Press Talk: The guv's big decision on ...

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian editor


photoLou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor.

Lou asks Gov. Inslee about oil terminal

I’m marking Gov. Jay Inslee down as a “no.”

But hold on, before I tell you what that “no” is all about, let me start from the beginning:

Not everyone — including me — was sold on this guy when he became governor 18 months ago. The state economy was still a big mess, and the government needed to tighten its belt. A left-leaning Democrat did not feel like someone who could do that.

Yet today, Inslee appears to have found his sweet spot in the governor gig thing.

Not too soft, not too hard, not too slick, not too rough.

He has navigated his way through a contentious state legislative session. He has his head screwed on straight and his feet on the ground.

Inslee was in town Thursday and visited The Columbian’s editorial board. He chatted with us for about an hour, and I found him very engaging.

Inslee is well-versed on a lot of topics, but I was particularly interested in his view on the proposed oil terminal down at the port.

Our friendly port commissioners have approved the controversial project. That sent a whole bunch of Vancouver residents into full rage mode. It also sent the Vancouver City Council into “What were you thinking?” mode. So the council slapped the port upside the head.

Unfortunately, the port trumps the city in this particular battle. But folks, don’t lose all hope just yet.

The entire mess still has to go to some bureaucratic agency that will make a recommendation to — you guessed it — our governor.

Now, barring some high-priced attorneys getting involved to muck up the entire process, the governor is the end game here.

And that brings us back to the beginning of this column. If I were a betting man, I’d bet (dramatic pause required here) Inslee will say no to the oil terminal.

Let me be clear — very clear — the governor said no such thing on Thursday. In fact, he went out of his way to say he really can’t have an opinion on it. Not until he receives that bureaucratic agency’s recommendation and he ponders the entire meaning of life.

Oh, we tried to get him to say how he was feeling. How he might be leaning. But he really didn’t budge … much.

Heck, I even tried the suspended-animation thing. Listen for yourself:

Me:“Suspend yourself for a second from being governor, and you’re living here in Vancouver and you know the topic, now you’re a resident, you’re not the governor … what do you think about this thing?”

Inslee:“That sounds like the kind of question Woodward and Bernstein would ask during Watergate. Tap three times … This is very inhibiting to be governor, because I literally cannot answer those kinds of questions even though they’re artfully and eloquently placed.

“I can tell you that I’m a governor who I think has a deep interest in this topic for a lot of different reasons and am going to be very heavily invested in understanding the full ramifications of this decision … and I know there are very passionate feelings about this subject for a lot of different reasons and we will make the right decision at the right time.

“And I think if people know my history on dealing with some of these issues they’ll think ‘We’ve got a governor who is going to be attentive.’ ”

What? You didn’t see the “no” in there? I guess you’ll have to take my word for it.

Or you’ll have to wait for the official “no” sometime in 2015.