Editorial, Record Searchlight, July 2011

Gavin Newsom, hero of California’s beleaguered businesses?

The lieutenant governor and former San Francisco mayor is best known for his 2004 decision to defy state law and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. With that move he ignited a legal and political fire that still smolders.

Since his election as lieutenant governor last fall, however, the Democrat has formed an odd-fellows coalition to promote economic development in a state that urgently needs it. He traveled this spring with a delegation of mostly conservative
Republican lawmakers to Texas to learn what that state — which has seen strong job growth in recent years — is doing right. Last month he convened a “manufacturing summit” with both the California Manufacturers and Technology Association
and the state’s prison guards union (which smartly recognizes that private jobs ultimately pay their salaries). On Friday he’s scheduled to release an economic-development strategy for the state, which oddly enough hasn’t had one for years.

That leadership earned high praise Wednesday morning from seemingly unlikely quarters — business leaders at the Shasta County Economic Development Corp. At Wednesday’s meeting, both EDC President Mark Lascelles and guest speaker Jack Stewart,
head of the California Manufacturers and Technology Association, applauded Newsom’s spirited devotion to job creation — whatever you might think of his views on gay marriage and, well, everything else.

It’s heartening to see a Democrat in Sacramento — a species more inclined to regulate businesses within in an inch of their bottom lines and to scoff at the idea that bureaucratic bloat has real economic costs – recognize and actively promote
private-sector growth. California floated so long on easy real estate money that it let us ignore the dramatic erosion of our state’s manufacturing base. The housing collapse has exposed the hollow core of the state’s economy — which is
still a vibrant center of technological research and venture-capital investment but less and less a place where business managers can actually build stuff at a profit.

If the lieutenant governor can use his office, which is hardly a traditional power center but at least gives him a platform, to steer California in a more business- and job-friendly direction, even Shasta County conservatives might have to
give the San Francisco Democrat a hand.