Opinion: ‘There will be a time very soon when courage, faith, common sense and a broader lens will be required of our leaders’

Editor Ken Vance shares his thoughts on President Donald Trump’s three-phased plan to reopen the American economy and how it might play out in the state of Washington

There’s a storm brewing in our country and it just might touch down as violently in Washington as it will in any other state in the nation.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump announced a plan, created with the help of his task force consisting of many advisors and health and science officials, to reopen the American economy after the near-total shutdown. The plan consists of three graduated phases and Trump said many states could begin implementing it as early as today.

Washington, as we know, has been among the hardest-hit states by the coronavirus pandemic in the country. So, we know our state is not one of those Trump was referring to that could be ready to begin the graduated reopening process as early as today. We’ve likely still got some work to do to safely ensure the COVID-19 numbers won’t trend back in the wrong direction.

From the beginning of this pandemic, I’ve left the science and the tracking of the numbers in the hands of those with far more expertise than myself. I have even been supportive of the preventive measures put in place by Gov. Jay Inslee, an elected official I find myself rarely in agreement with. I should note that I did disagree with Inslee’s decision to make Washington one of just two states in the country to deem residential and commercial construction as non-essential.

We all know Inslee and Trump are not from the same corner of the ideological jungle. I think there’s also evidence they just plain don’t like each other. And now, the president and his task force are working diligently on a plan to reopen the country and Inslee seems to be doubling down on his reluctance to do so in our state.

“Even under the president’s guidelines, we would not be eligible to start reopening our economy even today,” Inslee said Thursday. “We are not to the first gate, even under their guidelines, which is to have a downward turn in your infections for 14 days.”

Last week, about 585,000 workers in the state of Washington filed for unemployment. There are now 22 million workers in the United States who have now filed for unemployment. My own son was finally furloughed from his job at the end of last week and the unemployment division in his state (Nevada) is so overloaded he still hasn’t been able to get the system to accept his online application. 

There is ample evidence citizens in this country want to get back to work. Tea-party like protests have broken out across the country, including here in our state.

Inslee is correct when he said Thursday that Washington is not ready to enter Trump’s three-phase plan to reopen the economy. So, that doesn’t upset me. However, I think there is a fast-approaching date when our governor could put us on that path and I’m very concerned that he will be very slow to do that.

That sentiment is shared by Rep. Vicki Kraft (R-Vancouver, 17th District), who took to Facebook Thursday evening to share her thoughts on the subject.

Rep. Vicki Kraft, R-17

“I’ve been talking this week with legislative leaders, hospital leaders, business leaders, and today with the Governor’s office,’’ Kraft wrote. “I agree certainly that public safety is a top priority. However, the Governor has been dragging his feet on getting any real business strategy together to prepare for re-opening. Tomorrow is the first meeting he’s had formally with legislators to discuss this critical issue.

“Small businesses which are the backbone of our economy and provide jobs are slowly dying before our eyes,’’ Kraft added. “Unemployment numbers have skyrocketed. Government money can only go so far to prop up the WA and American economy and people. We are watching the house burn and it’s time to put the fire out. We must put a real strategy together to re-open businesses now wherever possible to do it safely. I’m starting to have more of these conversations with legislators. Many are frustrated, and constituents even more so. Meanwhile the Governor continues to drag his feet and hint at the possibility of extending stay at home orders past May 4th.’’

Kraft, never shy about taking a stand, completed her thoughts by stating, “I was not elected to this office to sit by and watch the house burn down. The time to act is now!’’

I couldn’t agree with Kraft more. Again, I praise Inslee for many of his decisions to this point. But, I fear for what lies ahead in our state. There will be a time very soon when courage, faith, common sense and a broader lens will be required of our leaders. I’m not confident our governor is blessed with enough of those traits to make the decisions that will need to be made.