15/30 INTERVIEW – GOVERNOR GREGOIRE
Governor Christine Gregoire was a welcome guest at Columbia Tower in November 2007, when the MLS held the press conference that made official the award of an MLS franchise to Seattle. With two daughters who are devoted to the beautiful game, she proudly described herself as a “soccer mom.”
With less than two weeks to go until the kick off of Seattle’s MLS odyssey, Prost Amerika interviewed the Governor to get her views on soccer, stimulus packages and her staunch belief in Washington State’s tourist industry.
PROST AMERIKA: You were at the official announcement of the awarding of the MLS franchise to Seattle, where you described yourself as a proud soccer mum. Tell us more please about your love for and interest in the game.
GOVERNOR GREGOIRE: I couldnâ€™t be more pleased that Seattle drew a major league soccer franchise. My daughter, Michelle, grew up playing soccer. My interest and respect of the sport increased when she played soccer while attending Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. Soccer players show immense endurance, agility and speed, and work effectively as a team.
PROST AMERIKA: What does the arrival of MLS mean to the city and the state?
GOVERNOR GREGOIRE: By bringing the worldâ€™s most watched sport here, we are putting Seattle and Washington in the spotlight for the world to see what we all already know. The great state of Washington offers an array of unique attractions and natural beauty. Our hope is that those who come from out of town to see a MLS game will return over and over again, and spend money here to stimulate the economy. It also means people will be spending money at restaurants, at gift stores, etc which keeps people employed and rolls money into our economy.
PROST AMERIKA: Have you had time to follow the build-up to the start of the season?
GOVERNOR GREGOIRE: With the legislative session under way, Iâ€™ve been pretty busy. Iâ€™ve tried to follow the build-up as much as possible, and I am very excited to see our local player, Kasey Keller from Lacey, play as goalie.
PROST AMERIKA: In what ways has the incredible buzz in Seattle touched you?
GOVERNOR GREGOIRE: Soccer brings families, friends and neighbors together. It is such fun to share the sport with other excited and loyal fans. You canâ€™t beat the Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole!
PROST AMERIKA: Many people might not know how you saved Youth Soccer in 2005 with the refereeing bill. What do you recall of the issue and working with the Washington State Youth Soccer Association?
GOVERNOR GREGOIRE: I was able to meet with many soccer friendly constituents and got first hand knowledge of the issue. It is very important to be able to maintain what youth activities we have in Washington. I was proud to be able to help in keeping this great sport accessible to our youth.
PROST AMERIKA: Will you be at the opening match on March 19th?
GOVERNOR GREGOIRE: Absolutely! My husband, Mike and I have season tickets.
PROST AMERIKA: Do you think thereâ€™s a difference in the way the two genders either watch, or play, the game?
GOVERNOR GREGOIRE: I donâ€™t think there is a difference in how people watch and play the sport. All players are fast, smart and agile. It is fun and I appreciate watching everyone play the game.
PROST AMERIKA: You are widely recognised and appreciated in the tourist industry as being the first Governor to really put the weight of your office behind the State tourist industry. Can you explain why you think tourism is so important to our stateâ€™s economy?
GOVERNOR GREGOIRE: In 2008, visitors to Washington spent $15.7 billion (up from $14.8 billion in 2007) and generated over $1 billion in tax revenue (up from $975 million in 2007). Additionally, travel spending in Washington supported nearly 150,000 jobs last year, or 3.8 percent of all jobs in the state. Clearly, the travel industry is one of Washington’s economic drivers and, in fact, can play an important role in our state’s economic turnaround.
PROST AMERIKA: Why should people vacation here?
GOVERNOR GREGOIRE: Washington offers travelers a chance to enjoy many different kinds of experiences – all without leaving the state – and at a time when people are looking to stretch their travel dollars even further, that’s a very important distinction. In Washington, you can kayak with orca whales or float down a scenic river, have lunch at a restaurant where your salad was picked from the garden that morning, visit a world-class museum, hear the newest local music and even take a walk through the rainforest that gave birth to the story of the Twilight vampires – all of that without hopping on an airplane. I invite you to visit our traveler website at www.experiencewa.com to find further inspiration for your readers’ next visit to our great state.
PROST AMERIKA: There is obviously some competition, dare I say tension, between the more cosmopolitan interests of the city of Seattle and the competing interests of the broader bulk of the state. How do you see these being resolved and what progress do you think the new Tourist Commission has made in that regard?
GOVERNOR GREGOIRE: The relationship between Washington’s largest city and its smaller cities and regions, in terms of travel promotion, is very cooperative. The Washington State Tourism Commission has a great partnership with the Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau and the state works closely with the bureau and the Port of Seattle to market our entire state to overseas travelers, who have long been active in promoting Seattle as a gateway to many of Washington’s other treasures, such as the San Juan Islands, Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens and our burgeoning wine country. In fact, the Tourism Commission is comprised of representatives from across Washington, and a main area of focus for them has been to be sure they are reaching to all corners of the state in their efforts.
PROST AMERIKA: The Winter Olympics are coming to Vancouver in 2010. What opportunities does this present Washington State?
GOVERNOR GREGOIRE: Washington is excited that the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games will be held so close by, and that our neighbor to the north, British Columbia, will be the host of this world-class event. We plan to support B.C. in their work to make sure that this is a successful, enjoyable event. We see much of the benefit from our proximity to the 2010 Games coming in the years following the Games. Millions of people around the globe will be exposed to the Pacific Northwest when they watch the 2010 Games on television or online and we want to make sure they know that no trip to see the site of the Games is complete without a stop in Washington, the true Northwest.
PROST AMERIKA: Would you like to see us doing something special to lure both escaping Vancouverites and the influx of foreign tourists over the border during the Olympics?
GOVERNOR GREGOIRE: Washington looks forward to welcoming any escaping Vancouverites who wish to “flee BC” during the 2010 Olympic Games, as well as those 2010 Games attendees who may wish to broaden their experience and would like a break from the action for a few hours or a few days. As I mentioned earlier, Washington is ideal for experiencing a wide range of activities and anyone coming south across the border during the 2010 Games would have any number of experiences available to them.
PROST AMERIKA: What should Washington residents hope for from President Obama’s economic stimulus package?
GOVERNOR GREGOIRE: Washington residents can expect much needed funding that will support and create jobs, and get money flowing through our economy again. This federal funding will help pay for critical road improvements and infrastructure that will put thousands of people to work, as well as off-set some cuts to basic education and health care.
PROST AMERIKA: President Obama has been in office for a month now. What is your opinion on his performance so far?
GOVERNOR GREGOIRE: President Obama has shown true and inspiring leadership in his first month in office. He has restored important funding to help provide health insurance to our most needy children, heâ€™s created a stimulus package that will put people back to work, and heâ€™s created a tough, but responsible budget to lead our country into the next decade. Heâ€™s proven that he can make tough decisions, while under immense scrutiny.
PROST AMERIKA: What are the main challenges facing you in your gubernatorial term?
GOVERNOR GREGOIRE: The budget is the toughest challenge this legislative session. With an expected $8 billion dollar deficit in the next biennium, weâ€™ve had to propose tough cuts to health care and education. I have said many times, I hate my budget. I had to make some extremely difficult decisions. And as the economy continues to decline, weâ€™ll have to make even more difficult cuts down the road. But I am certain we will come out of this economy stronger.
PROST AMERIKA: Last question, is the Official Policy of the State of Washington that the game is called football or soccer?
GOVERNOR GREGOIRE: I donâ€™t believe Washington has an official policy regarding the game. Both work just fine. However, I was a soccer mom when my girls played.