Gov.-elect John Kitzhaber
went on the offensive today, addressing head-on questions about whether he will devote sufficient attention to the economy and private-sector job growth.
After Kitzhaber's post-election press conference last week, media coverage of his remarks focused on his interest in protecting the environment, even though Kitzhaber specifically stated jobs would be his top priority when he takes office in January.
Today, Kitzhaber got straight to the point at his second press conference since winning office. "I want to state loudly and clearly that Oregon is open for business," he said.
Kitzhaber also introduced Port of Portland public affairs director Tom Imeson,
the man who will help guide his transition—although Kitzhaber took pains to note he will direct the transition himself and that Imeson will merely assist with implementation. Kitzhaber laid out three prongs
of his economic development plan: helping to grow existing businesses and attract new ones to Oregon; putting Oregonians back to work; and workforce development.
One bit of evidence that Kitzhaber 2.0 might be a different governor from the man who in 2000 floated the idea of tearing out the Snake River dams was the position he staked out on the Columbia River Crossing bridge project today.
"I want to emphasize my ongoing commitment to the CRC project," Kitzhaber said. In a trip to Washington, D.C., later this month, Kitzhaber plans to ask for two things. He will lobby President Barack Obama for continued timber payments for rural counties, and he plans to lobby Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for CRC funding.
He also said he'd already spoken to U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) and Washington officials including Gov. Chris Gregoire and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray about moving the project forward. (It's worth noting that Kitzhaber's campaign manager, Patricia McCaig, lobbied for the CRC and trade union groups, including the Oregon AFL-CIO and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, supported Kitzhaber strongly.)
After health care, Kitzhaber's second largest focus as governor was salmon and the environment. He says his support for the CRC does not conflict with that emphasis.
"We want to make sure the bridge is the right size and the right cost," he says. "[But] I don't think it [the CRC] excludes strong environmental stewardship."