WGA Annual Meeting Day 2: Frank Luntz exhorts Governors to bridge partisan gap, Western Governors’ Foundation relaunched, fentanyl crisis explored

Pollster Frank Luntz engaged both the Governors and the audience during his remarks.

Western Governors heard passionate advice from pollster Frank Luntz about how to bridge the country's partisan divide, witnessed the relaunch of the reconstituted Western Governors’ Foundation, and learned about the growing fentanyl crisis in Canada on Day Two of the 2019 Annual Meeting.

Twelve Western Governors are attending the three-day meeting in Vail, Colorado: WGA Chair David Ige (Hawai’i), WGA Vice Chair Doug Burgum (North Dakota), Jared Polis (Colorado), Lourdes Leon Guerrero (Guam), Brad Little (Idaho), Laura Kelly (Kansas), Steve Sisolak (Nevada), Michelle Lujan Grisham (New Mexico), Kate Brown (Oregon), Kristi Noem (South Dakota), Gary Herbert (Utah) and Mark Gordon (Wyoming).

Here's a look at the day's highlights.

Western Governors’ Foundation Kickoff

WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury announced the relaunch of the Western Governors’ Foundation. Ogsbury explained that the reimagined Foundation will leverage Western Governors’ influence to raise and deploy resources that collectively impact issues of regional importance. Former South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who will be on the Foundation’s Board of Directors, said the foundation “can become an arm of the association that even more effectively helps an association that’s already very effective.” Read more.

Keynote: Frank Luntz

The influential pollster, introduced by South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, delivered an impactful, often entertaining presentation on the partisan divide in our country and on the most effective language for the Governors to use in an attempt to better connect with their state's citizens. Highlights from the presentation:

  • Governors operate differently than Congressmen, Senators, and the President. Governors are seen as doing a job and solving issues.”
  • “If voters believe you are their voice, you will stay for eight years. If you don’t, I won’t see you again.”
  • “A ‘promise’ or ‘pledge’ is meant to be broken. A ‘commitment’ is your reputation on the line.”
  • “I go to your town halls, and you answer questions. You don’t ask questions. You need to spend 45 minutes learning from your citizens. It changes the dynamic of communication to people who feel ignored and forgotten."

Roundtable: Utilizing Data and Forecasting in Western Water Management

Idaho Gov. Brad Little moderated this roundtable, where panelists discussed practical applications of data collection and analysis in western water management, such as snowpack assessment and drought preparedness. Highlights of the session included.

Jay Jasperse, Sonoma Water: “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers mandate is to release water in a flood pool as quickly and efficiently as possible. But in the current era with more frequent droughts, it is better for the people to hold on to that water to get through the drought season. It is important to update those management actions to be more proactive by looking at the water in the sky and preparing to manage it when it hits the ground.”

Lynn Budd, Wyoming Office of Homeland Security: “We utilize the data that my cohorts here put together. We start our monitoring in October to see what we may have coming to us in the spring. In the winter and early spring, we have to watch flooding from snow jams and start our flood response planning ... We take the data collected in previous years where we know we’ve had flooding to look for specific flooding trends at certain times of the year.”

Forrest Melton, NASA Western Water Applications Office: “NASA is known for our advancement of technology to explore space, but we also use our technology to explore Earth and collect data on resources, especially water in the West ... We have to collect data and translate it into actionable information for public understanding.”

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sergeant Eric Boechler

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sergeant Eric Boechler, introduced by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis discussed the alarming increase in illicit fentanyl imports to Vancouver and some of the steps the RCMP is taking to stem the tide. Highlights included:

  • “A $12,000 investment in fentanyl results in about $20 milion in street sale value – no other drug has even close to the same profit ratio.”
  • “Fentanyl-associated deaths only tell part of the story:  it doesn’t reflect the number of overdoses, the cost of medical response, and the effects on the lives of users.”
  • “With the widespread use of fentanyl, police have really had to re-examine everything about drug response.  Officers are trained in naloxone simply to ensure that fentanyl exposure doesn’t result in police deaths – every officer carries at least two doses of naloxone.”

The 2019 Annual Meeting concludes on Wednesday. The final day begins at 9:15 a.m. with a keynote and case study on the creation and ongoing work of Western Governors University. The agenda also includes a keynote by U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, and a session with new Western Governors.

Read about Day 1 of the Meeting

Read about Day 3 of the Meeting

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