Governor brings familiar themes to valley visit
Gov. Jay Inslee toured the Methow Valley last week with stops in Winthrop, Twisp and Pateros, chatting informally with local officials about existing projects and future needs.
The governor, dressed in jeans and an open-neck checked shirt, was accompanied by his wife, Trudi, and two grandchildren. His entourage also included several staff members and he was escorted by Washington State Patrol troopers.
In Winthrop, Inslee met with town officials including Mayor Sally Ranzau and representatives of Methow Trails. At the Winthrop Rink, he joined local kids in an impromptu roller hockey session.
Following a stop at Twisp Town Hall to visit with town officials, the governor toured the TwispWorks campus, where the grandkids enjoyed running through the splash pad.
At TwispWorks, Inslee wandered through the eqpd manufacturing facility and talked to employees there about the process of assembling the company’s sturdy bags.
From there, the governor toured the under-construction Old Schoolhouse Brewery facility and talked about beer with brewmaster Kyle Koger and co-owner Troy Anderson.
Inslee’s July 19 valley visit concluded with a stop in Pateros, where he conferred with Mayor Carlene Anders and 12th District state Rep. Keith Goehner (R-Dryden) about the city’s new water system.
Although Inslee is also a Democratic presidential candidate, he stuck to local, state and regional issues until prompted to reflect on the national campaign during an interview at the Methow Valley News office. Brock Hires of the Omak-Okanogan County Chronicle also took part in the interview.
Last week marked the five-year anniversary of the Carlton Complex Fire’s outbreak, and the governor reflected on the new reality in Washington and the West.
Inslee said fire “is the new beast” on the landscape. “It’s a new dynamic,” he said. “It just creates such explosive conditions.”
“It’s endemic across the west, and it will become worse,” the governor said.
Inslee said the state, counties and communities need to “buckle down” to increase investments in infrastructure, communications and prevention.
“We can’t solve it just by resources alone,” the governor added, reiterating his position that the nation’s top priority should be addressing climate change and its effects. Specifically, he cited the need to control carbon dioxide emissions, saying that climate change “is the greatest threat to our state long-term, and our country and our children.”
“I’m tired of seeing people’s houses burn down,” Inslee said in the interview. “I don’t want to see that any more. But we’re going to if we don’t defeat climate change.”
The governor said he was impressed with the “dynamic activity,” creativity and innovation he learned about during his several hours in the valley.
At the same time, the governor said, the valley and region share some of the same problems that face communities around state — for instance, a lack of affordable housing. Inslee added that he wasn’t just referring to low-income housing, but also what he called “middle-range housing.”
On the topic of local school funding by the state, the governor noted that the Legislature has met its obligation as directed under the McCleary Decision, the state Supreme Court’s order to fully fund schools as required by the state constitution. He said he’s pleased with the teacher pay package and the taxes that support it, and said the special education funding has been increased.
However, he said, “I don’t think we’re complete. Local communities should have more flexibility.”
Because of the state’s revised funding formula, the Methow Valley School District has had to forego some local funding approved by the district’s voters, to stay under the levy cap. Inslee said he supported removing the caps and “letting communities make their own decisions.”
Referring to fish habitat restoration projects, the governor said he supports a statewide effort — ordered by a federal court — to remove culverts that impede fish movement. Fish recovery will help the Puget Sound’s threatened orcas recover as well, he said. “It’s the right thing to do,” Inslee added.
As for the presidential campaign, Inslee said he has enjoyed touring the country, and “I get to tell the Washington story … and I’m proud to be able to tell it.”
Asked what he’s hearing is the most important issue or priority in the campaign, he answered quickly: “Defeating Donald Trump.” The second-most important issue? “Defeating Donald Trump.”