Takeaways From Gavin Newsom’s State of the State

Takeaways From Gavin Newsom’s State of the State

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Credit…Pool photo by Rich Pedroncelli

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The first part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s second State of the State speech on Wednesday felt like clicking slowly to the top of a rise on a wooden roller coaster.

California does not just benefit from a churning national economy, he said, the Golden State drives it.

The state has averaged 3.8 percent G.D.P. growth over the past five years compared with 2.5 percent nationally, Mr. Newsom said. California can claim one in seven of all the new jobs created in the U.S. since 2010, and the state’s huge well of debt is gone, he said.

He dismissed the “boasts, bleats and tweets of Washington politicians,” and described California as “the rocket fuel powering America’s resurgence.”

Looming, however, was the inevitable drop.

For all the wealth and all the leadership the state shows in fighting climate change, Mr. Newsom said, California cannot ignore that it is also home to a housing crisis that has led to hundreds of thousands of people living on the streets or in their cars.

“Let’s call it what it is,” the governor said. “A disgrace.”

Mr. Newsom took the rare step of devoting almost all of his address to housing and homelessness. (He didn’t mention, for instance, high-speed rail or the slow-moving war over the future of PG&E, the state’s biggest utility.)

But Raphael Sonenshein, the executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles, told me he found that locking into one issue was an effective approach for Mr. Newsom, who’s been accused in the past of trying to do too much.

“It allowed him to use his detail skill and focus it,” Mr. Sonenshein said. “Whether the policies get carried out or not is something else.”

Here’s what else stood out in the speech:

Mr. Newsom wove in a history lesson about the roots of the housing crisis.

This included a direct acknowledgment of the role of racism in shaping the state as we know it.

Mr. Newsom noted that although black Californians are 8 percent of Los Angeles County’s population, they make up 42 percent of its homeless population, and he cited a poll that found almost half of Latinos are worried they or a family member could become homeless.

“Homelessness impacts everyone, but not equally,” he said.

The speech took place against the backdrop of a visit from the president and Mr. Newsom’s highest approval ratings to date.

According to the most recent poll from the Public Policy Institute of California, 53 percent of Californians approve of the governor’s performance, the highest of his tenure.

Mark Baldassare, the institute’s chief executive, said that may sound like a narrow margin, but that Mr. Newsom’s 75 percent support among Democrats suggests that he should be able to move ideas forward in the deep blue state, even as California spars with the Trump administration over homelessness.

Solving the housing crisis will still hinge on the ability of state leaders and local officials to agree.

Some of the steps Mr. Newsom laid out, like bringing emergency travel trailers to more counties and identifying almost 300 parcels of state land for potential housing, are things the state can do alone.

But other plans — like implementing “use it or lose it” rules for local governments’ homelessness money and pushing to build denser housing near transit — will almost certainly prove to be thornier.

Mr. Sonenshein said that while the governor last year specifically called out cities for not building enough affordable housing, this year there was more focus on counties, which are in charge of spending money for mental health care and some other homelessness services.

“The theme, for better or worse, is that the hand of the State of California is going to be more forceful in getting results,” he said. “Even though those results have to happen at the local level.”

You can read the full transcript of the speech with analysis and annotations from CapRadio here, and CalMatters here.


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President Trump continued his swing through the West on Wednesday. He started in Las Vegas, where, my colleagues reported, he complained about polls that showed several Democratic candidates closing in on him.

According to The Desert Sun, the president stopped in Rancho Mirage, where he was expected to raise millions at the estate of Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle. Recode reported that some Oracle employees planned to stop working on Thursday to protest the move.

He also took a step, which was immediately challenged by the state, toward giving Central Valley farmers more water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, according to The Bakersfield Californian.

  • “Everybody is in a state of shock.” Porterville mourned the loss of two firefighters in a blaze at the city library. Two 13-year-old boys were arrested and charged with manslaughter, arson and conspiracy. [The Fresno Bee]

  • The rising rapper Pop Smoke died after masked suspects broke into his rental home in Los Angeles early on Wednesday morning. [The New York Times]

  • A mother and daughter in Santa Rosa are stuck at home under a self-quarantine after returning home from a trip to visit family in China. Neither has shown any symptoms of the coronavirus, but they said the treatment they’ve endured — a neighbor called the police — is wearing on them. [The Mercury News]

  • The owner of the Angels, Arte Moreno, is “undecided” about overhauling the team’s 54-year-old Anaheim stadium or building a new one on the surrounding land. [The Orange County Register]

  • Leaders in San Francisco’s Chinatown are troubled by an emerging trend: Banquet hall restaurants, important gathering spaces for locals, are closing and they’re being replaced by upscale spots that cater to people from outside the neighborhood. [The San Francisco Chronicle]

  • Warm winters are messing with the sex lives of Central Valley nut trees. Farmers are trying to help them chill — literally. [NPR]

  • Glenn Yasuda, the early-rising co-founder of Berkeley Bowl, whose eye for produce made the market an internationally known destination, has died. He was 85. [Berkeleyside]


Ballots are out. But there’s a still a symbolic power in Election Day itself, March 3, Super Tuesday.

And California, the most populous state in the nation, finally — finally! — has a starring role in the presidential primary.

If you’re planning to vote or if you’ve already voted in the Democratic primary, we want to hear from you.

Email us at CAToday@nytimes.com with a paragraph about whom you’re voting for and what convinced you to vote that way. Did Wednesday’s debate sway you? Have you backed the same candidate from the beginning? Why?

If you’d like us to consider publishing your response, please also include your full name, age and where you live.


California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter, @jillcowan.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

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