Gavin Newsom’s tenure as governor got off to a bit of a gloomy start.
The threat of storms forced inaugural proceedings into a tent. Protesters disrupted his oath of office. Finally – and most memorably – his 2-year-old son, Dutch, toddled onto the stage in the middle of the speech and simply stole the show.
The governor handled it with charm and wit, turning the unexpected visit to his advantage. California’s 40th governor will need to keep his wits about him in the months and years ahead.
Gov. Newsom spoke of California’s importance to the rest of the world. He cast the challenges facing our state as “moral imperatives” that must be addressed for the good of humanity. He highlighted poverty, pollution, private prisons and payday lenders as threats to the California dream. He promised to fight for better housing, criminal justice reform, abortion rights and “middle-class jobs.”
Eyes glistening with emotion, Newsom said: “In our home, working people deserve fair pay, the right to join a union, and the chance at a middle-class life for themselves and their families.”
He promised a “Marshall Plan for affordable housing” and pledged to “lift up the fight against homelessness from a local matter to a state-wide mission.”
Inauguration speeches are written to sound lofty and noble. Newsom’s did not disappoint: “The country is watching us. The world is waiting on us. The future depends on us. And we will seize this moment.”
He threw the requisite elbow at President Donald Trump, noting “corruption and incompetence in the White House” while pledging to represent “all Californians.”
Mainly, the governor preferred poetry to any sort of policy specifics.
No mention of how he’ll solve the state’s chronic battles over disputed water supplies. Even the rains pounding California this week won’t save his state from the court battles soon to rage on behalf of those living in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. No nod to the months spent trying to negotiate a deal – and partially succeeding – only to see those negotiations ignored by the State Water Board, a board that must be redirected.
The water war is but one Newsom must wage. Jerry Brown’s $14 billion budget surplus is a blessing, but Newsom’s speech made no mention of the cataclysmic pension obligations state and local governments are facing.
While we are cautiously optimistic that California just might be the place where single-payer healthcare insurance takes root, we’re still not convinced we can afford it.
Monday was all about aspirational and inspirational words. Today, the governing begins. Soon, he’ll have to present his budget, and details on how we will pay for all those wonderful programs he is promising. For instance:
▪ $1.7 billion for early childhood education. Newsom wants $750 million for universal kindergarten, or so says the Los Angeles Times.
▪ Free community college: Newsom will propose $40 million for a second free year of community college to California students, writes Politico.
▪ Extended parental leave: Newsom wants to give families six months of paid leave after the birth of a child, says the New York Times.
It’s interesting that so many of his big proposals were leaked to the national press. While he might dream of the governing along the Potomac, he’ll have to produce on the banks of the Sacramento to get there.