Jewish Journal: What do you believe are the top two issues facing the state and how would you address them?
Gavin Newsom: Tackling our affordability crisis head on will be the first issue I tackle. That includes my commitment to universal health care, building the 3.5 million housing units we need by 2025, and rethinking about education as a lifelong pursuit.
I’m a firm believer in universal preschool but also believe that intervening at 3 years old is already too late. We need to double-down on the readiness gap by emphasizing prenatal care and the first three years of a child’s life, when nearly 85 percent of brain development occurs.
We’ll couple our robust early-childhood system with college savings accounts for every incoming kindergartener, linking the next generation to the promise of higher education. We’ll create full-service K-12 community schools with wellness centers, arts education, computer science and after-school programs. We’ll guarantee two years of free community college tuition, create pathways to quality jobs and reduce debt for students pursuing a bachelor’s degree, and reinvest in public higher education.
JJ: As a proponent for a single-payer health-care option for California, how would you go about implementing this?
GN: The phrase “health care is a human right” is more than a political cliché. It’s a sacred promise we must keep, which is why I’ll ensure California leads the way on a plan to guarantee quality health care for everyone financed through a single-payer model like Medicare. We can create a more efficient, effective and comprehensive health-care system that works for patients and providers alike, available regardless of one’s ability to pay, pre-existing medical conditions or immigration status, and including coverage not only for physical, but also mental and behavioral health issues.
The status quo isn’t working. A UCLA study determined that Californians are already spending $367.5 billion annually on health care — and that number continues to escalate. We must end the costly conveyor belt of paperwork and co-pays and allow providers to focus on patient care.
As mayor [of San Francisco], I created Healthy SF, which even today remains the only citywide and countywide universal health program in the nation. The program has paid for itself many times over in the form of preventative care and healthier outcomes. It’s time to do the same for the state.
JJ: How would you address the massive sinkhole that has become the construction of the bullet train?
GN: I was one of the original supporters of high-speed rail and supported it then for the same reasons I support it today: It holds the promise to create thousands of jobs, improve mobility for Californians, generate tens of millions [of dollars] in economic development, improve air quality and help us reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
But I have also consistently expressed concerns with the long-term funding plan — particularly that projected federal and private funding hasn’t materialized — and the updated business plan underscores those profound challenges. I have confidence in the new leadership of the Authority appointed by Gov. Brown and, with this project underway, our focus must now be on vigilant oversight — learning from prior mistakes, demanding the project stay on time and on budget and attracting and retaining private-sector partners.
JJ: Earlier this year, your Republican opponents vowed to maintain attacks against you over your 2007 affair with Ruby Rippey-Tourk. How do you deal with these attacks — especially in light of the #MeToo movement?
GN: Those are deeply misleading attacks, and it’s the height of hypocrisy from unabashed Donald Trump loyalists.
JJ: Would you continue current Gov. Jerry Brown’s stance to stand up to the Trump administration and Republican leadership in areas where Californians don’t agree with the current administration’s agenda?
GN: California’s values aren’t just a point of pride, they are the very fabric of the state’s history, identity and future. At a time when actions by the Trump administration are further disenfranchising the poor, women and people of color, California must step up and defend its residents — advancing policies grounded in both compassion and innovation.
California is the fifth largest economy in the world, and continues to show the world that an economy can thrive when it protects workers’ rights, environmental protections, civil rights and vulnerable communities.
I believe we have an economic and moral imperative to protect our state’s immigrants and help them thrive, particularly our students, who are the future of our state’s workforce and economic growth. That’s why I’ve defended California’s status as a sanctuary state, called for the state’s public colleges and universities to be sanctuary campuses, and added my voice calling on Congress to pass a clean DREAM Act.
It is outrageous that the Trump administration has proposed removing protections for public lands, opening up the Arctic and our coastlines to oil drilling, and pulling out of the Paris climate agreement. Despite these challenges, California will continue to lead the nation and the world in clean energy, conservation and the fight against climate change.
I have boldly led the charge for major social change campaigns my whole life. I believe that the state government ought to reflect the values of its people, not the other way around. More than ever, America needs California’s example to prove that old fears and prejudices need not be the new normal, and to match resistance with results.