Newsom stops by Sonoma
Lt. Gov on book tour
Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom took a break from his book tour Wednesday to visit with members of the local Rotary Club at the Sonoma Lodge. Members of the Kiwanis of Sonoma Plaza were also invited.
Newsom is the author of a book called “Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government,” released earlier this month. The 100-plus attendees got a preview of what’s inside.
“There is no higher office than the office of citizenship,” he said. He emphasized the point of his book, which is that government is stuck in the last century while technology marches on and the only way to reshape government is to start at the local level with ordinary citizens.
He said as a “frustrated optimist” he is dismayed at the in-fighting in Washington, the inability of two parties to come together. The dueling factions should be able to come up with a plan, not a Republican plan or a Democratic plan – just a plan.
Even the idea of bipartisanship seems to be challenged. He said it is much safer politically to reach out to members of your own party, rather than the other, and he gave the example of some Republicans who voted for tax increases and are now gone.
Newsom said it’s time to change the game, to change incentives, noting that Pres. Barack Obama tried, but once in office found out how difficult it is. Still, he said, it has to be done.
“Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi were game changers,” he said. “What did they have in common? Jail time.” His point was that these men had moral authority, rather than formal authority – principles they championed even when they put themselves at risk. But he said you don’t have to be a well-known personality to accomplish something. Thousands of ordinary citizens, organized at the local level, worked together to elect President Obama. This, he said, is citizen power.
Newsom made the point that mass education is no longer an effective learning tool, yet we still have children in classrooms sitting in rows of desks, trying to learn single subjects. Today we have Facebook, Twitter, the cloud – things that didn’t exist, even in 2005. “Imagine where we are going,” he said.
Turning to California, he commented on problems still to be solved, like pension reform. He also talked about billions of dollars spent on new software systems that are obsolete before they are completed, and are often terminated before they’re even installed. He blamed these failures on old mindsets, and he also talked about the state’s economic turnaround.
“Between 1950 and 1980 we grew jobs faster than any other state,” he said. “Between 1980 and 2010 it flattened. The nation outperformed us. We had been the dreamers and the doers. Then we rested on our laurels.” Now, four years of budget surpluses are projected and the “wall of debt” will drop with fiscal discipline. “You can’t be pro-job and be anti-business,” he said.
Getting back to his citizenship theme, he left the group with a loose quote from Lincoln – “Government should do nothing more than what individuals can not do better for themselves.”