Governors develop strategies for key Western issues

The Olympian

HENDERSON, Nev. -- Governors of Western states pledged Friday to work together on common goals of adequate energy supplies, tourism, economic and job development, education, healthy forests and enhanced homeland security.
The Western Governors' Association's "strategic plan" for 2003 adopted at the end of a two-day session placed heavy emphasis on anti-terrorism efforts -- with the chief executives of several states saying that shouldn't scare off tourists who bolster their states' economies.

"If we don't have good homeland defense, that's not going to encourage people to come here," said Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn, whose state depends heavily on tourism. The Sept. 11 attacks resulted in a big drop-off in visitors, especially high-rolling gamblers from Europe, Asia and South America.

"It would scare them away if something came out and said 'Nevada doesn't care. It's not going to do anything.' We have to show that we're prepared with first-line responders," Guinn said. "That's what people want to hear."

"I think people will travel where they feel they are safe," said Montana Gov. Judy Martz, chairwoman of the association. "I think they'll come if they do know we have a (homeland security) plan."

South Dakota Gov.-elect Mike Rounds said tourism in his state suffered after Sept. 11, but not as badly as some areas because people unwilling to travel by plane drove to sites such as Mount Rushmore.

In discussing the forest health issue, the governors agreed to hold a summit next summer on ways to cut risks of wildfires.

On energy policies, they said rolling blackouts and huge power price increases two years ago were "a wake-up call for the West" to shape its energy future.

Discussing job development and education, the governors said they want to work with universities, private firms and educators to improve online, distance-learning courses. That includes enhancements in the online Western Governors University.

On homeland security, the governors plan to work with the Patient Safety Institute, a nonprofit entity, to develop a health information network that will help doctors and hospitals provide better care, reduce medical errors and respond to outbreaks of disease rapidly.

In a Thursday session that focused solely on homeland security, Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns led a chorus of calls for cooperation and openness in the move to guard against terrorism, saying a "silo mentality" won't work.

Johanns also said that despite some organizational hassles, the post-Sept. 11 security improvements that already have been made around the country can't be played down and amount to "a front-page story."

On the Web

Western Governors' Association:

Gov. Gary Locke:


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