As we review the reporting of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s progress in his first 100 days in charge of the Golden State, much of it focuses on his continuation of criticism of the White House, his attention grabbing authoritarian repeal of the death penalty and his headlines of international diplomacy to Central America.
Newsom’s theatrics make for great national television morning show content and social media click-bait. I think part of his motivation and political strategy is to divert valuable air away from Democratic presidential primary candidates, so that after the president wins reelection in 2020, Newsom is well-positioned for a 2024 run. Regardless of whether you agree with that theory or not, his first 100 days of showmanship has had virtually no positive impact in the lives of actual Californians.
Back in this state, millions of Californians are still struggling with incredibly high housing costs feeding a soaring cost of living, increased homelessness, teacher strikes, road congestion, fire security issues and mismanagement in the DMV, voter rolls, etc. This is not even to mention a drinking water tax and many proposed others, and undermining important education and criminal justice reforms.
Let’s look at some problem areas in particular and his progress so far starting with housing – likely the most important issue facing most Californians. Soaring costs of housing and rents is causing not only household budgets to feel the strain but is also driving jobs from the state as businesses flee to states where workers can afford housing. It is also a major factor in teachers and other public worker strikes since higher salaries are demanded to meet higher housing costs.
In his first 100 days our new governor has sued cities, penalized road construction and jawboned, but there has been no significant work on overhauling environmental rules like the California Environmental Quality Act.
Education – payback to political allies is the word here, with students and parents moved to the back of the class. Despite reams of research blaming restrictive work rules and last in/first out layoff policies for poor student performance, in his first 100 days Governor Newsom is doubling down on helping the teacher union establishment keep control while denying parents competitive choices and quality. Most new money has ended up in pensions and administrative costs and student aides are being axed as these costs soar. New rules freeze new charter schools and parents are up in arms about restrictions that are killing existing charter schools. This all occurs as the performance gap between wealthy and non-wealthy areas widens.
The California worker is cringing with no less than 15 new taxes that have been proposed in the Legislature, taking billions from their collective annual budgets and driving them out of the state while vastly increasing an already stratospheric cost of living. And despite the wettest winter in recent memory, most of the snowmelt and added rainfall will be lost due to a failure to build reservoirs.
The DMV and voter registration were issues that took the 2018 California campaign by storm, but other than more announcements of personnel changes, not much has been done in terms of material improvement as mistakes are made in license issuance and voter rolls. Nothing has been done on cleansing voter rolls or verifying ballot harvesting was done honestly; almost no effort to combat suspected voter fraud.
The governor’s tough talk regarding last year’s fires seem to be followed by a bailout for utilities that will drive up insurance costs or make insurance completely unavailable for many communities located near forests. The governor’s continuing political feud with federal authorities can only hurt.
And finally, one of the biggest crises in California today is the rampant homelessness that affects every city and town from north to south. Tent cities are growing and these “Newsom-villes” have become commonplace. The governor has only made problems worse with his obstinate support for free-needle giveaways and an addiction proliferation culture instead of prioritization of interdiction, sobriety and mental health care.
In sum, regardless of partisanship or where someone may have leaned pre-November 2018, there’s now growing consensus on both sides that Gov. Newsom’s first 100 days has been lackluster at best: Large on empty promises and national TV appearances, and short on substantive policy; a combination that should draw the ire of any serious observer or reporter of California politics.
John H. Cox is successful businessman who lives in San Diego, California. In 2018, he ran for California governor.