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By Jim Gonzalez, Special to CALmatters

Earthquakes, floods, mega-fires, a recession and other unforeseen events can disrupt the best-laid plans of any California governor. Potential disasters aside, Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom should hit the ground running. I respectfully recommend he consider at least these five policy initiatives:

  • Be the climate solutions governor.

Issue quarterly reports on California’s actions to combat climate change. This could include information about the progress toward achieving the goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.
Commit to building a stable and modern renewable electricity grid that would allow solar, wind, and geothermal energy to be moved seamlessly throughout the West and beyond.

And convene a special session of the Legislature to develop proactive solutions to prevent and respond to our state’s increasingly devastating mega-fires, which surely are driven in part by climate change.

  • Be the governor who confronts income inequality through early childhood education.

On the campaign trail, the governor-to-be promised to focus on preschool. Universal preschool is an economic winner.

Early childhood education ensures future academic success for children and greatly helps financially struggling student and working parents. Extensive research has shown that reducing income inequality correlates directly with public-private support for early childhood education.

Commit to doubling exports during the next four years. In 2017, California exported $171 billion to 229 other countries, the largest being Mexico, Canada, China, and Japan, plus Hong Kong. One way a governor can help is by expanding the Export Assistance program in the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.

The governor should reopen trade offices in Mexico and Latin America, and produce quarterly reports of export opportunities for California business and agriculture.

Exports help employment. In 2016, over 680,000 California jobs are already linked to exports. By 2023, California could have 2 million export-oriented jobs.

Start by studying the California State Plan on Aging 2017-2021, prepared by the Department of Aging; it outlined the challenges facing our aging population.

Prioritize meeting the needs of the 19 percent of Californians who are over 60. That percentage will grow to 25 percent by 2050. Many seniors will face the harsh realities of retirement without sufficient funds, healthcare and insufficient care and support. The new governor should call upon California’s technological and medical research companies to be innovative and create new ways to provide efficient senior care while enabling more in-home personal care.

  • Be the governor who reaffirms our social justice values.

Announce a moratorium on executions, and initiate a process of commuting death sentences to life imprisonment for the 743 men and women on Death Row, over 60 percent of whom are persons of color.

On the human rights side, demand inspections for abuse violations at the 120 Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers operated in California, including ones run by for-profit operators.

Support the creation of a database registry of detained asylum applicants and their children, so that the Trump Administration’s travesty of parent and child separations cannot be repeated.

Gavin Newsom will enter office in January with an impressive record that includes early support of and bold actions on marriage equality, drug reform, healthcare and gun control. He may not be able to control when disasters strike. But those events notwithstanding, he will enter office with a huge opportunity to do great things for our state.


Jim Gonzalez is a former San Francisco supervisor whose strategy and public policy firm has managed various successful statewide ballot propositions, [email protected]. He wrote this commentary for CALMatters.