New­som has siz­able plans for his of­fice

Gov­er­nor ex­pands his in­ner cir­cle of aides and ad­vi­sors to help push his big agenda.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Taryn Luna

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gavin New­som an­nounced plans to hire Cal­i­for­nia’s first sur­geon gen­eral hours af­ter he took of­fice last month. The next day he an­nounced a new se­nior ad­vi­sor for emer­gency man­age­ment. Then on his third day, he cre­ated a “strike team” to rein­vent the trou­bled De­part­ment of Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles.

And on Day 4, New­som un­veiled a new state budget, re­quest­ing 41 ad­di­tional staffers and a to­tal of $24.6 mil­lion for the gov­er­nor’s of­fice — more spend­ing than many of his pre­de­ces­sors.

Cal­i­for­nia’s 40th gov­er­nor is be­gin­ning his ten­ure with a flurry of ideas and enough cush­ion in the state budget to af­ford a large in­ner cir­cle of ad­vi­sors and aides to help carry out big prom­ises, such as cre­at­ing a sin­gle­payer health­care sys­tem, uni­ver­sal preschool and ad­dress­ing the state’s hous­ing cri­sis.

“The truth about the gov­er­nor’s of­fice is that things move fast and you drink from a fire hose ev­ery day,” said Dana Wil­liamson, a for­mer top ad­vi­sor to then-Gov. Jerry Brown. “He also has a big agenda.”

Brown had a lean crew of con­fi­dants. For­mer Gov. Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger had a more ex­pan­sive op­er­a­tion, with a $21.9-mil­lion budget and a staff of 202 em­ploy­ees at its peak dur­ing his fi­nal full year in of­fice. Chief ex­ec­u­tives be­fore him also over­saw large of­fices, but be­cause some of their em­ploy­ees were paid from the bud­gets of dif­fer­ent de­part­ments, it is un­clear just how many staff mem­bers worked for them.

Fac­ing a $27-bil­lion budget deficit, Brown whit­tled the size of the gov­er­nor’s of­fice down to as few as 81 em­ploy­ees and a low of $12.7 mil­lion to cover salaries, ben­e­fits and ad­min­is­tra­tive over­head.

He also closed the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s field of­fices around the state, elim­i­nated the first lady’s of­fice and forced ap­pointees to take a 5% pay cut in keeping with cam­paign prom­ises to limit govern­ment spend­ing.

Wil­liamson said that Brown’s first stint in the gov­er­nor’s of­fice eased his return to the job more than three decades later, al­low­ing him to op­er­ate with a small staff.

New­som has taken a dif­fer­ent ap­proach.

Build­ing a 132-per­son staff will al­low New­som to re­open five field of­fices fo­cused on con­stituent af­fairs and hire rep­re­sen­ta­tives for each re­gion of the state, said Nathan Click, a spokesman for the gov­er­nor. The out-

posts will hold pub­lic of­fice hours “to bring the gov­er­nor’s of­fice closer to the com­mu­ni­ties it serves,” Click said.

New­som’s hir­ing spree will also bulk up his Cabi­net, a team of se­nior ad­vi­sors and high-rank­ing heads of state agen­cies. Click said that fo­cus “af­fords this ad­min­is­tra­tion the ca­pac­ity to make state govern­ment work bet­ter for the peo­ple it serves — from tak­ing ag­gres­sive ac­tions to com­bat the cost cri­sis fam­i­lies face to more quickly and ef­fec­tively re­act­ing in times of cri­sis and dis­as­ter.”

In an­other re­ver­sal of course from the Brown ad­min­is­tra­tion, New­som is es­tab­lish­ing the Of­fice of the First Part­ner, his wife Jen­nifer Siebel New­som’s pre­ferred ti­tle, with seven new po­si­tions and a $791,000 budget.

The gov­er­nor’s of­fice has touted its work to hire a di­verse staff — by ge­og­ra­phy, race and eth­nic­ity, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, gen­der iden­tity, ex­pe­ri­ence and dis­abil­ity sta­tus.

“It’s not a shock that a new ac­tivist gov­er­nor would try to bulk up the staff as much as pos­si­ble,” said Jack Pit­ney, a pro­fes­sor of govern­ment at Clare­mont McKenna Col­lege.

But Pit­ney also warned about the potential for “bu­reau­cratic in­farc­tion.”

“That is, you have so many peo­ple send­ing so many memos to one an­other that noth­ing gets done,” he said.

Build­ing a larger of­fice means the 51-year-old gov­er­nor will prob­a­bly be more vis­i­ble than his pre­de­ces­sor — a key com­po­nent of re­main­ing con­nected to the Cal­i­for­ni­ans who elected him last year. But New­som’s pen­chant for launch­ing so­called strike teams to tackle key is­sues and strate­gi­cally an­nounc­ing sev­eral hires at once is un­com­mon com­pared with past gov­er­nors, said Susan Kennedy, who was Cabi­net sec­re­tary to for­mer Gov. Gray Davis and chief of staff to Sch­warzeneg­ger.

Last month, New­som formed a panel to help his ad­min­is­tra­tion nav­i­gate the bank­ruptcy of Pa­cific Gas & Elec­tric. He ap­pointed his chief of staff, Ann O’Leary, to head the group with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Cal­i­for­nia In­de­pen­dent Sys­tem Op­er­a­tor, Cal­i­for­nia Pub­lic Util­i­ties Com­mis­sion, Cal­i­for­nia De­part­ment of In­surance and Cal­i­for­nia De­part­ment of Fi­nance.

He also formed a DMV strike team, led by Cal­i­for­nia Govern­ment Op­er­a­tions Agency Sec­re­tary Mary­bel Bat­jer, to guide a rein­ven­tion of the DMV and rec­om­mend new lead­er­ship.

In De­cem­ber and again in Jan­uary, New­som rolled out sev­eral key po­si­tions at the same time, with titles such as “se­nior pol­icy ad­vi­sor for cra­dle to ca­reer” and “se­nior pol­icy ad­vi­sor for early child­hood.” Form­ing teams early on shows the gov­er­nor is putting “boots on the ground” to move quickly and tackle im­por­tant is­sues, said Kennedy, who com­mended New­som’s hir­ing of top aides from pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions.

“He’s clearly us­ing all the po­si­tions he has to make sure he has spe­cial teams who are able to bring the peo­ple into the process,” Kennedy said. “You ex­po­nen­tially in­crease your power when you have the abil­ity to get the pub­lic, the con­stituency groups, be­hind you.”

New­som has also said he might ap­point “czars” to over­see pol­icy on hous­ing, men­tal health and home­less­ness, or some com­bi­na­tion of those is­sues.

“I’ve talked a big game about czars, but I haven’t done a czar yet,” New­som said at a re­cent news con­fer­ence.

Though some sug­gest that se­lect­ing in­de­pen­dent­minded lead­ers and new top ad­vi­sors might al­low New­som to dis­tance him­self from any failed poli­cies, oth­ers say the gov­er­nor won’t be able to avoid blame or praise.

“The prin­ci­pal owns the prob­lems and the prin­ci­pal owns the so­lu­tions,” said Eric Jaye, a for­mer po­lit­i­cal ad­vi­sor to New­som. “If you suc­ceed, you get the credit, and if you fail, you get the credit.”

David Maung EPA/Shutterstock

GOV. GAVIN NEW­SOM, cen­ter, is re­open­ing five field of­fices fo­cused on con­stituent af­fairs. His of­fice has touted its work to hire a di­verse staff.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.