by NICHOLAS DESHAIS & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & L & lt;/span & isa Brown's got it pretty good. She leads the Democrats in the Washington State Senate, where her party is expected to keep a large majority, allowing her to control much of the agenda. The candidate she endorsed early for president, Barack Obama, looks like he's headed to the White House, offering her some clout in D.C. She's up for re-election this year but the man who's attempting to unseat her is, so far, not that threatening. Not bad.
When she stopped by The Inlander offices last week, she was carefree, between events and ready to chat. When she wasn't making us feel like a light rail connecting Spokane and Coeur d'Alene was imminent, she was telling us about how a medical school is going to be smack dab in the middle of town. Oh, and did we mention that she might be running for governor in 2012?
THE INLANDER: Do you think who we choose as president is going to have an impact on what Washington's financial future looks like?
LISA BROWN: I think it could. I really do. I am, obviously, a supporter of Obama. He has said his No. 1 priority will be energy independence and green-collar economy type jobs. I think that would fit very well with where Washington state could make complementary investments. Also, despite the financial crisis, this is the time to launch a major infrastructure project for the U.S., like light rail and investing in alternative energy and conservation technology. That would create jobs. That would fit very well with what we've been trying to do in Washington state. In the short run, yes, it worsens our financial deficit, but I think you have to not just think about where you are now but where you're going to be in two to five years.
So that green economy plan leaves out the North-South Freeway?
I believe that we are actually going to continue to make progress on the North-South Corridor. It also is a light rail corridor. The route has been decided upon and we're well on our way to having purchased the right-of-way through the city. In the short run, I don't think it will be a highway. It will be an arterial system. It will give us an alternative way to get freight off of Division and Hamilton, and it will give commuters a quicker way to get north/south. It won't look like a freeway for a long time. That's fine with me and a lot of other people. Purchasing the right-of-way and preserving the light rail corridor, that's something we need to do now. Otherwise we're going to have the same problems that Puget Sound has. If you wait too long, the choices are just all so bad and so expensive, and neighborhoods are up in arms. It's just a huge mess and I think Spokane really has an opportunity to avoid that.
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & n Portland, the light rail tracks head toward Vancouver before stopping right at the state line. Do you anticipate any problems similar to that here, considering the rail line would likely go to Coeur d'Alene?
Ideally, we would circumvent that problem and work with Idaho. It would be crazy to stop at Liberty Lake. We started working together on water. That's good news. We worked together to secure the funding for the aquifer study. With appropriate leadership on both sides we should be able to have our next major collaboration be on transportation.
Should we look to forming some sort of regional government before we face these major regional problems?
Governance is key. We have the Spokane Regional Transportation Commission, but it hasn't really been a planning organization. Governance on a regional level is what you're going to need to really carry off a big plan, like a light rail plan. We have an opportunity with a huge challenge. Local and state elected officials will have to give up some of their clout and that's going to be the hardest thing. Somebody will shoot this plan in the foot. Somebody will pull out. Somebody will have their own agenda. But, if this process works and holds officials' feet to the fire, then maybe we have a shot at this.
What's the biggest economic engine in the 3rd District?
The district is going to be renovated by our commitment to Riverpoint Campus, by building a campus that does health sciences, education and research. I just met with the president of the University of Washington and we're going to be looking at how we can expand the medical and dental education. Obviously, our goal is a medical school here. WSU is committed to bringing their entire pharmacy program. Their Health Science campus is going to be the Spokane campus. It's a good vision and it's a collaborative vision because Eastern will be there with physical therapy, WSU will be there with Health Sciences as well as the Design Institute, and the U will help us specifically with medical education.
This is the first of its kind in the state, isn't it?
Nobody knows what to even call it. It's not a branch campus of WSU. It's not a branch campus of the U. We have a multi-institutional university district and I hope we can just keep moving forward with it without having it pigeon-holed in Olympia. I hope this model continues to be strong and gives us leverage because the institutions, instead of fighting with each other, can all benefit from working together in Spokane.
If Rossi wins, how difficult would it be for the Legislature to get things done?
It would be a whole new experience. Some of the issues I've worked on, I know he's not supportive of, like family leave insurance and the working families tax rebate. I imagine it would be a very difficult, complicated process to write a budget between House and Senate, having significant Democratic majorities, and a Republican governor with pretty different priorities.
What happens four years from now? Are you interested in running for governor?
I would potentially run for statewide office. It's not something that I planned my career around, but I didn't plan my career around being majority leader, either. People have approached me about running for Congress as well, but the state level is so exciting and where you can make things happen. Climate change right now is being led from the state level, from California and Oregon and Washington and the Western Climate Initiative, not from Washington, D.C. Maybe that changes in the next administration and things get more exciting in Washington, D.C., but right now I like the state level of politics.
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MEET MR. MOYNA
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & J & lt;/span & ohn Moyna is challenging Lisa Brown for her seat as state senator representing the 3rd District, here in Spokane. But he didn't do very well in the August primary. The incumbent, who also happens to be the state senate majority leader, raked in 76 percent of the vote. Moyna, who eschews political labels, got what was left over. So far, Brown has raised almost $250,000; Moyna is not accepting contributions. In all, the odds don't look good for Moyna, the night janitor at Dick's Hamburgers. But he's fighting the good fight.
"Just because I don't think like others does not mean I can't think for myself," he writes on his Website. "I'm not a controlled puppet or programmed robot who parrots and trumpets any political party platform."
On YouTube, Moyna is known as zekretzpy (pronounced, the Website helpfully instructs, "secret spy"). Among his favorite videos are clips of Ron Paul, another called "God's view of celibacy and sex," and another one showing a 20-something San Franciscan casting his vote via absentee ballot.