Getting Closer! CA’s new Constitutional Office holders closer to reflecting full diversity of our citizenry and our shared experiences

On Monday, January 7th, our new California state officials were sworn into office. Among them were the State’s eight Constitutional officers: Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Controller, Treasurer, Attorney General, Insurance Commissioner, and Superintendent of Public Instruction. Sworn into their respective offices for the first time were Governor Gavin Newsom, Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, Treasurer Fiona Ma, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. Notably, this cycle the California people elected officials that increasingly reflect the demographics of the state. Three of the eight officials are women, three are Latino men (one of whom is also the first openly LGBT person elected state-wide), and one is an African-American man. As their personal stories unfolded on Monday, the combined diversity of their stories parallels the history of many Californians.  We heard the histories of being first generation, of being raised in homes with strong work ethics, and in homes enmeshed in the cycles of poverty but also of hope.  Each of these officials has demonstrated a commitment to progressive, inclusive ideals, and many have highlighted educational opportunities and stable housing as a key policy area of focus.

Here are a few excerpts from each the inaugural addresses of our State’s Constitutional Officers.

Governor Gavin Newsom promised Californians a “progressive, principled” government in his inauguration speech. The new Governor outlined his vision of a California for all where we will face our threatening problems together. This includes bold strategies to address climate change, like expanding the current cap-and-trade system. He doesn’t want to merely meet the goals but exceed them.  Newsom also introduced the idea of guaranteed healthcare for all Californians, noting that the state could use both our “market power” and our “moral power” to influence healthcare. On criminal justice, the Governor promised to close all private prisons in the state and fight for reform, so justice is the core of the system, not profit.

The Governor continued by addressing the housing affordability crisis, a central tenant to his campaign and the biggest threat to our prosperity, equity and environmental sustainability. He called the number of homeless individuals on California’s streets an “epidemic,” and committed to “launching a Marshall Plan for homeless housing.” He stated that we need to stop stigmatizing mental health and start supporting it. Additionally, Newsom committed to inclusive and sustainable growth, indicating a commitment to increasing the housing supply for all income levels by using infill in the State’s urban regions.

Throughout his inauguration remarks, Governor Newsom emphasized the need to make progress together. In fact, he goes so far as to call this fundamental to California values and the basis to treating all Californians with respect. Quoting an African proverb, the Governor summarizes: “If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together.” This is a call that empowers all the people of California to lead the way, including our many time forgotten rural communities.

Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis focused largely on expanding access to higher education, as she believes it is the “best way to address our rapidly changing digital economy.” A former developer, Kounalakis’s campaign also highlighted the State’s housing affordability crisis. She promised a commitment to affordable housing and community infrastructure to aid in equitable growth. LeSar Development Consultants is pleased to see the expanding alignment with our Constitutional leaders around our housing crisis.  On an interesting note, following her 18 years as a developer, Eleni was appointed as the U.S. Ambassador to Hungary by President Barack Obama.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla was sworn into his second term on Monday.  The majority of Padilla’s remarks focused on increasing voter registration.  LeSar Development Consultants agrees that if we are to build and sustain a 21st century State of California that participates in the global economy where all boats are lifted, citizens need to take the time to educate themselves on the issues and candidates and then vote.

Among those experienced in their position, Controller Betty Yee was sworn into her second term Monday morning. Yee first entered the position in 2015 following more than 10 years on the State Board of Equalization. Together with Treasurer Fiona Ma, Yee helped reduce the powers of the Board of Equalization which was known for its members abuses of power. She has expressed interest in increasing affordable housing tax credits and other financing sources, as well as reducing costs of building affordable housing. In her inaugural address, Yee stressed the importance of addressing inequality in the State, attributing it to, “the lack of affordable, stable housing, the cost of healthcare and transportation, limited educational opportunities, student loan debt, [and] displacement caused by disasters.”

Treasurer Fiona Ma assumed office for her first term Monday. Two weeks ago, Ma made clear that she would keep a close eye on large-scale bonds, such as the veterans housing bonds passed by voters in November. The Treasurer’s campaign includes the promise of a Listening Tour around the state this month to gather ideas for how to boost housing production and increasing state agency involvement in housing production. LeSar Development Consultants will be there to weigh in and we hope you will be there too.  Prior to joining the California Executive Branch, Ma was Chair of the California Board of Equalization. From 2006-2012, she also served as a State Assemblymember, rising to Speaker pro tempore in 2010.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra  was sworn into his second term on Monday, though he was appointed in 2017 and only served a partial term. Becerra promised to protect the State from “the overreach of the federal government.”  We agree that now more than ever California must protect its interests from those who want to diminish our prosperity and success by the creation of national policy that specifically hurts us.

Calling on California to be a “beacon of opportunity,” Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara made history by becoming the State’s first openly LGBTQ statewide representative. Touted as a “partner in equity and justice” by Sen. Holly Mitchell, and we agree, Lara called on insurance agencies to use their knowledge of mitigating risk to join in the fight against climate change and aid in creating sustainable and resilient communities. Lara began his political career as an Assembly staffer, where he was Chief of Staff to Majority Leader Assemblyman Marco Firebaugh. He served two years as a California Assemblymember and six years as a State Senator.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, who was declared the winner in a close election nearly a month after election day, was sworn in on Monday. His inaugural address focused on the school-to-prison pipeline, noting that statistics show he “could have ended up in a state prison.” In his new role, he is now in a position to work to break that cycle. Part of his campaign platform was to increase students’ access to healthcare by providing school-based services, regardless of ability to pay or immigration status. He has also proposed a plan to increase per-pupil spending. Thurmond’s background is in social work, where he focused on providing services and education to at-risk youth. In 2014, Thurmond was elected to the California State Assembly and spent four years representing Oakland and the East Bay.