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An interview with Gavin Newsom, part 4



SH: Why did you give me this interview? I mean, a little blog–

GN: Because it’s more than 25 years (of friendship)! Loyalty. Loyalty. That’s what I told them [his schedulers], “What? You got 85 people [lined up for me]? You’ve gotta get Steven.” And I got angry, because I was like, “What’s taking so long?” And then they told me you had to do it on the phone, and I was, like, “Well, that’s Steve’s problem, not mine.” I mean, now I know why it was taking so long, because I thought it was just a phone call. I was like, “This is so easy to do.”

SH: I don’t do phone.

GN: I didn’t know that. And when they told me that, I said, “Oh, now I know why it’s hard.”

SH: Well, let’s move on to some issues. You’re in favor of single payer [healthcare].

GN: I believe in single payer. I’m not sure how to achieve it. It’s going to be a challenge.

SH: Republicans already are slamming you. I just saw an article in Forbes that said you running on single payer as a campaign issue will be your “demise.” How do you feel about that?

GN: Well, I mean, fifty days to go, we’ll see what happens. But there’s not a lot of evidence that it’s going to be our demise.

SH: It wasn’t clear from the article what their implication was. Maybe it was that after you’re elected and push for it, you’ll find out—

GN: Well, I’m not reckless. Assuming—if they know nothing about me, and it’s just lazy punditry, and they’ve not bothered to research my twenty years in elected office, if they think I’m—but if they believe I’ll take the risk to do something, they’re absolutely right.

SH: But the funding is really questionable.

GN: Well, the funding requires waivers from the federal administration, it requires all kinds of concurrence and collaboration from the executive branch in Washington, D.C. It requires changing the Gann Limit, and Prop 98, [and] requires a ballot initiative; there’s a tax reform component. It requires a series of levers that’s profoundly complicated, and I’ve been very honest about that.

SH: You’re saying the lion’s share of the money would come from Washington?

GN: Well, the vast majority already, about 70%-ish, and that’s a loose percentage, of our existing [budget] is single payer, which is a great irony: maybe Forbes could do a little analysis themselves on that, for the Veteran’s Administration, Medicaid, Medicare, etc. That said, the lion’s share of that money does come from the federal government.

SH: But you’re still need more money from the tax payers.

GN: We would need [it] in the transition, and that’s the challenge, going from something old to something new. That’s why no one’s been able to figure it out.

SH: So you’ll look for some source of revenue within California?

GN: I’ve got a team; there’s 30-ish people working on this. I’ve just literally come back from lunch with healthcare advocates having a conversation on this. We have probably gone deeper than any candidate for a statewide office in modern times on this issue.

SH: But no resolution yet?

GN: It is exponentially more complicated than people believe.

SH: Would you be in favor of ending the Prop 13 limit on corporate taxes?

GN: Yeah, but that also comes at a big price. I was also meeting this morning with green tech companies that want to bring manufacturing back under the provisions the Governor just advanced, and they said, [If] you get rid of that [Prop 13 limit, which is] the only thing that creates stability in terms of our commercial rates, then you’re not going to get any of those manufacturing, middle class jobs in this state. So I’ve long supported a split role. I have supported it, but it’s something that can’t be done without considering the consequences.

SH: Homelessness is such a massive issue, and I don’t pretend to know the solution, but two questions. One, you call for a region-wide approach, so instead of San Francisco dealing with it on their own—

GN: –or any city–

SH: What does that mean?

GN: One of the great realities, tempered by experience, is that everyone has a role and a responsibility to play. And no one city is going to do it alone or should have to do it alone. Everybody needs to step up; everyone needs to be accountable. I want to attach real dollars for incentives to good behavior, and I want to be punitive for bad behavior. So we’re putting together a regional plan. I have 15 points that we’re doing, from assisted living waivers, specific strategies we laid out on brain health and mental health, substance abuse treatment. It’s predicated on a housing-first model. We’re going to require regional plans and we’re going to incentivize along the lines of what the [inaudible] grants were under the Bush administration, these super-urban area grants. There’s a framework in terms of allocating state dollars that will encourage and incentivize regional collaboration. That’s the spirit we’re seeking.

SH: And what is the punishment?

GN: Same with housing production. I’ll give you the specifics on housing. We want to tie [in] regional transit dollars and we want to hold those back if you’re not meeting your housing element, under your general plans. And that’s an example of how you can begin to, not just be organized through incentives, but be punitive in terms of disincentivizing.

SH: I don’t want to go too far down the homeless rabbit hole, but I live in downtown Oakland and it’s really—

GN: Out of control.

SH: Horrible. And it’s tearing liberals apart.

GN: Compassion fatigue.

SH: Right down the middle, Democrats versus Democrats. What is the answer? There’s 4,000 homeless people and [Oakland Mayor] Libby Schaaf is building 200 Tuff Sheds.

GN: Yeah. It’s not going to do it. There’s no way a city can do it alone. You will bankrupt the cities.

SH: What is “it”?

GN: Housing first. Housing first. Housing first. Housing and supportive services.

SH: How long does that go on?

GN: Permanent supportive housing.

SH: So if you’re homeless for the rest of your life, you can get, what? Healthcare–?

GN: The alternative is to pay exponentially more on the back end. Quite literally, there are individuals who cost a million dollars a year to the taxpayers. That’s the status quo. I’m not interested in perpetuating that.

SH: Is the high cost of housing the cause of what we see now in our cities?

GN: Partially. But substantively, you’ve got, for the single adult population you see out in the tents, streets and sidewalks, that is not your [entire] homeless population. That’s a subset of it. And the vast majority of those folks are self-medicating on drugs or alcohol [or suffering from] bipolar disease, paranoia. And if they don’t have those issues, they’re going to develop them. Then you have deep physical health issues, mental health issues, and then your vocational deficiency issues, educational issues, and I would argue, Skid Row, parts of L.A., a disproportionate number have criminal records which are a big part of this. So it’s criminal justice reform, it’s health reform, it’s blended interventions, and this, again, intentionality, support from the state, matching local contributions, amplifying good behavior, disincentivizing bad behavior, holding accountable these regions that aren’t doing a damn thing, and then we have to nationalize the issue, because the state can’t do it alone, just like the cities can’t do it alone. We have a national problem manifesting in the state, we have a state problem manifesting in the cities.

Wednesday: Newsom on homeless people who resist services, safe injection sites, tasers for cops, California National Guard at the southern border, mass public protests of Republicans, Democratic anger, and Antifa

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