THE RACE IS ON
‘Game Changers’: Gubernatorial candidates talk jobs and housing
MOUNTAIN VIEW » Three of the top Democratic candidates running for California governor in 2018 gathered with business leaders Thursday to discuss how they would boost the state’s economy.
The three contenders — former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, California state Treasurer John Chiang and former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin — answered questions about transportation, traffic, homelessness, housing and education.
Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, the party’s presumed front-runner, didn’t attend the panel discussion, hosted by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, because of another commitment.
Asked to share one idea — and it could only be one — for growing jobs in the Golden State and strengthening its economy, Villaraigosa said “we’ve got to educate our kids and invest in human capital” — an idea shared by Eastin. But that sparked disagreement from others on the panel.
While education could help grow jobs in the future, it won’t transform the
economy in the short term, said Raul Vazquez, CEO of Oportun. What concerns Vazquez most is the exorbitant cost of living in California which he said is driving away talented employees.
Luminix CEO Geetha Vallabhaneni agreed, saying there are more basic needs before education — including putting a roof over people’s heads.
Villaraigosa defended his answer by saying “obviously, we need to feed people,” but that California’s economy isn’t growing evenly. While some areas flourish, other parts of the state face staggering unemployment rates and incredible poverty.
Villaraigosa supports new technology disrupting the status- quo and creating new jobs, but warned against leaving behind workers who aren’t trained for it. An example is ridesharing companies that spurred countless new jobs but squeezed out the traditional taxi industry.
“When people are out of a job, we saw what happened in the last election — you get radicalized,” Villaraigosa said. “I want to work with tech to train people for the jobs of the 21st century.”
Chiang said he’d boost the economy by cutting through governmental red tape to make it more attractive for companies to build here.
One way to do that, Chiang said, is to cut down on multiple applications and to get rid of unnecessary fees. “I’m already doing it in the treasurer’s office,” Chiang added.
Similar to Villaraigosa, Eastin said her plan to increase economic competitiveness is focused on ed- ucation. “We are the only first- world country that doesn’t have universal preschool and we are not focusing enough on early childhood development,” Eastin said.
With California staking a reputation as one of the most unaffordable places in the country, the gubernatorial candidates were asked about tackling the housing crisis.
Villaraigosa said the state has a “broken regulatory framework.” In Los Angeles, for example, a developer needed to go to a dozen departments to get a permit — the former mayor said he reduced that to one. He supports streamlining processes and creating a housing trust fund to leverage tax credits and “reward” cities that are building homes for all income-levels.
Chiang said he supports bringing back redevelopment agencies to give cit- ies a funding source for new affordable housing. Eastin said she’d reduce building fees and look at reforming a state environmental law that’s of- ten used to stall or kill projects.
Rio Valdez, a Sunnyvale resident who works at Voler Systems, said she came to the event with “mixed feelings” but walked away feeling inspired by the ideas. Villaraigosa is her pick for California’s next governor, but Valdez said she was impressed by Chiang’s vision.
“I hadn’t followed him very closely, but I will now,” she said.
Suchi Mishra of Proterra, also impressed with Chiang, felt the other candidates’ plan to boost the economy by focusing on education wasn’t convincing.
“Even with two incomes, you can’t buy a home in Silicon Valley,” Mishra said. “Education won’t immediately solve the problem.”
Attendees listen to gubernatorial candidate John Chiang during a panel discussion Thursday at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group “Game Changers 2018” forum at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.
Gubernatorial candidates Antonio Villaraigosa, John Chiang and Delaine Eastin, top to bottom, make points forcefully.
John Chiang, gubernatorial candidate, waits to speak at “Game Changers 2018.” At right is Carl Guardino, president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.