‘Game Chang­ers’: Gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­dates talk jobs and hous­ing

The Mercury News Weekend - - LOCAL NEWS - By Ra­mona Gi­war­gis rgi­war­gis@ba­yare­anews­ CAL­I­FOR­NIA’S NEXT GOVER­NOR

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.

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