The following is a transcript of an interview with Oregon Governor Kate Brown that aired on Sunday, July 4, 2021, on “Face the Nation.”
ED O’KEEFE: We want to move next to Oregon, which is starting to subside from record heat, but each day we’re learning more deaths are being linked to it. In Oregon alone, at least 95 people have died. Democratic Governor Kate Brown joins us from Portland with the latest this morning. Governor, climate scientists have long said events like this hot streak you just had are likely to be more frequent, more intense and last longer in the future. If that’s the case, how should residents in your state and across the Pacific Northwest be preparing for that? For example, if there’s somebody that doesn’t have an air conditioner, should they be going out and getting one right now?
GOV. KATE BROWN: Thank you, Ed, for having me this morning, delighted to have an opportunity to appear on the program. wWe have been working to prepare for climate change in this state for a number of years. What was unprecedented, of course, was the three days of record breaking heat, and it was horrific to see over 90 Oregonians lose their lives. And we have to continue with our preparedness work. That includes working with our health partners that provide healthcare to vulnerable Oregonians to make sure that they understand that there are resources available, for example, to buy an air conditioner if they have certain underlying health conditions. We worked really hard with our community partners, our county emergency management departments, to get the message out that the heat was going to be very, very strong. Over last weekend, they set up cooling centers, provided water to vulnerable Oregonians. Unfortunately, we still lost too many lives.
ED O’KEEFE: And–
GOV. BROWN: Absolutely unacceptable. Following events like this we always do reviews and see what we can do better next time.
ED O’KEEFE: And have you begun that review if you get any sense of what has to be done?
GOV. BROWN: Absolutely, we have. There’s no question- I think the concern, ED, is that this is a harbinger of things to come. We literally have had four emergency declarations in this state at the federal level since April of 2020. In Labor Day last year, we had horrific wildfires. They were historic. We lost over a million acres, over 4,000 homes and nine lives. And what is really, really clear, that just like we saw during the pandemic, throughout these emergency events are communities of color, our low income families are disproportionately impacted. And we have to center the voices of Black and brown and indigenous people at the forefront of our work as we do emergency preparedness.
ED O’KEEFE: I know this past week you met with the president virtually along with other Western governors, including Governor Cox, who we just spoke with to discuss the drought and heat waves in these changing climate patterns. What does Washington, what does the federal government need to be doing to help these Western states prepare for this new normal?
GOV. BROWN: That’s a really good question, and it was a question the president asked. In short, we need resources and we need boots on the ground. For example, we need financial resources to be able to purchase critical, essential equipment like aircraft to help us fight fire. We need to make sure that we have adequate boots on the ground. Senator Wyden has done a good job fighting for the state of Oregon to get us financial resources to be able to train our National Guardsmen and women ahead of time so they can support our firefighting efforts. But it also means that agencies like FEMA who do not aid our undocumented families, we need to make sure that that happens. So, for example, of the families that lost homes in southern Oregon last Labor Day fire, several hundred of them were undocumented. FEMA does not provide aid or assistance to these families. It is absolutely unacceptable. These families are so much a part of our communities. They’re the heart and soul of our culture and they are the backbone of our economy. They deserve the assistance and they need it.
ED O’KEEFE: I want to move you to one other issue that is of urgent importance there in Portland, where you are and in many other cities across the country. And that is the surge in gun violence, especially at a time when police agencies across the country are struggling to retain or hire new officers. You’re seeing that issue in Portland. How should police agencies across your state, across the country, deal with the surge in violence at a time when their ranks are depleted?
GOV BROWN: Well, there’s no question that the city of Portland, like many cities across the country, are hurting right now. The level of gun violence is absolutely unacceptable. We are continuing to move forward on legislation at the state level. Every Oregonian has the right to be free from gun violence in terms of our law enforcement community. We have had in this state and I think across the country a long overdue clarion call for racial justice. And what is really, really true is that our law enforcement system needs a culture change. And that’s the area that I am working on with my team–
ED O’KEEFE: Right.
GOV. BROWN: –and with new leadership at the agency that trains–
ED O’KEEFE: Ok.
GOV. BROWN: –and oversees the Oregon State Police and law enforcement–
ED O’KEEFE: Governor–
GOV. BROWN: –across the entire state.
ED O’KEEFE: Let’s have you back to talk about that again sometime soon. We appreciate the time today. Happy Independence Day to you, Governor Brown of Oregon, and we will be back in a moment.