.

Gregoire: Our state is unique, geographically and with the number of international companies situated here.  That positions us well for the future but if we are going to succeed in a globalized economy, education has to be our #1 focus.

Every time I travel overseas to countries that are succeeding in attracting international investment, they talk about the importance of education. So, how do we transform Washington so that we have a world-class education system? 

We hear over and over that the first 5 years are the most important.  If we want our children to be able to succeed, education, and particularly early childhood education, has to be our first priority.

You are headed off to the National Governor’s Association Conference where you chair the Education, Early Childhood and Workforce Committee.  How does what you do there impact Washington’s efforts in educating our children?

Gregoire: I will showcase the early childhood education program, Washington Learns, that we have developed here.  We will also discuss the national No Child Left Behind program.  We will go to Congress and talk about changes we think need to be made in that bill which is up for re-authorization this year.  NCLB is very punitive with how it deals with children and schools.  People of all ages respond poorly to that.  We want accountability.  We are looking at the “English as a Second Language” provisions as well. In Washington State, we have a lot of children who first need to be able to speak English.  Then we can focus on the academic areas.

We also need a partnership with the federal government regarding financial costs.  The NCLB re-authorization bill now in Congress needs more focus on children.

Luckily, with more Democrats in Congress, we have more voice.

What about the issues about the math and science section of WASL?  There’s been a lot of conflict about whether to go forward with WASL because of that.

Gregoire: We’re happy about the language portion of WASL.  We’ve made great strides.  Students are scoring in the high 80’s.  So, we don’t want to change the language provisions.

The math and science section is different.  Students are scoring in the 50’s so clearly something is not working there.  Terry Bergstrom (Washington State Superintendent of Education) and I have gone forward with asking to set aside the math and science section until we have some safeguards in place for enabling students to succeed.

Global Warming

Since I interviewed Gregoire late last week, she has joined in a five-state Western Regional Climate Action Initiative, which she alluded to in our discussion here.

You have a very ambitious set of goals regarding global warming in your Climate Change Challenge.  And you’ve received kudos from a range of environmental groups for your proposals.  And what looks like cautious acceptance from business groups.

Gregoire: When we signed the Executive Order a few weeks ago, we had buy in from a wide range of groups – business, labor, local governments, environmentalists, and more.  Since then, others including a group of Catholic bishops and another group of evangelical church leaders, have come and asked to be a part of this endeavor. 

We want a broad based coalition for this to succeed over the long haul.  This may be a different strategy than other states are taking. 

Back at the National Governors’ Association, there is a small coalition of us from Washington, Oregon and California now.  We want to broaden our coalition, maybe even to include British Columbia.  Imagine the success we could have collectively if we were to tackle this issue with the support of a range of states and, maybe, British Columbia.

How do you foresee moving forward in terms of holding a broad coalition of stakeholders together, given the recent intense focus on the need for quick action?

Gregoire: We have a different challenge in Washington than other states have.  We use so much hydropower here and it is unlikely that we will be able to wring improvements out of that section of the energy sector.  So, our energy conservation has to come from other areas.  That is a different challenge than other states have. 

I’ve set some critical and ambitious goals.  Even if we fully implement what we’ve done in the last two years and, as you know, that’s a lot, it still only gets us to 60% improvements to the goals I set for 2020.  That’s where the Washington Climate Change Challenge comes in.  I wanted to put together this diverse group to come up with the ideas about how we achieve the next 40%.

Who’s invited to the table to make the specific decisions about how we move forward?

Gregoire: It’s broad-based; it’s not a closed group.  As I mentioned before, we’ve added groups that have wanted to be a part of this. We’ve also had visits from national organizations which want to partner with us.

This is a big issue.  The more groups we have at the table, the better off we’ll be as we work to implement it.

Are you supporting SB 6001 (a Senate bill sponsored by 21 Democratic Senators that focuses on mitigating the impacts of climate change)?

Gregoire:  Makes sense.  It will go through a lot before they vote on it.  I’ll look at it in detail after they’re farther along with it.  It will be different.

The big question for me, and I think a lot of people, is “Can these targets be met without a large infusion of money for mass transportation?”

Gregoire: For Washington State, it’s a challenge.  Other states which have coal may be able to do it easier.  That means that the major area of conservation for us is automobiles.  In larger cities, we will have to look at getting out of the auto.  We look to DC for being a good partner in this.  We will need federal assistance.

Jay is doing a great job with the Apollo Alliance. We’ve got wonderful delegates.

I hope that Congress will step up and take action.  It’s been a forbidden subject over the last several years.  It’s time Congress stood up and addressed the issue.

Thank you.

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 27, 2007 at 10:19 PM in Interviews | Permalink

Comments

Thanks for a nice comprehensive and informative interview.

Posted by: Particle Man | Feb 27, 2007 10:57:16 PM

Very good to read, thank you!

The governor's comments on the viaduct, along with her recognition that a key element of addressing climate change in Washington, a hydro-heavy state, has to be the emissions from automobiles -- brings hope that we may yet see a surface and transit option get fashioned. One that also moves people & freight. Perhaps I am imagining this, but it seems that there is emerging this sense that this is what people really want -- if only it doesn't burden business and people who need to move.

It's fascinating to read about the coalition-building around the climate challenge.

Posted by: Noemie Maxwell | Feb 28, 2007 12:52:52 PM

Even though I am not a resident of your fine state, I find your interviews very informative, and thought-provoking about how your state's initiatives might translate to mine (New York). No reason why everybody should reinvent the wheel.

Posted by: op99 | Feb 28, 2007 1:55:47 PM

Post a comment