George Boardman: I’ve seen enough with Newsom
Backers of the effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newson have until Wednesday to file the signatures necessary to force a special election later this year. While it will be a while before we know for sure, it is time for Newsom to go.
People signing the recall petition profess to object to Newsom’s tolerance of illegal immigrants, sidelining the death penalty, efforts to repeal Proposition 13, increased taxes, and restriction of parental rights.
None of these are burning issues outside the state’s conservative strongholds, but opponents of the governor have been aided by Newsom’s clueless handling of the pandemic, the state’s inability to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine, and his too-late effort to reopen our schools. Then there’s his recent fine dining experience.
All of these are legitimate concerns, but I’m inclined to return the governor to the private sector because he has failed to carry out the most fundamental responsibilities of his job: Address the major issues facing the state while delivering basic services to California’s residents. It’s my view that Newsom is an example of Laurence J. Peter’s observation that people are promoted to their level of incompetence.
I didn’t come to this position easily. I’m in synch with Newsom on many of his social positions, but having a “D” after your name doesn’t get my unconditional support. That’s not enough when you are governor of the most populous state in the nation and the world’s fifth-largest economy.
Instead of focusing on the nuts and bolts of running a state as complex as most countries, Newsom prefers the big picture, big issues approach. That’s fine if you’re a senator, congressman or state legislator, where you don’t have these responsibilities. But you betray the people who elected you when getting a new driver’s license or collecting unemployment insurance becomes a graduate course in bureaucratic incompetence.
Newsom inherited many of the problems he has to deal with, but he has done little to make them better. Despite a budget that dwarfs the spending of many countries, California is 21st in the nation when it comes to spending per public school student and 37th in K-12 education outcomes.
California is the most expensive place in the U.S. primarily because of housing. The state has four of the nation’s five most expensive housing markets and is tied with Oregon for third place when it comes to the per capita homeless rate. Newsom said in 2018 he would attack both issues by building 3.5 million housing units by 2023. The state has built fewer than 100,000 homes each year since then.
Newsom inherited the Real ID driver’s license debacle from the Brown administration, and promised new leadership and major changes in how the department people love to hate does business. The state got a reprieve when the federal government pushed back the deadline for Real ID, but you would be wrong if you think things are much better three years into the Newsom administration.
The registration for one of our cars expired Dec. 3. When DMV wouldn’t let me renew online, I mailed the paperwork and our check on Oct. 31. DMV cashed the check Nov. 9. The new registration arrived Feb. 1, three months after I mailed the paperwork and two months after the registration expired. This happened during a time when DMV didn’t have all of those annoying people in its offices to slow it down.
That may be a minor annoyance compared to what the future may hold. It turns out hackers penetrated the computers of Automatic Funds Transfer Systems, a Seattle firm that handles DMV’s billing and statement processing. The hack may have exposed 38 million DMV records containing names, addresses, license plate numbers, and vehicle identification numbers. Don’t be surprised if you start getting strange letters about vehicles you own.
But when it comes to the Newsom administration’s ineptitude, nothing tops the current meltdown occurring at the state Employment Development Department. At a time when unemployment rivals the Great Depression, millions of Californians are experiencing major delays in receiving benefits, others may have to pay back benefits they may not be entitled to, and then there’s outright fraud.
State Labor Secretary Julie Su reports that at least 10% of $114 billion in benefits paid out has been confirmed stolen by scammers, and another 17% — more than $19 billion — has been flagged as suspicious. That just means more pain for innocent victims.
EDD froze 1.4 million unemployment accounts in late December to guard against fraud, a move that has put many legitimate claimants in no-man’s land with no money coming in. This was after no suspicions were raised when hundreds of claims went to the same address or when Dianne Feinstein supposedly filed for unemployment.
EDD’s failure to install guardrails needed to minimize fraud goes back to the meltdown following the real estate bust in 2008, shortcomings that were detailed in a damning audit. The lieutenant governor when that audit was done was Gavin Newsom.
He has developed the unique ability to choose the path that leads to a cliff instead of the open road. After botching distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, Newsom gave the job to Blue Shield. Now, several counties don’t want to deal with Blue Shield. Less than 24 hours after announcing his plan to direct 40% of the vaccine to the poorest ZIP codes, he changed it after the Bay Area cried foul. It never seems to end.
Newsom is pushing to make all new cars electric by 2035 in a state that can’t generate all of the electricity it needs now. He talks about building the future but has done little to reduce the state’s $70 billion in deferred maintenance. Then there’s the state’s $1.1 trillion unfunded pension liability, which will slowly strangle services while increasing taxes.
Not all of this is Newsom’s fault, but the buck stops at the governor’s office. Newsom’s supporters will make the argument that the recall is pure politics — Democratic Party Chairman Rusty Hicks called it the “California coup” — and will no doubt drag Donald Trump into this.
Recall proponents face significant obstacles in recalling Newsom: They have no charismatic candidate like Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Democrats are more firmly entrenched in the state than when Gray Davis was recalled in 2003. Newsom’s foes should pray that a strong Bernie Sanders-type progressive ignores the senator’s endorsement and enters the recall free-for-all, splitting the liberal vote and paving the way to a conservative victory.
But whether Newsom faces the voters this year or in November 2022, it is time for him to go. The governor has proved that he is ill-suited to do the job he holds. Like every other incompetent CEO, he should be given the opportunity to spend more time with his family.
George Boardman lives in Nevada City. His column is published biweekly on Tuesdays by The Union. Write him at email@example.com.
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I was a Republican for decades. The party chased me out with ideology that was good for the Republican Party but very bad for our country.