Yakima Herald: Gubernatorial hopeful spotlights water, education funding issues

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Hidden in the shadow of the presidential race that seems to be taking up every space there is of political airtime, Bill Bryant announced on May 14, 2015, that he would be challenging incumbent Jay Inslee in hopes of becoming the next governor of the state of Washington.

The 54-year-old Seattle resident is a lifelong Washingtonian, and his story is one that encompasses the American Dream of working his way out of poverty, taking on jobs while attending college at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., then coming back to his home state to serve the people of Washington. At Georgetown, he studied trade and diplomacy, fields that guided him into careers in both the private and public sectors.

He is no stranger to the life of public service. The Republican has served as a commissioner for the Port of Seattle since 2007. He was re-elected in 2011, and decided not to seek an additional term so he could instead focus on the governor’s race.

At the Franklin County Republicans’ Lincoln Day Dinner in Pasco on March 26, I got the chance to sit down with candidate Bryant to talk about how his policies will affect the Yakima Valley.

Bryant is a former resident of Yakima, where he spent almost seven years, between 1985 and 1992, working for the Northwest Horticultural Council. He says he is well aware of the issues residents face on the east side of the state. He owns his own company based out of Seattle, Bryant Christie Inc., which creates new markets for selling crops, benefiting both the ports of Seattle, along with the farms of the Lower Valley. Bryant has run BCI since he left Northwest Horticulture Council in 1992.

When asked what he would do in office that would affect the residents of the Yakima area, he simply replied: “Water.”

Bryant then explained that water rights and access are an integral part of the agricultural economy that the east side of Washington thrives on.

“We need to create a long-term retention program,” the candidate said, adding that he wants to put money behind water retention and stop the depletion of wells.

Along with agriculture, Bryant wants to focus on the quality of education in the state. He addressed the state Supreme Court’s 2012 decision in the case of McCleary v. the state of Washington by quoting the section of the state constitution frequently mentioned in the case: “It is the paramount duty of the state to amply fund education.”

Bryant added, “I believe we ought to fund education first, then figure out what else we need to pay after fully funding education.”

He also brought up how much money the state puts into drawing in visitors, saying: “Washington is 50 out of 50 states in tourism.”

In 2011, the state stopped funding a tourism office in order to save money on the budget. While many people may think of tourism in Washington as something that is largely confined to the Seattle area market as well as occasional special events across the state, Bryant says he is hoping to increase tourism by attracting visitors to cruises on the coast, as well as highlighting the wine country on our side of the state.

The Lincoln Day Dinner crowd responded enthusiastically to Bryant during his short speech on the stage at Pasco’s TRAC Center. Among the points Bryant addressed in his speech was his education policy. He told the group he looks to give students more opportunities in studying what they love, and creating and expanding programs encouraging College in the Classroom and Running Start.

“All too often we are losing students because they are losing interest and falling behind,” he said.

“Allowing students to choose their path during their last two years of high school will improve our retention percentages.”

Bryant exuded a passion during the Lincoln Day dinner for the state of Washington, and its education, ports and tourism. The event’s attendees all seemed thankful to hear about these issues from the Republican candidate for state’s governor.

• Taylor Beightol is a senior at Prosser High School and is a member of the Yakima Herald-Republic’s Unleashed program for teen journalists.

 

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Mike Foster