What is the governor of California’s top priority?
I don’t know. And I suspect that neither does he.
I wasn’t a fan of Jerry Brown’s very limited and budget-focused governorship. The state has let so many major problems fester that any smart successor was going to have a big and broad agenda, as Newsom does.
But even with a big agenda, there need to be priorities. And Newsom moves so fast over so much territory, it’s hard to see where he’s focusing.
Coming into office, it appeared that early childhood education and health topped the charts. Maybe they still do.
But then he shifted to his big push on housing, led by the state’s lawsuit against Huntington Beach.
But then his state of the state speech shifted the focus to high-speed rail for a while.
Big fights with Trump over immigration have been big topics. So has water. And then he pivoted to criminal justice, with the announcement of the death penalty moratorium.
Maybe there is political wisdom in this scattered approach. If the governor declares a top priority and then loses on it, it’s a big defeat. Maybe it’s better to have many things on the stove at once.
But there are costs to not prioritizing, both internally and externally. In the few glimpses the public has gotten inside his operation, there are signs of a lack of focus, and excessive speed and a lack of vetting (The best example of this is the confusion caused with his poorly considered words on high-speed rail in the state of the state speech).
Externally, Newsom is a hard story to follow. He’s all over the place. And so for all the noise the new governor is making, he runs the risk of not being understood.