Members of the public lined up to ask the governor questions about issues that matter to them, both nationally and in Washington state.
Members of the public lined up to ask the governor questions about issues that matter to them, both nationally and in Washington state.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee last week shared his insight into the latest controversial topics and addressed the importance of ethical leadership under the new presidential administration.

The conversation, Public Service and Ethical Leadership in the Era of Trump, was led by multimedia journalist and Seattle University scholar in residence Joni Balter and Institute of Public Service director Larry Hubbell at the Seattle U’s Pigott Atrium last Wednesday, April 12.

Inslee held nothing back in answering questions thrown at him by the hosts and public, mixing in a few jokes to lighten up the conversation.

“The title of this [conversation] was Democracy in the Era of Trump — this is not the era of Trump,” Inslee said. “This is the era of America, and we’re going to get through this. It’s a passing shadow, and maybe one of our goals is to make sure that it’s a temporary shadow and not a permanent stain.”

Topics touched upon during the discussion were climate change, marijuana legalization, civic education, sanctuary cities and other issues currently on the minds of people following the latest political moves under President Donald Trump.

When asked by Hubbell whether Washington state could call itself a sanctuary state, the governor pointed out that there’s really no straight definition of what a sanctuary city or state is. Inslee added the president doesn’t have the authority to force local police departments to arrest people and throw them in jail without an arrest warrant.

“The president doesn’t have the authority to demand that,” Inslee said. “He has decided to punish cities and states that stand up for the U.S. Constitution. He’s going to fail. I’m very confident of that.”

On the subject of the legalization of marijuana and current administration’s position, Inslee is hopeful the status quo will remain as it was under the Obama administration. He said he sees a lot of potential to bring in new jobs and revenue from the newly growing industry.

“Sometimes I wonder if Sean Spicer is actually experimenting with it,” Inslee said of Trump’s press secretary. “But frankly, the results have been quite positive. We have not had an increase in youth use of cannabis, no increase in criminal activity associated with cannabis, job creation, and a relatively smooth cultural transition. I would be violently opposed to this if I saw evidence of it badly affecting [our youth].”

The hosts also raised the question of the drought of Republican gubernatorial candidates in Washington state and nationwide.

“The Republican candidates have been out of touch with the basic values of the state of Washington,” Inslee said. “The values that they propose are not consistent with where the heart of the Washington state is.”

A lot of questions were asked connected to Inslee’s activity as the governor and the critiques he’s been receiving from the media. To the comment made by the Seattle Times, saying the governor needs to step away from the national spotlight and focus more on the state issues, Inslee had an answer ready.

“I think it’s a fair comment. You don’t want to ignore your state when all these things are going on,” the governor said. “I’ve been very active in multiple things we’ve been working on in the state. I don’t feel disconnected from those issues at all. But if you’re a governor and not involved at the barricades, if you are not fighting this administration, you are a wall because that’s part of your job description.”

Inslee declined a rumor he plans to run for president in 2020, saying he’s happy where he is and he is sticking around. Inslee has rejected the idea of being known as the “climate change governor,” saying he’s focusing on solving the current issues at hand and making a future for the children that live in Washington.

Climate change was a hot topic for the governor, with questions coming from both the hosts and public. The biggest concern voiced was the proposal for a new ethanol plant development in the state, that will ship ethanol to China and other Asian countries for plastic production. Being the permitting authority for those projects, Inslee couldn’t comment on the details, however, he promised to make the best decision for the environment and the state possible based upon the evidence provided.

“I have a profound interest in stopping climate change, and I think I have proven that,” Inslee said. “[But] if we can replace coal-based ethanol and reduce carbon dioxide that’s very dangerous to the environment, we ought to think about doing that. If I can have less coal and carbon dioxide for the same amount of cellphones, I think it’s a pretty good idea. We’d like to use cotton candy, but we can’t do that.”

A lot of people voiced their disappointment with the Trump administration and discouragement for the political scene. With many students wanting a career in public service, Hubbell asked whether the students should continue their dream to pursue a position within the federal government or stick to the state.

“I would encourage any bright mind to apply for the state of Washington,” Inslee said. “But this comes back to what I was saying. We should not give up the fight or give up our dreams and aspirations just because of the current occupant of the White House. We shouldn’t have our chin on the ground. This is a transitionary blink in time that we just have to get through.”

In the midst of all the frustration, Inslee mentioned one hopeful thing that came out of the current administration.

“If I had a nickel for every person who has thanked me for fighting against this administration, I would be a rich man,” he said. “That’s troubling in a sense of how dangerous what he’s doing to the country is. This has been inspiring to me. The reaction of people who are willing to get out on the streets, Facebook, willing to protest and speak out. It means they care. That’s why in 2018 we are going to win a lot of seats, and I’m going to work very hard to make sure it happens.”