OPINION by T.KEITH GURNEE
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s power has seemingly gone to his head. His responses to two primary issues—the COVID-19 pandemic and California’s housing struggles — reveals he’s gone too far and it just may undo his administration. Newsom’s willingness to impose top-down, one-size-fits-all mandates upon all of California’s local governments and residents is telling. Let’s just focus on the coronavirus.
First, give Newsom some credit. Newsom’s early actions to confront the coronavirus were far better than New York Gov. Andrew Coumo’s. Newsom acted quickly, Cuomo reacted late. Cuomo’s decision forcing infected patients into rest homes condemned thousands of elderly New Yorkers to death. The much lower rates of infection and deaths in California have verified that Newsom initially performed far better than Cuomo.
However, since Newsom’s coronavirus lockdown order issued on March 4, his performance has been marked by increasingly autocratic heavy-handed dictates and secretive decisions that are weighing down all Californians. The consequences of Newsom’s latest actions are starting to look worse than the disease. Consider Newsom’s actions:
1. According to the Los Angeles Times, Newsom’s administration unilaterally entered into a number of secretive no-bid contracts with questionable contractors. As a result:
- Newsom awarded over 80 non-competitive no-bid contracts totaling $3.7 billion right after his March 4, 2020 lockdown order.
- Newsom’s administration executed a no-bid contract with the Chinese firm BYD for nearly $1 billion to deliver 200 million N-95 masks by May 2. Yet only 10 million masks, or only 5% of the masks ordered, were delivered by that date. BYD is on the hook to reimburse California for less than 25% of taxpayer funds wasted on that contract.
- It also approved a $800 million no-bid contract with Alabama-based Bear Mountain Development Co. LLC for 400 million surgical masks and 200 million face shields. While they were supposed to deliver 60 million face shields and 120 million masks by May 2, less than 500,000 face shields (1/4%) and 6.7 million surgical masks (1.7%) ordered were received by that deadline.
- These actions not only cost California taxpayers millions of dollars but also cost valuable time in responding to the needs to fight the coronavirus.
- Instead of a foreign contractor like BYD, why couldn’t California have gone to American firms like 3M or Honeywell who are major producers of such equipment? BYD’s costs per mask was $3.30, but Honeywell delivered masks to Los Angeles for just $0.79 per mask.
- Despite the best efforts of the LA Times to obtain details on Newsom’s no-bid contracts, the administration has refused to comply. Given what’s been discovered, perhaps one can understand Newsom’s attempted cover-up.
2. With the economic hit taken by job losses and small businesses, Californian’s are increasingly anxious about lifting restrictions and returning to work. The resultant economic stagnation has wiped out California’s budget surplus and placed the state and its cities and counties in dire straits. Yet Newsom persists on imposing his dictates on cities and counties, refusing to allow them to open regardless of their infection rates.
3. On April 30, Newsom ordered Orange County to close all beaches, incurring the wrath of the county, beachgoers, and surfers from Huntington Beach– California’s iconic “Surf City USA.”
4. Of California’s 58 counties, the LA Times found that there are 24 sparsely-populated counties in Northern California that meet all of Newsom’s standards for reopening. Yet Newsom refuses to let them.
5. On May 7, Modoc, Yuba, and Sutter counties announced they were ready to open subject to advisories to citizens. Two days later, Newsom threatened to punish those counties by withholding disaster relief funding and weaponizing the ABC to revoke liquor licenses. Modoc County, with zero reported infections, opened while urging those infected or over 65 years to continue staying in-place. Yuba and Sutter counties opened but limited the number of people inside businesses, requiring social distancing, wearing masks, and using hand sanitizers. Yet Newsom remains determined to punish them.
Here in San Luis Obispo County, we’ve had 214 cases of coronavirus with only one death that occurred well over a month ago. Shouldn’t we be opening sooner rather than later?
California needs to get back to work, our businesses need to reopen, and we need to renew economic activity necessary to generate revenues, not only for business owners and workers, but for the essential services provided by state and local government. Instead of Newsom’s imposing his dictums on every corner of California, he should open areas like ours and others that are performing well against the virus now.
Unfortunately, Newsom’s original response to the coronavirus seems to have morphed into an emboldened power trip. Gov. Newsom, it’s time to park your ego at the door and get California moving again.