Governor Gavin Newsom joined the 2021 California Economic Summit as it kicked-off its annual gathering of elected and civic leaders in Monterey today. This year’s Summit celebrates ten years of collective action, its achievements and the recommitment of policy solutions with equity top of mind, especially as California continues its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What defines this conference is this bottom-up notion to regionalization framework. This notion of collaboration and partnerships,” said Newsom. “You’re not just dreamers. You’re doers. You’re on the ground region by region.”
Before Newsom took the stage, Summit attendees heard from experts on issues important to California.
Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Salinas) welcomed Summit attendees to his district by touting the important investments the state is making in areas including homelessness, affordable housing, broadband access and climate change mitigation. He grew up in farmworker housing and says the state needs these investments to ensure that all Californians benefit. “We have to fight to ensure the next generation has an opportunity to have a better life like my family.”
LeadersUp President and CEO Jeffrey Wallace spoke about how the California Dream Index can track progress toward an economy that works for people of color and marginalized communities. “The California Dream Index provides a great roadmap for us to ensure that, we just don’t have the data, but we have the baseline for us to organize economic development around a more meaningful and transformative light.”
Paul Markovich, president and CEO of Blue Shield of California discussed how to improve our healthcare system, including gathering real-time data and creating top-down economic pressure to improve system cost-effectiveness. “We need to automate, simplify and bring healthcare into a digital world and make it much more automated.”
Michael Wara, director of the Climate and Energy Policy Program at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment spoke about how the wildfires and drought relates to the other challenges the state is facing such as housing availability/affordability and health outcomes. “We need to keep our homes from igniting.” He added that studies show that the rates of pre-mature birth and miscarriages rose significantly during September 2020, an unprecedented fire season.
A panel of experts, led by Kate Gordon, senior advisor to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm at the U.S. Department of Energy, discussed the importance of the $600-million Community Economic Resilience Fund (CERF). Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) said, “It’s really about investing in communities that are invested in themselves as well, making sure that everybody’s included as well, not just at the table, but taking ownership of wanting to make a difference in their region and in their community.”
Former California State Treasurer John Chiang, CA FWD Leadership Council Co-Chair Ashley Swearengin and former Secretary of Defense and CA FWD Co-Founder Leon Panetta reflected on why CA FWD was founded and what’s in store in the future. “The primary message of CA FWD is, despite the dysfunction we see, it’s up to us, in our communities and our nonprofits working at the regional level to find the solutions,” said Panetta. “We know the challenges.”
The morning session ended with a “fireside” chat between Newsom and Lenny Mendonca on a number of issues including how the Summit has influenced state policy. “The $600 million in this year’s budget (for CERF) was invested quite literally because of you, because you inspired an idea the last time we got together in Fresno (2019) – the extraordinary Fresno Drive Collective,” said Newsom. He added that it’s “$600 million that we’re putting back in to replicate programs like that to support your efforts at the local level.”
The California Economic Summit continues tomorrow with panel discussions that will include Broadband for All, Homeownership Wealth Creation for California’s Diverse Communities, a focus on Salinas (the host region), and the presentation of the California Regional Steward of the Year Award to Monterey Bay Economic Partnership President and CEO Kate Roberts and the California Steward Leader of the Year to Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters).