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Environment is the focus of '96 gubernatorial platforms

The University of Washington Student Newspaper Wednesday, April 24, 1996

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Environment is the focus of '96 gubernatorial platforms Democratic candidates visit UW for Earth Day Greg Phipps Daily Staff

Five Democrat gubernatorial candidates gathered at Kane Hall Monday night, but it was the environment, not education, that was the topic of discussion.A crowd of approximately 300 listened to each candidate extol their environmental credentials on the 26th anniversary of Earth Day. Billed as a forum, not a debate, the event was a low-key affair with few attacks among the contenders. Instead, each candidate hyped their record on the environment.Jay Inslee, a former U.S. Congressman from the 4th district in Central Washington, talked up his role as spokesperson against property rights Referendum 48. However, Inslee also painted himself as a politician who can create solutions among divergent interests on environmental issues."It is very easy to be pro-environment in Seattle; it is very difficult in Central Washington," Inslee said. "I've been flame-tested on these issues."Inslee cited his sponsorship in Congress of the Yakima River Enhancement Bill, which added water to fish habitats. Both King County Executive Gary Locke and Seattle Mayor Norm Rice stressed the challenge presented in balancing growth and the environment. Rice highlighted his leadership in producing a comprehensive growth plan for Seattle.Locke said his role in producing a growth management plan for King County shows his ability to create consensus with the rural conservatives on the county council. Afterwards, Locke said environmental pressures caused by population growth will create a crisis, forcing agreement between Democrats and Republicans on environmental issues.State Sen. Nita Rinehart, D-Seattle, touted her experience in Olympia. Rinehart said she held the line against attempts to declaw the state's Department of Ecology and to take the state and Indian tribes out of water resource planning. After the forum, Rinehart explained how she would protect the environment if faced by a potentially conservative Legislature: "With tenacity and the ability to persuade people by focusing public attention on issues that shouldn't be partisan." The discussion of water rights and water resource planning focused on restoring dwindling salmon runs. Private consultant Bryan Zetlan sounded one of the only contrary notes of the evening when he proposed a five- to 10-year ban on commercial fishing in the state.However, Inslee disagreed, saying the burden in restoring fish populations should be shared equally.Rice called salmon the "Northwest icon" and said action to preserve it is needed immediately."Just debating it and not doing anything about it is creating problems," Rice said.One audience member asked the candidates about the proper role of a governor in promoting environmental education at the college and the K-12 level.Rinehart said a governor should provide resources, but stay out of the business of directing curriculum.Both Locke and Rice stressed the importance of starting environment education at an early age. Locke said today's students will be the CEOs of tomorrow.Inslee steered the forum off the subject of the environment when he challenged the other candidates to limit primary campaign spending to $750,000."It should be a Democratic position to clean up this system, not a Republican one," Inslee said.However, Inslee tried to link campaign finance reform to the environment."If you want to know why there is such an egregious attack on the environment, it's because of the campaign dollars pouring into this state."

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