CSAC Bulletin Article

Candor and Collaboration Characterize Governor Newsom’s Fireside Chat with CSAC Leaders

November 12, 2020

Governor Gavin Newsom joined CSAC President and Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett and Executive Director Graham Knaus in a candid and at times passionate fireside chat during the virtual opening session of the 126th Annual Meeting Thursday. More than 200 county officials tuned in for the discussion, which touched on many top CSAC priorities including the COVID-19 pandemic, wildfires, homelessness and housing as well as the state and county partnership, economic recovery and bridging the digital broadband divide.

As a former San Francisco County Supervisor and Mayor himself, Governor Newsom is no stranger to the incredible pressures faced at the local level, even in less unprecedented years without pandemics or record-setting wildfires. Governor Newsom shared his philosophy that all levels of government in California, in particularly counties, are “many parts, but one body” and that there is “one fundamental and that is the need to get support from the Federal government to address the magnitude of the conditions that persist not just in this state but all across the United States.” Governor Newsom encouraged counties to continue working with his Administration, as we have been for months, to advance a new Federal stimulus for both local level funding and to get money into the hands of individuals. 

Furthermore, Governor Newsom described the partnership with CSAC as very good and foundational, with budget and agency staff looking forward to working with CSAC and County Supervisors to advance causes of homelessness and housing affordability in the coming weeks and months. Governor Newsom praised the quick action and creativity of all counties and called out El Dorado, Orange and Placer for leveraging the opportunities provided by Project Roomkey and Project Homekey to create sustainable solutions to housing across the state. The Governor mentioned that $840 million has been allocated since July to create 6,000 units of housing for California’s most vulnerable and he challenged counties to “keep going, push back against local opposition” to create permanent solutions to the state’s homelessness crisis.

On the subject of broadband and the digital divide, Governor Newsom noted that his Administration is “all in” on the effort and is currently in conversations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Biden/Harris transition team to determine what additional efforts may be available to bridge not only the rural/urban digital divide, but also the senior and affordable housing digital divides. He cited executive orders to streamline permitting across multiple agencies to speed telehealth and digital learning which are more essential during the pandemic. Expressing much of the frustration felt by CSAC rural counties, Governor Newsom exclaimed, “I’ve had enough of the rhetoric (around broadband access)…we are, in the spirit of collaboration, moving the agenda with much more urgency into the next year.”

The virtual fireside chat included a tongue-in-cheek question about which California County Supervisor Governor Newsom would appoint to the vacated U.S. Senate seat. Governor Newsom took the opportunity to praise County Supervisors for their hard work protecting our communities, saying “Remarkable things are happening at the local level with County Supervisors. I’m grateful for the doers and we need a lot more doers certainly in the Senate.” While the Governor declined to elaborate or provide any hints on who might be on the short list, he did indicate that choosing someone who understands the role of counties will be foundational in his decision making.

The session closed out with the Governor expressing his “gratitude, appreciation and deep empathy” for County leaders and the challenges faced this year. He encouraged CSAC and counties to be a part of the “California Comeback” and work together closely with his Administration to make real progress on issues of mutual concern like homelessness and housing, the digital divide and economic recovery.

CSAC thanks Governor Newsom for his time and candor as we look forward to more cooperation and collaboration in the coming weeks and months. 

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