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Morning Wire: Kalama methanol facility, Leanne Berge, Schools districts & COVID

Thank you to former Senator Bill Finkbeiner, soon to be former Senator Hans Zeiger, as well as Ruth Schubert, Antonio Ginatta, and Hallidie Haid. They’ve all made contributions to support our work at the Wire in the last week or so! We’re building momentum here at the Wire, trying to build a unique information infrastructure to support better policy reporting, better civic conversation, and a better community in Washington State! 

In the next few weeks, we’ll be holding our Convening Panel meeting ahead of our 2020 Re-Wire Virtual Policy Conference. This event tries to create a “safe table” for some of our state’s more challenging topics. If you’re interested in joining our Convening Panel process – a group of stakeholders we lean on to be thoughtful about topics and ideas for speakers – send us a note, and tell us what you bring to the mix. We’ll see if we can get you plugged in!

With help from Michael Goldberg

1. Takko reaffirms support for Kalama methanol plant

As 19th LD Democratic incumbents Sen. Dean Takko and Rep. Brian Blake are fighting for re-election in an an area that is trending Republican, a proposed methanol plant in Kalama could be a key selling point in convincing voters that having a seat at the majority party table matters. Takko is making this a center-piece of his re-election effort, carving out an independent frame for his candidacy with 49 days left to election day. 

Takko: “I have dedicated my career to promoting jobs and economic development in a way that aligns with the values and aspirations of southwest Washington… When late last year the Ecology Department announced further delays in its environmental review (of the methanol plant), I challenged Governor Inslee and his administration to do better.” This statement followed the September 2nd release of the Department of Ecology’s (DEC) draft Second Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on a proposed $2 billion methanol plant on the Columbia River in Kalama. 

2. Q&A: Leanne Berge on working toward health equity in Washington State

Leanne Berge is the CEO of the Community Health Plan of Washington (CHPW), what she calls “Washington’s local not-for-profit Medicaid and Medicare managed care plan.”  Reporter Michael Goldberg spoke with Berge about how health care institutions might work to drive more equitable outcomes. They discussed what racism looks like in health care institutions, school-based care, social determinants of health, and how the definition of health equity has evolved amid ongoing protests. 

CHPW was a recent awardee of new regions of service in Washington State Medicaid, expanding an operational footprint that had been somewhat condensed in recent years. CHPW also recently announced that it is donating $10,000 to twenty-three organizations that directly support communities of color and other communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

3. 2020 OSPI General Election Debate

You can join almost 600 folks already registered to tune in this Thursday at 7:00 PM PST for our OSPI general election debate between Chris Reykdal and Maia Espinoza. The candidates will discuss a variety of topics related to Washington’s K–12 education system and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).

From how to shore up educational outcomes during COVID-19 to divisions over Referendum 90, we look forward to helping the public understand where both candidates stand on the issues central to public education in Washington State. The event is free and open to the public, but advance registration is required.

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4. Counties taking cautious approach to resuming in-person learning

Based on an analysis of current data and DOH benchmarks, ten counties have low levels of COVID activity and are meeting DOH standards for returning to full-time in-person learning for all elementary students and hybrid learning for middle and high schools.Fifteen counties, including King, have moderate levels of COVID activity and could potentially conduct in-person learning for elementary students. Most school districts in these counties are sticking to remote learning models.

The only two counties in Western Washington that fall into the high activity category are Mason and Grays Harbor. Nevertheless, two districts in both counties have return to hybrid learning models, according to OSPI’s data dashboard. An OSPI spokesperson told the Wire that these data are self-reported through the nine regional educational service districts and will be continually updated. 

5. Panel: Fiscal policy and the looming budget crisis

Next week, State of Reform convenes a unique “four-corner” group of some of the leading budget writers in the legislature. They’ll talk through what the current budget situation looks like, and what we might expect from the 2021 budget. This really should be a keynote session but it’s just one of the breakouts that you’ll see teed up next week at the event.

Panelists include Rep. Timm Ormsby, Chair, House Appropriations Committee; Sen. Christine Rolfes, Chair, Senate Ways & Means Committee; and Sen. John Braun, Ranking Member, Senate Ways & Means Committee. Wire readers who want to join the conversation at our 2020 Inland NW State of Reform Virtual Health Policy Conference are eligible for a 20% discount! (We buried this at the end for our best readers…)

6. Read this: Oregon wildfires

In some really strong, on-the-ground reporting, Capi Lynn of the Statesman-Journal in Oregon tells the story of one man trying to save his family from the encroaching wildfires. It’s powerful story telling that I think you should read. As the fires become enmeshed in the politics of climate science, this recommendation isn’t a statement about our divisive politics. It’s a statement about our shared humanity.

“Struggling to navigate a road once so familiar but now shrouded by smoke-filled darkness, Chris almost ran over what looked like a bikini-clad woman on the road. Once he was closer, he realized she was wearing underwear. Her hair was singed, her mouth looked almost black, and her bare feet were severely burned.

He impatiently tried to help her into his car, explaining how he needed to find his wife and son, feeling like she was resisting.

Finally, she spoke. ‘I am your wife.'”


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