San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom isn’t running for Governor of California yet, but he’s at the starting gate. Traveling up and down the state with his “exploratory committee,” taking town meetings in various cities to find out what constituents want, Newsom landed in Santa Monica on March 17, for a meeting at Santa Monica High School.Newsom spoke about his goals, emphasizing that the results are what’s important. “We decided we wanted to get away from rhetoric,” he said, speaking of his experiences in San Francisco. “We put together a task force.”The idea, he continued, was to not just talk about solutions, but to take action. Example: health care.Newsom asked his task force to come up with a universal health insurance plan and to regard money as no object. When he was told that it was impossible to implement a plan, because “we can’t afford it,” he remembered some advice that his aunt had given to him. “If you don’t like the answer, change the question.”“I changed it to ‘How do we provide universal health care?’ ” Newsom explained. “Thus was born San Francisco Universal Health Care Strategy.” The plan involves the participation of 30 clinics in the San Francisco Bay area and provides health care for all, “regardless of pre-existing conditions.”It was a similar situation with education, which Newsom stresses as the most important means of boosting the economy. When San Francisco’s schools faced massive layoffs (as Los Angeles, Culver City, and Santa Monica are facing right now), Newsom took $23 million from the city’s “rainy day fund” to prevent the layoffs. He also created the SFUSD City Partnership, a collaboration between the school district and the city, that helps provide funding, especially in areas such as the arts, which are vulnerable to budget cuts.Regarding the environment, Newsom noted that San Francisco has an “aggressive” green building policy and that plastic bags have been banned in the county. As with other issues, Newsom’s pledges to continue environmental strategies were greeted with applause from the audience, but he told the locals: “I’m so enlightened by the work you’re doing down here.”Asked about solving the budget deadlock problem, Newsom denounced the two-thirds majority rule in the State Legislature. “This is getting absurd. I can’t see any argument for the status quo.” Newsom’s take is that we need to change the state constitution- a controversial idea, he admitted.Asked about the future of Prop 8, which Newsom opposed (and did commercials opposing), he conceded that changing people’s minds about gay marriage will take some time. Reflecting on the similarities between this issue and the civil rights movement, he reminded the audience that the same lesson needs to be relearned: “Separate is not equal.” For himself, Newsom does not believe that his stand on the issue will affect his chances of being elected Governor, should he make his run official.For more information on Gavin Newsom, check out gavinnewsom.com, sfgov.org/mayor, and Newsom’s pages on Facebook and Twitter.
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