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Saturday, February 23 , 2019, 1:31 pm | Fair 36º


San Francisco Mayor Makes His Points in Santa Barbara

Gavin Newsom talks health care, education and energy while promoting his campaign for governor

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom stopped in Santa Barbara on Friday evening to host one of a series of town hall meetings the declared candidate for governor is holding throughout California.

Before an enthusiastic crowd at the Veterans Memorial Building, 112 W. Cabrillo Blvd., the Democrat discussed health care, education and green technology. He reviewed his track record on those matters back in San Francisco, asked the audience for its input, and invited everyone to join him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

“Today we have an estimate of anywhere from 6.5 (million) to 7.2 million people who have no basic health care — more than any other state in the nation,” he said as he promoted his vision for universal health care. “I don’t think it can be done; I know it can be done.”

In 2006, Newsom negotiated a universal health-care package for uninsured San Francisco residents that, he said, is based on universal access to health care, not insurance, and with an eye toward promoting good health as opposed to treating sickness. An estimated 73,000 residents are eligible for the Healthy San Francisco program administered by the city’s Department of Public Health.

Newsom, 41, also discussed his stance on education, calling it the most important issue in the country.

“It transcends all our issues,” he said. “You cannot have an economic development strategy or a recovery strategy unless you have a workforce development strategy.”

He touched on the notion of training newly laid-off workers in new technologies, the rising cost of higher education, reduced UC enrollments as a result of state budget pressures, and $8.2 million in other education spending cuts to help balance California’s budget.

“Human capital is the most precious resource, in my perspective, that the state of California enjoys,” he said. “Yet we’re losing our ability to train and recruit and invest in people.”

One of the things San Francisco has done, Newsom said, is to commit to funding K-12 arts education. Additionally, in a program that encompasses both health care and education, wellness centers have been established at schools to monitor both the physical and mental health needs of adolescents.

Furthermore, he emphasized the need for early childhood education.

“Look, if you want to get serious about truancy, get serious about dropouts, get serious about graduation rates, get serious about the achievement gap for African-Americans and Latinos, you’ve got to focus on getting our kids prepared for kindergarten,” he said. San Francisco, said Newsom, is the only city in the state that has a fully funded universal preschool.

On the issue of energy and the environment, Newsom said the next 15-20 years are crucial for policymakers.

Later in the town hall session, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, right, discussed mental health services with Roger Thompson of the Consumer Advocacy Coalition, left.
Later in the town hall session, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, right, discussed mental health services with Roger Thompson of the Consumer Advocacy Coalition, left. (Robert Bernstein photo)

“We’ve got to reduce our CO2 emissions 80 percent by 2050,” he said. However, it is possible to meet and even exceed state-mandated green standards, said Newsom, adding that “the bar is extraordinarily low.”

San Francisco aspires to a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2012, said Newsom, who touted his city’s “aggressive” green building standards and alternative fuel strategies, and its 70 percent recycling rate.

His “dream and vision,” he said, would be to shut down all of California’s offshore drilling.

“I don’t care if gas is $35,” said Newsom. “I don’t believe in it principally because I believe in the technologies and the innovation, and I believe in the imperative to shift our industrial economy to a more green, more sustainable economy.” Energy projects in the Bay Area include a wave platform and a tidal project, he said.

Outside of his big three, Newsom also discussed the notion of indexing the minimum wage for inflation, and asserted that California should support employers who provide a living wage as much as possible.

“If we’re going to use our taxpayer dollars, we want to make sure you’re providing adequate resources to your employees, because otherwise, we’re going to be providing dollars on the front end and again on the back end,” he said, referring to state-sponsored services for those who cannot support themselves on their wages.

Newsom also touched on the need he saw for an overhaul of the governance system, to change the way money is acquired and spent by government.

“You can change the Constitution in the state of California to strip rights away from a protected class with 50 percent of the vote plus one but it takes two-thirds to pass a budget,” he said. “How perverse is that?”

Newsom also called for a new economic stimulus strategy, especially in light of California’s bond rating, now the lowest of any state. California’s general-obligation bond rating was lowered Thursday to A from Standard & Poor’s and Fitch and A2 from Moody’s — just days before the state is to re-enter the market to sell $4 billion in bonds in an attempt to restart construction projects that were halted in December during the budget crisis.

Focusing on local issues like mental health services, Newsom talked about the May 19 special election in which voters will decide on the suspension of funds from Proposition 63 to help balance the state budget. Prop. 10 funds, which go to early education, also stand to be suspended.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom also used his time to outline economic initiatives, such as the promotion of a living wage and adjusting the state minimum wage for inflation.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom also used his time to outline economic initiatives, such as the promotion of a living wage and adjusting the state minimum wage for inflation. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

“I wish I had a quick answer for you what we’re going to do about it,” he said in reply to a question posed by Roger Thompson, head of the Consumer Advocacy Coalition. A strategy, he said, might be to rely on more faith-based or community-based organizations as California weathers its latest budget storm.

The election to succeed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is more than a year away, but already the race is in full swing. In addition to Newsom, among those in the mix for Democrats are state Attorney General and former Gov. Jerry Brown, Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, state Superintendent of Public Instruction and former Santa Barbara Assemblyman Jack O’Connell and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is also considered to be weighing a run. On the Republican side are former Rep. Tom Campbell, state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman.

Click here for additional California political coverage and commentary from calbuzz.

Click here for additional photo coverage of the Newsom town hall session from Robert Bernstein.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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