Newsom in Fresno: Economy, health, housing at forefront
Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom discussed several key issues Friday with dozens of central San Joaquin Valley leaders and more than 100 community members in a packed town hall in central Fresno.
Newsom reminded the crowd that he promised to return to Fresno during his last stop while on campaign, and the state’s future top man spent hours being inundated with testimony. His afternoon began with a series of closed-door meetings with local leaders and ended in a more public town hall – both of which discussed the Valley’s key issues: Poverty, air quality, water, education, pre-term birth, and a prevailing feeling of under-representation at the state level.
The incoming governor made commitments on virtually all of these things and more. He promised that his adopted budget, which he said was due in nine days, would commit significant money to areas such as postnatal care, secondary and special education, carbon reduction, Alzheimer’s research and job creation.
Newsom expressed reservation over the state’s high-speed rail program, saying the plan that he and others signed up for has long since morphed into something else. He noted he was “assessing the stewardship of the High Speed Rail Authority” as well as reviewing a recent audit of the project and meeting the legislators in order to give the public a clearer picture of what is actually being worked on.
He deflected talk on the lack of Valley appointees on key statewide boards, such as the California State University Board of Trust-
ees, saying he’d like to appoint more local folks but his predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown, has been making all of the appointments.
Newsom said he was surprised to learn there was not a satellite governor’s office in Fresno and would address the need for such a hub in his budget, which ultimately must be approved by the Legislature.
The governor-elect caught some in the audience by surprise when he praised President Donald Trump for his recent visit to the state to survey the devastating effects of recent wildfires. He noted that his much of his discussions with the president actually centered on Valley issues – water, agriculture, among others.
He applauded Trump for not playing political games when it came to federal disaster declarations, but Newsom said the state would continue to oppose the president when its core values were attacked. He counted some 45 lawsuits against the federal government the state was involved in, but he clarified that most of these were reactive.
Newsom said several times he was looking for outspoken leaders from the Valley to inform his opinion. It would seem he’s already picked one out, naming Fresno City Council President Esmeralda Soria as a member of the advisory council to his transition team. Previously, former Fresno mayor Ashley Swearengin had been the Valley’s lone representative on this advisory council.
California Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom stands amid a packed auditorium during a town hall meeting at the Teamsters Local 431 Joint Hall in Fresno on Friday.