As I look at the California political heavens in 2019, so many names and issues shine like stars as greatly influencing the politics of the day and setting foundation stones for our political future. As always with the annual Black Bart Award, I must add—for better or worse.
Proud California has its record to boast—booming economy, political advancements along the lines of what the ruling party calls “California values”—and its record of shame—homelessness and wildfires among them. Any of these issues are worthy of nomination for the Black Bart Award for 2019 but I choose to focus on people who had an impact on the political scene.
Considering the political direction of the state you can’t ignore the governor in any year. But, especially this year, newly installed governor Gavin Newsom has been a star sitting above the political landscape leading the ideological charge left and heading the fight against the Trump Administration. However, this choice is weighted down by the fact California politically was already headed in that direction and that the California resistance to Trump was already two years old and in high gear when Newsom was sworn in.
While Newsom may be a bright star there are others in the California firmament that also shined and it was noticeable that many were of the same gender. Toni Atkins lead the state senate; Mary Nichols continued her quest against climate change and greenhouse gases at the California Air Resources Board, in many instances in conflict with Washington, and Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, led a slew of California notables in the dramas playing out in Washington, D.C.
I centered my nomination consideration on two other women who had big impact on California news.
Particularly interesting was the work of California State Auditor Elaine Howle who runs an obscure state office with power to make waves. The auditor this past year issued a number of reports that grabbed the public’s attention.
From her charge that the University of California system kept hidden $1.5 billion in discretionary revenues while debates swirled around the need for more money for the university and increased student tuitions to a revealing study on the fiscal health of California’s 500 cities to a report that big school districts diverted money meant to educate poor and English-learner students that ended up filling budget holes to criticizing the emergency services response and preparation for California’s wildfires, Howle stirred the political pot.
We should not forget that as State Auditor her role dealing with the tricky job of finding qualified recruits for the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, a position fraught with potential controversy.
While Howle is a worthy nominee, in the end, I am settling on powerful and influential legislator, Lorena Gonzalez, as my nominee for the Black Bart Award for 2019.
Gonzalez symbolizes the strength of the labor movement under the state capitol dome. Of the 11 bills she authored that were signed by the governor this year, four dealt with California workers. She was author of perhaps the most debated and potential far-reaching measure on California workers and the state’s economy, when AB 5 dealing with worker classification and the gig-economy was signed into law.
While any casual reader of this page knows that I am no fan of AB 5 and that I believe AB 5 will disrupt an economy that is technologically based and leans toward entrepreneurship, there is no question that Assemblymember Gonzalez muscled this legislation through despite its flaws and critics and it will have a deep effect on the way California works.
For this reason, I nominate Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego as my Black Bart nominee for 2019.