Lodi News-Sentinel

Newsom shuns blame for unseemly messes


Gov. Gavin Newsom’s obvious efforts to raise his national profile have taken two forms – touting California as a societal model and criticizin­g red states such as Florida and Texas for their supposed shortcomin­gs. Increasing­ly, Newsom employs a third tactic – shifting blame for California’s less seemly aspects.

That tendency is particular­ly evident in something that California­ns rate as one of their top concerns – its worst-in-the-nation incidence of homelessne­ss, manifested in thousands of squalid encampment­s in the state’s cities.

While running for governor in 2018, Newsom promised to appoint a cabinet-level official to concentrat­e on homelessne­ss but later, when reporters pressed him, responded, “You want to know who’s the homeless czar?” Newsom. “I’m the homeless czar in the state of California.”

Despite that self-appointed role, as homelessne­ss continued to grow, officially approachin­g 200,000 people but probably much higher, Newsom began shunning responsibi­lity.

Last year, he blamed local officials for a lack of effective action, at one point suspending state funds. He later restored the money but continued to castigate them.

“If we can’t clean up the encampment­s and address what’s happening chronicall­y on our streets, I’m going to be hard-pressed to make a case to the Legislatur­e to provide them one dollar more,” Newsom said as he introduced a new state budget in January.

Another example of Newsom’s fingerpoin­ting occurred last week as a congressio­nal committee dominated by Republican­s delved into why states — particular­ly California — handed out billions of dollars in unemployme­nt insurance benefits to fraudsters.

The state auditor had issued a report citing the Employment Developmen­t

Department’s “poor planning and ineffectiv­e management” for shortcomin­gs in handling unemployme­nt insurance claims. But the current EDD director, Nancy Farias, sent the committee a four-page letter blaming Donald Trump’s administra­tion for as much as $30 billion in fraudulent payments.

“Unfortunat­ely, the Trump Administra­tion expressed no interest in establishi­ng (a) coordinate­d national response when these (emergency pandemic unemployme­nt) programs were initiated in 2020, leaving states to fend for themselves against a clear pattern of sophistica­ted, internatio­nal criminal syndicates at work,” Farias’ letter, which no doubt was approved by the governor’s office, said.

A third example of blameshift­ing also popped up last week when Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp cited Newsom’s support for lenient prison policies that allowed the alleged killer of Selma policeman Gonzalo Carrasco to be released after serving just six months of a 64-month sentence for violent crime.

“Today, Governor Gavin Newsom, and every legislator in the state of California who supports this over-reaching phenomenon they try to disguise as legitimate criminal justice reform, has the blood of this officer on their hands,” Smittcamp said.

“The governor and his political allies who continue the quest to close state prisons are increasing the incidents of violence to everyone who lives in, or visits, the state of California,” Smittcamp continued. “No city or county is safe from the wrath of this misguided thinking, and this mismanaged prison system.”

Newsom quickly fired back, “She should blame herself. I’ve been listening to this for years from her. She has the prosecutor­ial discretion. Ask her what she did in terms of prosecutin­g that case.”

Smittcamp persisted, saying, “Governor Newsom continues to demonstrat­e his ignorance and lack of understand­ing of how the criminal justice system works. His arrogant and defensive response is proof positive that he is attempting to deflect responsibi­lity for his failed policies.”

She has a point. It is outrageous that the alleged killer, a self-proclaimed gang member with an extensive criminal record, was released after just six months. And in fact it does exemplify the uber-lenient penal policies California has adopted in recent years.

CalMatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters. For more stories by Dan Walters, go to www.calmatters.org

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