Gavin Gives Sacramento What It Wants

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

In his state of the state speech, Gov. Newsom gave Sacramento exactly what it wants: focus. 

And still, the capital elites criticize him.

Newsom, after being widely criticized for a lack of focus, focused his speech on homelessness. Of course, homelessness connects to other problems, like housing and jobs and healthcare, so he got into those topics a little.

Did leading journalists and wise folks give him much credit for this speech? No. Some wondered why he broke tradition.

Let me offer a rule: a governor who is popular in Sacramento isn’t a good governor.

Sacramento revered Gov. Jerry Brown, in his second tenure, because he didn’t make many mistakes. And he didn’t make many mistakes because he didn’t do much. Sacramento really likes governors who don’t do much—because things are easier for them. Less work, less lobbying, less conflict. 

The fact that Brown left office with crises of housing, homelessness, and energy didn’t stop Sacramento from toasting his tenure as some kind of success. 

Newsom is getting hammered for moving on multiple fronts on these crises—and on early childhood education and other issues neglected by Brown. For this, he’s accused of fomenting chaos. 

Don’t bother giving into the conventional wisdom, governor. Keep Sacramento complaining.

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