Former Gov. Dan Evans joins us on our Common Ground podcast!

Photo courtesy UWWe are thrilled and honored to have former Washington Governor Daniel J. Evans on the Common Ground edition of our Policy Today podcast this week.

It's hard to find enough superlatives to describe Gov. Evans, who's also a former U.S. Senator and state legislator. Ross Anderson called him "quite simply, the best governor in Washington’s history." A man of principle, pragmatism and integrity, he's also an incredibly nice guy who's as enthusiastic about public service as ever.

In this episode we covered as many topics with Gov. Evans as we could (though we hope to talk with him again soon as we only scratched the surface), starting with his magnificent 1968 keynote address to the Republican National Convention. Listen to this podcast, then go read it in its entirety. You'll notice none of us quoted from it directly because if we started we probably wouldn't have been able to stop. We'll simply tease you with this excerpt:

"The protests, the defiance of authority, the violence in the streets are more than isolated attacks upon the established order; they are the symptoms of the need for change and for a redefinition of what this country stands for and where it is going."

(Seriously - after you're done listening to the podcast, go read it.)

Other topics we discussed:

  • His longstanding belief in the importance of the volunteer sector to public life.
  • On proposals for a carbon tax and cap-and-trade program, he believes we can get "a lot more out of incentives than penalties. I'm a skeptic when it comes to carbon taxes and cap and trade. I think we could get a lot further with incentives."
  • On climate change, he says "the argument about whether there is or isn't climate change is the wrong argument. You can still be a skeptic, or convinced" and still come together on policies that are good for the environment. More than two decades ago, as chairman of a National Academy of Sciences panel on global warming, he said, "we looked at all the things that could be done, then ranked them by their cost-benefit ratios. We found that if you did all of those things that had positive cost-benefit ratios, so they were worthwhile doing regardless of climate change, we would be way ahead of any of the goals that we have now set or are trying to set."
  • On the McCleary decision, "the Supreme Court is very close to the edge of legislating rather than adjudicating" and "I think it was unnecessary and probably unwise for them to declare the Legislature in contempt of the court because the deadlines haven't even approached yet."
  • On our state tax system, he says, "I never talked about [just] proposing an income tax. I always talked about tax reform, which included an income tax. But if you just go out and want to pile an income tax on top of whatever we've got now, I think that's wrong."
  • As for the biggest issue at the state level, he believes "the modification, change, modernization – whatever you want to call it – of our school system has to be number one. It’s the most urgent and it’s something we have to do. But I don’t think that it all relates to money."
  • How to improve education? "One of the things I tried to do as governor was to create a Principals Academy. To really focus on the principal – that’s where the school systems ought to have their leadership – it can’t come from central administration. And I think if you really set your goals, and then give the principals and each school a chance to really focus on how they can best spend the money that they’re given, I think we could end up with a lot better educational system."
  • On the importance of building relationships: "The more people know each other, and work together, and see each other, the better chance there is to translate that into legislative action."
  • On the "obscene" amounts of money in modern politics: "Money has really changed things. Money in campaigns is way beyond anything we could’ve remotely conceived of."
  • His sense of optimism in the "bright, younger, really good people who have been elected" to the legislature, with whom he shares a yearly hike and lunch (he's 90; they're under 40!).

To learn more about Dan Evans' extraordinary life, read the state Senate resolution honoring the 50th anniversary of him becoming governor and the UW Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy and Governance biography, or simply do a web search on his name and be amazed!

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