IN THIS ISSUE – “The Wise Man of American Politics” aka Jerry Brown
GOVERNORS, WANNA-BE & CURRENT
- Governor’s Race: GOP’s Cox Surges to #2 as Newsom Maintains Lead
- Newsom Assailed For Flip-Flopping on Sanctuary State
- Vilaraigosa Assailed for Unsavory Supporters
- Brown Contemplates Turning 80 & His Legacy…“Just A Meme”
- Chief-of-Staff McFadden Passes
- Schwarzenegger & Kasich Launch Republican Party Reform: “We Are the Titanic After It Hit the Iceberg”
- CA Top-Two Primary Is a Critical National Experiment
- State Senate’s First Woman, First Gay Leader: “It’s About Time. Make Progress.”
AIR QUALITY, PUNGENT & OFFSETS
- Brown Proffers Pungent Defense of His High-Speed Rail
- Enviros Sue Carbon Credits for Housing Program in San Diego
- Golden State’s New Leading Export – Californians
- The Graying of Silicon Valley: “You Become More Responsible When You Have More to Lose”
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FOR THE WEEK ENDING MARCH 23 2018
READ ALL ABOUT IT!!
Governor’s Race: GOP’s Cox Surges to #2 as Newsom Maintains Lead
Democrat Gavin Newsom has surged ahead of Antonio Villaraigosa in the state’s gubernatorial race, and Republican John Cox has made headway among the state’s likely voters. Senator Dianne Feinstein maintains her double-digit lead over fellow Democrat Kevin de León.
These are among the key findings of a statewide survey released yesterday by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).
Democrat Gavin Newsom (28%) is the top choice among likely voters, followed by Republican John Cox (14%), Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa (12), Republican Travis Allen (10%), and Democrats John Chiang (6%) and Delaine Eastin (5%). A quarter of likely voters (24%) are still undecided. In the January PPIC poll, Newsom (23%) and Villaraigosa (21%) were in a virtual tie, with 7 percent supporting Cox.
A majority of likely voters (55%) are satisfied with candidate choices in the gubernatorial primary, with Democrats (71%) much more likely than independents (48%) or Republicans (42%) to be satisfied.
Among likely voters, Democrats prefer Newsom to Villaraigosa by 17 points (39% to 22%), with 17 percent unsure. Republicans choose Cox over Allen (33% to 25%), with 30 percent unsure. The top two candidates among independents are Newsom (29%) and Cox (15%). Latinos are more likely to support Villaraigosa (37%), while whites are more likely to support Newsom (31%).
With the June primary less than three months away, nearly half of likely voters are following news about the candidates very (14%) or fairly (34%) closely. Interest in the race has increased 18 points since January and has nearly doubled since last December.
Senator Dianne Feinstein continues to lead Kevin de León by double digits (42% to 16%) among likely voters, with 39 percent undecided. Among Democrats, two-thirds (66%) support Feinstein. Most Republicans (71%) are undecided, as are 43 percent of independents. Feinstein leads across racial/ethnic groups, and among men (35% to 21%) and women (48% to 13%).
“Gavin Newsom and Dianne Feinstein have solid leads in the gubernatorial and senate races,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. “Yet many voters remain undecided, raising questions about the outcomes in the top-two primary.”
Asked how satisfied they are with their choice of candidates in the US Senate race, likely voters are divided (47% satisfied, 44% not satisfied). A large majority of Democrats (73%) are satisfied and a similar share of Republicans (72%) are not.
Among likely voters, Feinstein’s job approval rating is 54 percent. Most Democrats (75%), 42 percent of independents, and 24 percent of Republicans approve of her job performance. California’s junior US senator, Kamala Harris, has a 45 percent approval rating among likely voters.
When asked which issue they would most like to hear gubernatorial candidates talk about between now and June, about a quarter of likely voters (23%) say immigration or illegal immigration, with guns, gun control, or school safety the second most frequently named issue (10%). Among those who mention immigration or illegal immigration, 25 percent support Cox, 17 percent support Newsom, 15 percent support Allen, and 13 percent support Villaraigosa.
On March 6—while the PPIC survey was in the field—the US Justice Department announced it was suing California for its sanctuary policies. Asked just after the announcement, a majority of California’s likely voters (55%) said they support the state and local governments making policies and taking actions to protect the legal rights of undocumented immigrants. Among registered voters, a large majority of Democrats (79%) and a majority of independents (54%) are in favor, while most Republicans (78%) are opposed.
About half of likely voters (49%) in California think the federal crackdown on undocumented immigrants is mostly a bad thing. Stark partisan differences emerge among registered voters, with 74 percent of Democrats saying it’s a bad thing, while 81 percent of Republicans say it’s a good thing. Younger adults ages 18 to 34 are more likely than older residents to say the crackdown is bad.
Amid state-federal tension over immigration policy, Governor Jerry Brown’s approval rating has held steady, with 54 percent of likely voters approving of his job performance. The legislature’s approval rating is 45 percent.
Despite the president’s call for a border wall, a solid majority of likely voters (62%) continue to oppose building a wall along the entire Mexican border. Across parties, 90 percent of registered Democrats and 69 percent of independents are opposed, while a large majority of Republicans (71%) are in favor.
“As federal-state tensions rise, Californians still strongly support the state’s role in protecting undocumented immigrants’ rights and overwhelmingly oppose building a border wall,” Baldassare said.
Newsom Assailed For Flip-Flopping on Sanctuary State
During his run for governor, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has said he’s proud to represent a “sanctuary state,” sparred publicly with Attorney General Jeff Sessions over immigration, and vowed he’d go to jail to protect undocumented immigrants.
But a fight over sanctuary policy a decade ago when Newsom was mayor of San Francisco suggests that he wasn’t always as strident a defender of immigrant rights.
In July 2008, Newsom imposed a city policy that reported undocumented youth arrested for felonies to federal immigration authorities. That decision — made the week after a father and his two sons were killed by an undocumented immigrant — meant that some kids were put at risk of deportation even if charges against them were later dropped.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to overturn Newsom’s policy in 2009, mandating that minors could only be referred to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement if they were convicted of a felony. But Newsom’s administration simply ignored the board, continuing to turn juvenile arrestees over to ICE for the rest of his term.
Meanwhile, according to emails obtained by the Bay Area News Group, Newsom’s administration also conducted a review of people in the city’s probation system and referred more than 350 suspected undocumented immigrants to ICE.
San Francisco immigrant advocates say Newsom’s record should call into question his commitment to defending California’s sanctuary policies.
“Don’t try to rewrite history and portray yourself as a champion of immigrants when you yourself were prominently involved with a policy that led to the separation of families,” said former Supervisor David Campos, who led the fight against Newsom on the issue.
Newsom’s campaign did not make him available for an interview, but spokesman Nathan Click defended his candidate’s record.
“As mayor, Gavin protected and promoted San Francisco’s sanctuary policy — the most progressive in the country — and did so in the face of national criticism from anti-immigrant politicians and many in law enforcement,” Click said.
San Francisco’s sanctuary city law, which was adopted in 1989, predates Newsom’s political career. It prohibited the use of city funds to assist federal immigration enforcement, in an attempt to make undocumented people feel safe to report crimes.
As mayor from 2004 to 2011, Newsom spoke out on behalf of the sanctuary law and railed against federal immigration raids. He also backed a law to give identification cards to all city residents, in a bid to help undocumented San Franciscans access public services. And he started a public ad campaign letting immigrants know they could access city services without being targeted for deportation.
But immigrant advocates say Newsom’s tone changed after the June 2008 slaying of Anthony Bologna, 48, and his sons Michael, 20, and Matthew, 16, in San Francisco’s Excelsior District. Edwin Ramos, an undocumented man and gang member from El Salvador, was convicted of three counts of murder in May 2012. Ramos had previously served in San Francisco juvenile probation for violent crimes but had not been deported.
Around the same time, Newsom was hit with embarrassing headlines about his administration’s management of undocumented minors in the criminal justice system. City probation officials were spending tens of thousands of dollars to fly some undocumented kids to their home countries instead of referring them to ICE, while other youth walked away from poorly secured group homes.
So in July 2008 — one day after announcing that he was forming an exploratory committee to run for governor in 2010 — Newsom unveiled his new policy: all undocumented youth charged with felonies would be reported to ICE as soon as they were booked. (The city had previously turned over undocumented adults charged with felonies.)
His former spokesman said the mayor did a good job of balancing protection for law-abiding immigrants while not harboring criminals.
“The proof that he got it right was that the right-wingers hated his policy and the far left wasn’t too pleased about it either,” said Nathan Ballard last week.
The juvenile arrest policy was one of several areas where Newsom charted a more moderate path as mayor than he has in recent years as a candidate for governor, as the Sacramento Bee noted last month. He also took more centrist stances on health care and bail reform, among other issues.
When he was mayor, Newsom’s administration was also quietly working to refer more undocumented immigrants to ICE. Emails between officials in the mayor’s office and the probation department show that city employees conducted a review of at least 1,168 people in their probation database who were not listed as U.S. citizens, reporting at least 372 suspected undocumented immigrants to ICE.
“Staff worked overtime today and made significant progress,” wrote Patrick Boyd, the chief adult probation officer, on September 13, 2008, saying in another email that “we are faxing the ICE notifications each day as reviews are completed.”
The Board of Supervisors voted to overturn Newsom’s juvenile policy in October 2009, requiring convictions for ICE referral, and overrode his veto the next month. But the mayor refused to enforce their ordinance. His administration cited a memo from City Attorney Dennis Herrera, which argued that the supervisors’ reform would be “likely to result in a federal legal challenge,” potentially to the sanctuary city law as a whole — although it also noted that “the law in this area is not well developed.”
Vilaraigosa Assailed for Unsavory Supporters
Antonio Villaraigosa has staked his candidacy for governor on his roots, telling voters he “grew up in a home rich in love, but limited in opportunity” while positioning himself as a voice for low-income families and people of color left behind in California’s economic recovery.
His rivals, however, are trying to spin the narrative, arguing that the former Los Angeles mayor has benefited from the largesse of companies and industries that prey upon some of the state’s most vulnerable residents.
Over the course of his political career, Villaraigosa has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in pay and donations from Herbalife,the L.A.-based multilevel-marketing nutritional supplements company, where he once served as a senior advisor. Payday lenders are among his other contributors.
In the run-up to the June primary, Herbalife and its employees have contributed $38,650 to Villaraigosa. The company, which was fined $200 million by the federal government in 2016 for deceptive business practices, also donated $100,000 to charity at his request when he was mayor. Payday lenders — who advance short-term loans at high interest rates primarily in low-income communities — have donated $158,900 to the candidate over the years, as well as to officeholder and other political committees he controlled.
Villaraigosa did not respond to a request for comment about the donations. But his campaign, which started 2018 with $5.9 million in the bank, defended the decision to accept them.
“Like every other candidate, he must raise funds to be competitive,” spokesman Luis Vizcaino said. “Any assumption of connections between contributions and government action is baseless. Antonio Villaraigosa is, always has been and always will be focused on building an economy that works for everyone.”
Criticism over Villaraigosa’s ties to the contributors predate the gubernatorial campaign. But Vizcaino blamed chief rival Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom for “driving this story.” Newsom mentioned the donors at the California Democratic Party convention last month.
“We took on … the predatory lenders and pyramid-schemers who prey on our most vulnerable,” Newsom told thousands of delegates in a veiled shot at Villaraigosa.
State Treasurer John Chiang’s campaign also recently criticized Villaraigosa’s work for Herbalife, chiding his proposed ballot designation of “public policy advisor.”
“Let’s be real, the only thing Antonio Villaraigosa can currently advise on is how to best target innocent Californians,” Chiang spokesman Fabien Levy said.
Garry South, a Democratic strategist who is not publicly backing a candidate, said that while the donations to Villaraigosa ought to be scrutinized, they should be put in perspective.
“I think it’s unfair to candidates who are of modest means and can’t finance their own campaigns to assert or insinuate that every single entity they take campaign contributions from they’re in debt to,” he said. “It just doesn’t work that way.”
Villaraigosa frequently recounts on the campaign trail that his mother took the bus to work as she struggled to make ends meet. He worked as a labor organizer and then spent 16 years in elected office: six years in the California Assembly; two years on the Los Angeles City Council, and eight years as mayor.
After leaving office in 2013, Villaraigosa signed on as a senior advisor to Herbalife, which he heralded as “a solid member of the Los Angeles business community and a strong presence within the Latino community since the company was founded here in 1980.”
Critics argue the company is behind a pyramid scheme that exploits the poor and people of color.
In July 2016, Herbalife agreed to pay the fines and change its business practices to settle federal regulators’ claims that the company falsely told people they could quickly get rich by selling its products. Herbalife said at the time that it disagreed with the Federal Trade Commission’s findings, but was settling to avoid a protracted legal battle.
In the final four months of 2013, Villaraigosa was paid $162,500 by Herbalife, according to his tax return for that year. He worked for the company until August 2016, shortly before he launched his gubernatorial bid. From 2014 to 2016, he earned nearly $3.5 million in consulting fees from multiple companies. Because he was compensated through a multi-member limited liability company and was not required to disclose how much each client paid for his services, it is not clear how much of that money came from Herbalife.
The company, a major political donor in the state, has not contributed to Villaraigosa’s gubernatorial rivals.
Newsom accused Villaraigosa of “shilling” for the company when the matter was raised during a recent debate at UCLA. He said Villaraigosa cashed in after serving two terms as mayor by working for a company known for “predatory practices against communities of color.”
Villaraigosa forcefully defended the company, arguing that it offered opportunities to make ends meet for people in disadvantaged communities.
“… they give people a shot at building, if not a small business, at least a little extra income on a monthly basis,” Villaraigosa told La Opinión in November. “My mother sold Tupperware and Avon, I know why Latinos and blacks do it: They need a few extra bucks. It’s called a multiple-level marketing company. That’s what Tupperware is, what Avon is — they’ve been around for 30 years. Pyramid schemes aren’t around for 30 years.”
Herbalife did not respond to a request for comment on Villaraigosa’s role.
Jerry Brown: “Wise Man of American Politics”
(NOTE: A New York Times Sunday Magazine insightful and typically lengthy profile – edited for length here, please click on the link to read in full.)
He doesn’t greet you, doesn’t thrust out a hand or ask where you’re from or give you the tour. “All right,” he says, motioning to follow. “C’mon.” An hour past the appointed time, Jerry Brown marches into the waiting room of his 14th-floor office in San Francisco’s Civic Center, led by his security detail and his dog, Colusa, tugging at her extendable leash. He hangs his jacket on the back of his chair and takes a seat in a spare two-room suite with postcard views of City Hall and the Bay Bridge, a panorama marred only by a windowpane with its tint peeling off. “I’m sorry about the window,” he says. “It’s an emblem of my frugality.”
Brown turns 80 in April. First elected in 1974 at the age of 36, he was one of the youngest governors in California’s history; today, he holds the distinction of being its oldest. What’s left of his hair he wears buzzed close to the scalp, his thick eyebrows gone to white. He cultivates the look of a professor emeritus — striped Oxford shirts and crew-neck sweaters, dark boxy suits and black slip-on loafers. A Fitbit adorns his left wrist. His face, thicker now, has lost its boyishness, and there is a scar on his nose from a procedure he had to remove a cancerous growth. His gaze, though, remains unchanged, by turns puckish and withering.
One of Brown’s favorite sayings is Age quod agis, a Latin phrase he learned while training to be a Jesuit priest. It means: Do what you’re doing. Don’t traffic in nostalgia. Don’t fantasize about what’s next. For a man who has heeded these rules, it is striking how much he has devoted his last days to leaving his mark on California. He, of course, wouldn’t put it that way.
And don’t dare bring up the subject of legacy. Brown thinks the idea is lazy — easy journalistic shorthand, a substitute for hard thinking, the kind of thinking that he prides himself on. “Nobody ever talked about a legacy 20 years ago,” he tells me. “It’s a new meme. You’ve got to write a story, you’ve got to have some parameters to push the facts through, and legacy’s one of them. I want to build my legacy — that’s why I’m talking to you. I gave a speech today because I’m building my legacy. I got up this morning because I’m building my legacy.”
Brown doesn’t believe he’ll have one. A legacy.
“I’ll tell you how it first started in my mind,” he says, leaning forward in his chair. “My father said one day, ‘History will record.’ I said, ‘Dad, history doesn’t record governors’ work’.”
History will record that Edmund “Jerry” Brown Jr. is the longest-serving governor in California history, a distinction unlikely to be eclipsed. That after two uneven terms as governor from 1975 to 1983, three failed bids for the Democratic presidential nomination, and one losing bid for the United States Senate, Brown returned to public office 15 years later as mayor of Oakland, then state attorney general, and finally governor again. That the man once viewed as one of the most perplexing governors in the state’s history will now go down as one of its most accomplished.
Written off in his youth as a New Age dilettante, Brown now finds himself the wise man of American politics. It’s a role he savors. On the defining issue of our time, climate change, he has assumed the mantle of alt-president, traveling to Europe and Asia, insisting the United States will not abandon its commitments. He leads an unabashedly liberal state, whose high taxes, government activism, embrace of immigration, and thriving economy serve as a rebuke to the current occupant of the White House. Yet he refuses to align himself with the anti-Trump “resistance,” a label claimed by so many of his fellow Democrats. He never has fit neatly into any camp, but never before has he commanded so much influence. This is Jerry Brown in his last days, the final year of a political career and public life spanning four decades, the end to the Brown family dynasty.
When he made it back to the governorship in 2011, Brown spent his first four years erasing California’s $28 billion deficit and restoring its credit rating, the worst of any state in the country. In the second term, he has committed California to the nation’s toughest goals for greenhouse gas reductions. By the time he leaves office in January, he wants to secure the fates of two projects that would long outlive him: a high-speed rail line linking Los Angeles and San Francisco as well as a series of tunnels through the central Delta to distribute water across the state.
Republicans knew he wasn’t an ordinary Democrat, and Democrats knew that he could be candid to the point of insulting. “There was a time he was talking to me about a previous speaker. I think it was Jess Unruh,” Anthony Rendon, the current Assembly speaker, recalls. “And he’s talking about ‘Jess this,’ ‘Jess this,’ and in the middle of it he says, ‘And you’re no Jess Unruh,’ and he keeps talking.” Rendon chuckles. “He’s quite literal.”
Brown began his second stint as governor in 2011. He was married now, and friends and family members credit First Lady Anne Gust Brown, his closest adviser and confidante, as a steadying influence. They also point to Nancy McFadden, the governor’s executive secretary and a commanding figure in the halls of the Capitol. A former deputy chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore, she brought expertise to the day-to-day running of the administration. “When he was first in office, he was trying to solve all the problems,” says Kathleen Brown, his younger sister and a former state treasurer. “Now, he knows he has so many battles he can fight, and he’s prioritized what he personally puts his weight behind.”
Brown stabilized California’s finances through a combination of steep budget cuts, a tax increase, and a recovering economy. Seen in a certain light, Brown has always been a fiscal conservative. He amassed a $5 billion surplus during his first run as governor.
In his second, he persuaded voters to approve his plan to put away billions of dollars as a cushion against the next economic downturn. Both times, he defied progressive members of his own party who wanted to spend more on health care or education.
But from a different angle, he’s a Keynesian, a believer in the good that government can do, unafraid to raise taxes at a time when even Democrats are reluctant to do so. That was the case with the infrastructure deal. No governor in decades had suggested increasing the gasoline tax to pay for major statewide repairs. Brown wanted a bill passed before spring recess in April.
The day before the vote was scheduled, Brown and his team knew they were just shy of a two-thirds majority. He summoned Anthony Cannella, a Republican senator from Merced, to his office. Joining them were Assembly Speaker Rendon and Kevin de León, the Senate president pro tem, and their staffs. For years, Cannella had sought money for new road construction and a commuter rail that would connect Merced to the Bay Area; if he got that, he’d support the bill. An argument broke out over whether it was too late to meet Cannella’s demands. “The governor cut the whole thing off,” Cannella says. “He said, ‘Look, we’re talking about a historic transportation bill, and we’re going to let it be derailed by peanuts. Peanuts. I want this done.’ ” Cannella got $500 million for his commuter rail and expressway.
That evening, at the governor’s mansion, Brown hosted Sabrina Cervantes, a Democratic assemblywoman from Riverside, who was still undecided. Cervantes was in her first term, and she feared that voting for a gas tax increase would cost her re-election. Chad Mayes had relayed to the governor’s office that not a single member of the Republican caucus would support the bill, so Brown needed nearly every Democratic vote. The negotiations dragged into the night. Brown listened, asked questions. He wanted to know Cervantes’s polling numbers, her last election results, the demographics of her district. If she were going to vote for the increase, Cervantes said, she needed something to show for it, not in a year or two but right now. Brown called his secretary of transportation and asked him to join the meeting. By 3 in the morning, a deal had been worked out to send nearly half a billion dollars to Riverside County. Twenty hours later, the Assembly and Senate approved the $52.4 billion infrastructure bill by a two-thirds margin without a vote to spare.
BROWN IS unusual among politicians; he’s a pessimist. He likes to quote physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer: “The world is moving in the direction of hell with a high velocity, and perhaps a positive acceleration and a positive rate of change of acceleration.” Or he’ll just come right out with it: “A lot of politicians like to say how good everything is. I like to say how bad everything is — in the spirit of making it better.” In this way, he is the antithesis of the man who defeated his father and whom he originally succeeded as governor, Ronald Reagan. At his final state budget press conference, Brown told a room full of reporters: “The next governor is going to be on the cliff. What’s out there is darkness, uncertainty, decline, and recession.”
Yet he’s not a fatalist. Nowhere is this more evident than in Brown’s work on climate change. “This is an overarching, existential threat to everything we’re trying to do, to our entire way of life,” he told an audience last year. “Based on that, I believe we have to rise to the occasion.”
Of all the through lines in Brown’s career, the environment is the clearest one. As a teenager, he nurtured a love of the outdoors on camping trips to the Sierras with his father. The start of his political career, in the late 1960s, coincided with the Santa Barbara oil spill, the first Earth Day, and the birth of the modern environmental movement. Brown moved to Los Angeles after law school and experienced the deadly smog that enveloped the city. He watched Reagan establish the California Air Resources Board and President Nixon sign the Clean Air Act. Protecting the environment, he likes to note, wasn’t always thought of as just a Democratic idea.
By the time he returned as governor, the politics of climate change had caught up with him. His Republican predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, had enacted the state’s first emissions targets and laid the groundwork for a cap-and-trade program. But Brown felt that Schwarzenegger had spent more time promoting California’s environmental goals and less time trying to meet them. “Our initial view,” Ken Alex, a senior adviser to Brown on environmental issues, says, “was that we needed to get our California house in order.”
Governors are rarely known beyond the borders of their own states, let alone outside the United States. But in the past few years, Brown has become something of a roving environmental diplomat. In 2015, in advance of the Paris climate conference, he unveiled a first-of-its-kind climate pact, signed by a coalition of states and provinces from around the world. The signatories — Baden-Württemberg and California were the first — pledged to reduce their emissions to keep global temperatures from rising above 2 degrees Celsius. The Under2 Coalition, as it came to be known, now includes more than 200 members responsible for 40 percent of the world’s GDP. Brown attended the Paris conference to lobby for the international climate agreement that was eventually approved. Members of his administration have advised the Chinese, Mexican, and Canadian governments on designing their own cap-and-trade programs.
This role, Brown is quick to emphasize, predates Trump’s election. The president’s denial of climate change has made the work more pressing than ever, but Brown refuses to define himself in reaction to Trump. He tends to view Trump’s victory, which took him by surprise, in historical terms, comparing the current era to the upheaval that followed World War I. Anne Gust Brown says he’s more interested in the forces that produced Trump than in his behavior. “You look at the fact that 38 to 40 percent of Americans like Trump and want Trump,” she says. “Now, what do we do? How do you approach that? That’s what Jerry likes to focus on.”
I once asked Brown about his interactions with the president, about what those conversations were like. “What does that mean? What is it like?” He picked up a mug of coffee. “What is it like having a cup of coffee? It’s like having a cup of coffee. Talking to Trump is like talking to Trump. What’s it like talking to you? It’s a rather odd experience.”
Brown’s trip often felt like the final world tour of an aging rock star. He flew by private jet. Fans met him in every city. Even an E.U. representative from the far-right United Kingdom Independence Party, who had publicly excoriated Brown, later asked him for a photo. “The Brexit guy wants a selfie,” Brown muttered. His wife and his staff tended to his needs, toting his iPhone and ID badge, lint-rolling him before a TV appearance. Still, the trip took a toll, and by the third or fourth day, he’d come down with a cold and was irritable and tired.
At one point, I asked Brown if he enjoyed the nonstop grind of photo ops and public appearances. “No, I hate everything!” he replied. “Do you think at age 79, if I didn’t enjoy it, I’d be doing all this stuff? Why, because I’m a masochist? If you want an accurate reflection of my existential position, it’s always changing. There are certain things you have to do that aren’t as pleasant as other things you have to do, but if it’s something you want to get accomplished, you will do it. And there will be different levels of joy, from zero to 100 percent.”
NOT LONG BEFORE his last State of the State address, Brown retreated to a small office on the third floor of the governor’s mansion. It was January now, and the sun shone through a small window, brightening the room. Piles of speeches were stacked on his desk. He’d been reading some of his old State of the States, Reagan’s farewell address, and especially the words of his father.
When people talk about Jerry Brown’s first years as governor, they often do so in Freudian terms. Brown seemed almost eager to portray himself in opposition to his father, a man who measured himself by bills passed and projects built, who never saw a hand he couldn’t shake, a room he couldn’t work. But as Brown has gotten older, he seems to have reconciled with his father. He proudly points out a photo of Pat Brown and John F. Kennedy on a wall in his office. He keeps a framed poster from one of his father’s campaigns for San Francisco district attorney in the waiting room. Friends and family members say Brown has also come to a greater appreciation of the types of big projects his father undertook. “He sees how they’re a manifestation of one’s contribution,” Kathleen Brown says. “They last. Ideas can be more fleeting.”
As Brown sat down to write his State of the State, two such projects were at the front of his mind: the high-speed rail from Los Angeles to San Francisco and the water tunnels in the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta. They were the most ambitious construction projects of Brown’s career — and their fortunes were far from certain. Earlier this year, state officials said the initial segment of the rail project would cost $2.8 billion more than projected, and work is snarled in a web of lawsuits and disputes with local governments and landholders. Republicans uniformly oppose the rail line, and none of the Democrats running for governor in 2018 has wholeheartedly endorsed it. On the Delta tunnels, which would carry water to farmers and cities in central and Southern California, concern about their price recently led the administration to consider scaling back the project from two tunnels to one.
Brown says that he sees his pursuit of high-speed rail and the Delta tunnels as carrying on his father’s work — something he likely would not have acknowledged 40 years ago. He concedes, though, that it is far more challenging for the government to pull off such projects in the current political climate, even in liberal California, than it was in his father’s era. Still, he was determined to press his case for his two signature initiatives before he left office.
On the morning of January 25, sitting at his thick wooden conference table under the photo of Kennedy and his father, he gave his State of the State speech one last read. When it was time, he tucked the black binder under his arm and walked from his office to the Assembly chambers. Anne Gust Brown and his staff sat in the gallery. As Brown entered, the chamber erupted with applause and whistles. Democrats and Republicans rose to their feet, many pulling out their cellphones to record a small piece of history. Brown briskly made his way to the speaker’s rostrum, a slightly bemused look on his face as a chant of “Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!” broke out.
“As my father used to say,” he began, “I accept the nomination!” He’d ad-libbed that line. The rest was vintage Brown: frank, challenging, a statement of faith in the purpose of government and the power of politics. He celebrated how far California had come since he’d returned as governor. He championed the Delta tunnels and high-speed rail. And he ended with the story of his great-grandfather, an immigrant who had sailed from Germany to America on a ship named Perseverance. “He persisted against all the odds and made it to Sacramento three years later,” Brown said. “And, yes, we too will persist against storms and turmoil, obstacles great and small.”
The lawmakers rose to applaud, the audience in the gallery cheering and shouting. Jerry Brown, the pessimist and the rationalist, sat back in his chair and gazed out, allowing himself a moment to take it all in.
Chief-of-Staff McFadden Passes
Four years ago, Nancy McFadden returned to her alma mater to receive an honorary doctorate and deliver the commencement address.
Though at the pinnacle of her career, working as the chief of staff for Gov. Jerry Brown, she urged the graduating students of San Jose State University not to forget kindness and gratitude as they changed the world.
“I hope you live life not for the accolades but for the experience itself,” she said. “Climb the mountain not to plant the flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world and not so the world can see you. I hope you don’t let fear stop you. I hope you take a pause every so often and I wish you so much more than luck.”
The speech was a favorite memory of McFadden’s closest friends, a moment they felt captured the quintessential Nancy: an accomplished politico who cherished sharing her experience as a mentor, especially to young women; an avid traveler who could land an important deal one day and then jet off to see the world the next; a crucial figure in California government who was not concerned about receiving praise for her achievements, though she often deserved more credit than she got.
McFadden, who rose through the ranks in Washington and Sacramento to become Brown’s executive secretary during his final two terms in office, died Thursday night following a battle with ovarian cancer. She was 59.
“Nancy was the best chief of staff a governor could ever ask for,” Brown said in a statement. “She understood government and politics, she could manage, she was a diplomat and she was fearless. She could also write like no other. Nancy loved her job and we loved her doing it. This is truly a loss for me, for Anne, for our office, for Nancy’s family and close friends – and for all of California.”
McFadden was born in Wilmington, Del., and moved to San Jose with her mother when she was 11, after her parents split. She studied political science at San Jose State University and got an early start in politics there: In 1979, she beat future Democratic strategist Joe Trippi in an election for class president that McFadden told the Spartan Daily was full of “dirty tricks” against her, including prank phone calls, tampering with her car and rumors about her running mate.
After graduating from law school at the University of Virginia, McFadden began a steady ascent in Washington, D.C., with a stint at the law firm O’Melveny & Myers. She left in December 1991 for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in Little Rock, where she worked on damage control after Clinton mistress Gennifer Flowers came forward.
McFadden joined the Clinton administration as a deputy associate attorney general and quickly established herself as the “go-to” person in the Department of Justice, according to The Washington Post. She rose to general counsel for the Department of Transportation and then deputy chief of staff for Vice President Al Gore.
In 2000, McFadden left the Beltway for Sacramento, to help then-Gov. Gray Davis deal with California’s mounting energy crisis.
Former press secretary Steve Maviglio said Davis needed someone with connections to Washington to get the attention of the Clinton administration in its waning days, and McFadden “actually brought a sense of order and strategic plan of how to get out of a situation where sometimes literally the lights weren’t coming on.”
“I still get twitches when I think about those days, because we were literally working 24/7 and we never knew what to expect,” Maviglio said. “The ability to bring people together in a time of crisis is what she’s good at.”
When California voters recalled Davis in 2003, McFadden continued to serve for a time as his adviser. She eventually joined Pacific Gas & Electric Co. as a senior public affairs and government relations executive. Gov. Jerry Brown — whom McFadden later admitted she thought was “a total wacko when he was running for president” — pulled her back to the Capitol.
“She always put public service first,” Maviglio said. “A lot of people say they want to change the world. Nancy really did.”
Since Brown’s return to the governor’s office in 2011 for a third and fourth term, McFadden had been his top aide, instrumental in corralling the Legislature to carry out the administration’s policy agenda.
She was also the “epicenter” of the office, former cabinet secretary Dana Williamson said, someone who lead the team on priorities like overhauling California’s school funding formula while cracking everybody up by spontaneously bursting into dance in the middle of the hallway.
Williamson, who also worked under McFadden at PG&E, said she was like a “big sister”: willing to listen to anyone, lift up their ideas and have their backs on tough decisions.
“If you’re young, you’re old, you’re whatever, she doesn’t make you feel like what you have to say is misplaced or stupid,” Williamson said. “She would often pull us all in a room and say, ‘What am I missing?’”
Two of McFadden’s biggest accomplishments came last year, when she helped Brown push through a major gas tax increase to fund road repairs and an extension of the state’s signature climate change program, cap-and-trade.
As the gas tax deal appeared to falter at the finish line last April, McFadden arrived on the Assembly floor to convince a handful of holdout Democrats to vote for the controversial package. She spent weeks negotiating changes to cap-and-trade with Republicans and representatives from affected industries, such as oil and energy utilities, so that the bill could pass last summer with bipartisan support.
“We’d get one more vote and one more vote. She never once flinched,” Williamson said, even when people said the prospect of a bargain was dead. She added that it was the biggest lesson she would take from McFadden’s example: “Don’t give up until you’ve exhausted every possibility.”
Public relations consultant Donna Lucas said that, during her more than three decades in Sacramento, she’s never seen anyone pull together deals like McFadden did. “I told her she should write a book about the art of the deal,” Lucas said.
McFadden laughed off her suggestion. “Well, I really would like to know how all these came together,” Lucas added. “She could see it. She knew timing.”
McFadden was exceedingly modest about her accomplishments, friends said. She chose the smallest office in the governor’s wing of the Capitol and turned her predecessor’s office into a conference room.
Maviglio described McFadden as the “opposite” of the super egos one normally encounters in politics, a “velvet hammer” who kept her hard work behind the scenes and a “one-woman SEAL Team” any time the dealmaking got contentious.
But in recent years, she also become one of the more visible members of the Brown administration through her Twitter account, where she occasionally shared news and showed off her sense of humor with GIFs and memes. It was where, in January, she announced that she would be stepping back from her role at the Capitol as she managed ovarian cancer.
She was originally diagnosed in 2001, and the cancer returned four years ago. For a long time, it did not stop McFadden from doing the things she loved: hiking in Lake Tahoe, traveling to Italy and Asia, dancing at concerts for Paul McCartney and Gwen Stefani.
“She loved the beach. She loved going to the ocean and just watching the waves,” Maviglio said. “I think it provided a lot of tranquility in her life.”
McFadden sat on the board of her friend Maria Shriver’s health advocacy organization Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, and did charity bicycle rides along Highway 1 for Best Buddies, Shriver’s nonprofit benefiting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She was also a “phenomenal mentor,” Lucas said, who took time to grow talent and put people in key positions in California’s government.
“Nancy could walk in a room and talk to a president of the United States and hold her own, and then she could be talking to an intern in the office and treat them with the same respect,” she said.
Lucas said she keeps returning to an image of McFadden in Tahoe last summer, after Lucas had convinced her to jump into the lake. The water was cold, but McFadden plunged in with sheer joy: “Boom. Right over the side of the boat.”
Schwarzenegger & Kasich Launch Republican Party Reform: “We Are the Titanic After It Hit the Iceberg”
About 200 people crowded onto a basketball court in an old building near downtown Los Angeles. They showed up to witness a faction of California Republicans urge the party to diverge from President Trump, and to moderate its tone and policy.
Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former presidential candidate — and current Ohio governor — John Kasich were keynote speakers at the event by the group New Way California.
A possible reason for the change in direction? California Republicans hold no statewide offices, and only one in four voters are registered with the party.
“Today we are the Titanic after it hit the iceberg, but before the last bit of the ship submerged,” Schwarzenegger said at the event. “But unlike the Titanic, we might be able to save Leonardo DiCaprio before he goes under.”
Schwarzenegger and the event’s organizers say Republicans need to change a divisive approach that has alienated key voting blocs, such as Latinos — the state’s largest ethnic demographic. Without mentioning Trump by name, New Way founder and state Assemblyman Chad Mayes criticized his rhetoric.
“The old way burns bridges and erects walls,” Mayes said. “The new way builds bridges and opens doors.”
The speakers were light on policy prescriptions, but generally argued Republicans must compromise with Democrats, rather than act as an opposition party. Whether current Republicans will go for that is an open question. Mayes tried compromising with Gov. Jerry Brown on cap-and-trade legislation last year, and he lost his post as Republican leader.
“Look, we want this party to survive, but we’ve got to stop playing ideological games, and start thinking about the customers,” Kasich said, referring to voters. “And, help these folks. Help Chad. It’s going to be lonely for a while.”
But Ruben Guerra, a Democrat who chairs the Latin Business Association and voted for Schwarzenegger, says he’s open to supporting New Way candidates.
“I’ve been a Democrat all my life, but now I’m not loyal to that anymore,” Guerra said. “I’m loyal to the right people being in place.”
Political consultant Cassandra Pye suggested organizers could still broaden their appeal.
“We’ve got to have more women in the room next time,” Pye said.
Many attendees said they came specifically to see Schwarzenegger. One test for this new faction of Republicans will be whether they can sustain momentum past this first event without his celebrity presence.
CA Top-Two Primary Is a Critical National Experiment
California may appear to Democrats as an electoral oasis, a sea of newly turned-blue political maps that could quench their thirst for control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Or the oasis could be nothing more than a mirage, disappearing in the haze of the state’s unbridled primary election rules. In places where antipathy for President Trump is now sky-high, a poor showing by Democrats on election day would be stunning.
“It’s really through the looking glass, but Democrats could be shut out of these races,” strategist Katie Merrill said.
For the third consecutive election cycle, state and congressional races on California’s primary ballot will feature large pools of candidates no longer subdivided by partisan labels. Only the two contenders with the most votes in each race advance to a showdown in November, even those from the same party. The rest go home.
The top-two primary has maximized voter choice while minimizing the power of parties and interest groups to foresee the eventual outcome. Voters have the power — and sometimes the burden — of sorting through what can be lists filled with dozens of names.
“It’s such a loose and open system that it can produce quirky results,” said Eric McGhee, a researcher at the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.
The top-two primary was crafted in the dark of a winter night in 2009, a concession by Democrats in the California Legislature to a single Republican lawmaker in exchange for his support of a state budget package. When it appeared on the ballot the following spring as Proposition 14, the only leader embracing it was Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who insisted the top-two primary would discourage extreme partisanship while encouraging candidates to embrace the kind of centrist platform he believed voters were demanding.
“It will force them to appeal to a broader number of voters,” Schwarzenegger said in a 2010 video. “It will free legislators from their ideological straight-jackets, so they can meet in the middle and get things done.”
But McGhee, one of the state’s foremost experts on the top-two primary, has found only a few traces of political moderation since 2010 and then only among Democrats who won. In a lengthy study published last fall, he and political scientist Boris Shor wrote that California created so many changes almost simultaneously — new primary rules, independent political redistricting, longer legislative term limits — that pinpointing the effect of each is practically impossible.
“If institutional reform is a potential lever in the American democratic system, these reforms amount to grabbing the lever and pulling as hard as possible,” the researchers wrote.
The California primary that’s now less than three months away promises to be the system’s most important test, and possibly its most controversial. Although Democrats have largely consolidated their power behind just a few formidable candidates in statewide contests, local races with a multitude of candidates could allow Republicans to quell the anti-Trump fervor in at least four congressional districts that Democrats otherwise are well poised to capture.
“The top-two primary math is showing us there need to be fewer Democrats in those races,” said Merrill, whose Fight Back California political action committee is betting the bank on the seven Republican districts won by Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016.
The rules approved by voters in 2010’s Proposition 14 were crafted specifically to avoid legal challenges. But the current system based on the raw vote has almost erased the names of minor parties come November. And it scrapped what some believe would have been an important fail-safe in the event of same-party fall faceoffs: a provision to allow write-in candidates.
Top-two primaries were envisioned by self-proclaimed reformers to be as much about voters as politicians. But McGhee said voters haven’t really changed, largely still making choices based on the “D,” “R” or other party designation listed on the ballot.
“Voters don’t follow politics closely, and so they use shortcuts,” McGhee said.
A party designation doesn’t always help when shared by so many candidates in a single race. When they have few real policy differences, everyone gets a thin spread of votes.
CA Senate’s First Woman, First Gay Leader: “It’s About Time. Make Progress.”
Sen. Toni Atkins became the first woman and first LGBT person to lead the California Senate on Wednesday, pledging to work toward changing the Capitol culture amid a reckoning over sexual misconduct.
A rainbow flag representing gay pride hung next to the California and U.S. flags in the Capitol rotunda as the San Diego Democrat was formally elected Senate pro tem and took the oath of office, administered by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye.
“It’s the first time. And it’s about time,” Atkins said. “I came to the Senate to make progress, not history.”
Atkins takes over as the Legislature faces ongoing scrutiny over its handling of sexual misconduct, upcoming budget negotiations and the 2018 elections.
Democrats lost supermajorities in the Senate and Assembly when three lawmakers resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Some lobbyists and female legislative staffers have fiercely criticized the Legislature for fostering a culture where women don’t feel comfortable coming forward to report sexual harassment or abuse.
“To some extent, we bear the burden of past sins too often swept under the rug,” Atkins said. “We can’t change the past. But we can and we should be judged on how we shape the future.”
Her election as president pro tem is a return to legislative leadership for the 55-year-old Atkins, who was Assembly speaker from 2014 to 2016. She ran a women’s health clinic in San Diego before turning full time to local and state politics.
She replaces Los Angeles Democrat Kevin de Leon, who is leaving because of term limits and is running for U.S. Senate.
“She knows what it’s like to struggle; how it feels to have the deck stacked against you from the very beginning,” de Leon said, comparing her upbringing in poverty in Appalachian Virginia to his own in San Diego.
Atkins took a subtle swipe at President Donald Trump and his pledge to “make America great again.”
“There will always be people in this line of work who cling to a gauzy version of a simpler past,” she said. “These are the good old days.”
Brown Proffers Pungent Defense of His High-Speed Rail
California Gov. Jerry Brown gave a forceful defense of one of his signature projects Monday night, responding to critics of the escalating costs of the state’s high-speed rail program.
“That’s bullshit,” Brown said, at the outset of a 15-minute speech to California labor leaders at a Sacramento hotel.
Brown said the high-speed rail effort, with a newly escalated cost estimate of $77.3 billion to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco, was a small investment when compared with the scale of the California economy. Other countries such as Spain with much smaller economies, Brown said, have already built major high-speed rail lines.
“I’m so tired of all the nonsense that I read in the paper and you hear from other politicians,” Brown said.
“We can do it if we have the imagination, if we have the will and we don’t let these small-minded people intimidate us into lowering our expectations.”
Brown also connected the high-speed rail project to the state’s housing affordability crisis, saying that people could live in less expensive housing in the Central Valley and take high-speed rail to commute to the Bay Area for work.
“High-speed rail is affordable housing,” he said.
Brown said he has little hope of securing more funding for the project under President Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress. But the governor said he was going to do everything he can to return Democrats to power in Washington so that high-speed rail gets built.
“People say, ‘How are you going to fund the railroad?’ ” Brown said. “I’ll tell you how we’re going to fund the railroad. We’re going to take back the Congress and then a Democratic congress is going to put the high-speed rail in the infrastructure bill and then we’ll get that trillion dollars and we’ll put America back to work.”
Enviros Sue Carbon Credits for Housing Program in San Diego
Several environmental groups joined the Sierra Club over the weekend in suing the county of San Diego for its plan to use carbon credits to offset greenhouse gas emissions from new housing and commercial developments.
Signing onto the lawsuit are The Center for Biological Diversity and the Endangered Habitats League, as well as the local groups Cleveland National Forest Foundation, Climate Action Campaign, Environmental Center for San Diego and Preserve Wild Santee
As part of a years-long legal battle with the Sierra Club, the county recently redrafted its Climate Action Plan under court order. County officials put forth a plan that would allow developers to offset air pollution by purchasing carbon credits.
Such credits would be bought through carbon registries, such as Climate Action Reserve, American Carbon Registry and Verified Carbon Standard, and could represent projects located anywhere in the world.
The Sierra Club argues the county has no way to verify the quality of the credits and that it should require all such off-set programs to be located within the county.
“Such offsets may be completely illusory and would not benefit the residents of San Diego as offsets attained through local projects would,” said Josh Chatten-Brown of Chatten-Brown & Carstens, the law firm representing the groups, in an e-mail.
The county declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation.
The county has required developers to do as much onsite mitigation of greenhouse gases as possible before turning to the credits market. However, sprawling suburban development generates significant numbers of new car trips that will likely require credits to help the county satisfy its climate plan.
Developers seem eager to embrace the credit proposal. The developers of Newland Sierra north of Escondido, for example, have proposed buying credits to offset about 80 percent of the project’s climate pollution. Lilac Hills Ranch in Valley Center has plans to address about 70 percent of its climate pollution through credits.
The county has more than a dozen such projects currently awaiting approval.
As part of the state’s cap-and-trade program, businesses have the option of buying such credits. However, the state independently verifies the quality of the offset projects and limits use to just 8 percent of a regulated company’s total emissions.
Golden State’s New Leading Export – Californians
RENO — A growing homelessness crisis. Complaints about traffic congestion. Worries that the economy is becoming dominated by a wealthy elite.
Those sound like California’s problems in a nutshell. But now they are also among California’s leading exports.
Just ask the citizens of this city, where growing numbers of Californians and companies like Tesla have migrated to take advantage of cheap land and comparatively low home prices. A four-hour drive from Silicon Valley, across a mountain range and a state line, Reno is finding that imported growth is accompanied by imported problems.
On a recent evening, Chance Reading, an electrician who has lived in the area for 15 years, went to the City Council chambers to speak against a proposed development near his home in Verdi, on Reno’s outskirts. He was part of a standing-room crowd that lined the back wall and spilled into the lobby. Neighbor after neighbor walked to the microphone to complain about clogged roads, overcrowded schools and a creeping sense that local residents were being overwhelmed by development.
“Our big message tonight is really about the pace of growth and trying to have a sustainable growth pattern versus a cycle of boom and bust,” Mr. Reading said before the meeting.
And it’s not just happening in Reno. Austin, Tex.; Boise, Idaho; Denver; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle have all seen a huge influx of home buyers from California, according to the real estate website Zillow. A common thread is that each of these cities faces a growing housing crisis that, while not as severe as California’s, is setting off many of the same debates.
In Washington State, the legislature considered, but ultimately killed, a bill that would let cities like Seattle impose rent control. Affordable housing has emerged as the top priority for voters in Denver, while groups in Boise are organizing to fight “irresponsible development.”
Such concerns are a far cry from those of even the recent past in Reno, where the economy has long been based on gambling and the city’s status as a small, sedate northern answer to Las Vegas.
A little under a decade ago, Reno was one of America’s foreclosure capitals and the unemployment rate was just below 14 percent. The gambling industry was skidding, tax revenue was plunging and construction companies were either going out of business or shredding their payroll from several hundred employees to a few dozen.
“Everybody was leaving and Reno was basically closing its doors,” Lance Gilman, an industrial land broker, said in a recent interview while wearing a cowboy hat, several gold rings, a gold chain and a gold watch. (This being Nevada, he is also the proprietor of a prominent brothel, the Mustang Ranch.)
Today, the city and the surrounding metropolitan area of 450,000 people are so deep into another boom that local residents are starting to wonder if the rebound has been too much too soon. For decades, one of Reno’s chief attributes has been its proximity to California. It has prospered by being a refuge for people and businesses looking for less expensive homes, land and labor, along with the added benefit of not having a state income tax.
And that is what is driving growth today. Net annual departures from California slowed to about 20,000 after the recession, but have climbed back to more than 100,000, according to the Census Bureau. “A lot of people feel like they want to get out while those markets are hot,” said Jaime Moore, a real estate agent based in Reno who is with Redfin, a national real estate brokerage firm, speaking about the high-price cities in coastal California.
As a result, the Reno housing market has gone from moribund to scorching. As of February, the median home price in the metropolitan area was about $340,000, more than double its recessionary trough of about $150,000, according to Zillow. The inventory of homes for sale was down 22 percent from a year earlier, according to Redfin, and sales were happening at a much faster clip. The typical home for sale was under contract in 55 days, 24 days faster than a year earlier.
In Reno and elsewhere, one distinguishing feature of the recent migration is that it is not limited to retirees who sold their home with plans to funnel the profits toward a cheaper and lower-tax retirement. There is also an influx of young professionals like Brian Quon, a automation engineer at Tesla.
Mr. Quon, 37, moved to Reno last year, mostly for professional reasons. He bought a house for $400,000, about a third of what his home in San Jose, Calif., was worth, and he said Reno was friendlier and had a slower pace. He said he was not really aware of the debate about growing pains, because he was extremely busy at work and almost no one he worked with was from Nevada.
“As the kids grow up and go to school, I’m sure we’ll be more involved in the community,” said Mr. Quon, who is married and has two children under 3.
In contrast to their counterparts in the Bay Area, where the term “gentrification” is used carefully and with regret, Reno boosters and real estate agents boast about how blocks of rundown weekly motels are just months away from gentrifying. Come back soon, the message goes, and all this stuff will be torn down and gone.
Today the typical Reno rent is just under $1,700 a month, up about 30 percent from five years ago, according to Zillow. One result has been a surge in Reno’s homeless population. The city’s shelter, just a few blocks past a bus station, is overflowing with residents and recently added a propane-heated tent to accommodate all the extra people.
On a recent chilly morning, with a snowstorm bearing down, Aria Overli, went door to door through a motel just off the downtown strip. Ms. Overli, an organizer with Actionn, a housing advocacy group in Northern Nevada, passed the sounds of saws and renovations, knocking on doors. Many residents who answered said they were on the verge of being evicted.
For the past year Actionn has been organizing tenants in Reno’s weekly motels, many of whom are one step removed from homelessness. The group has been taking residents to City Council meetings, where they speak out against new local ordinances — like a requirement that motel rooms have small kitchens — that they fear will push rents higher. The group has also been pushing for financing for affordable housing and for requirements that developers include subsidized units in new projects.
“This rapid economic growth has come with a housing crisis,” said J. D. Klippenstein, Actionn’s executive director.
Mr. Gilman, the broker and brothel owner, has been at the center of Reno’s evolution. He arrived in 1985 after reading a report titled “10 boomtowns you can count on for the ’90s.” He and a group of business partners went on to buy and sell various plots of land for housing and commercial development that was primarily marketed toward the kinds of retirees and second-home owners who had sought out Reno in earlier migrations from California.
Two decades ago, the group bought several hundred thousand acres outside town and, after adding roads and other infrastructure, turned it into a vast industrial park among buff-colored mountains that was initially used mostly as a center for warehouse and logistics operations for big retailers like Walmart. The park expanded as consumers did more of their shopping online, but its growth took off three years ago as Reno started to rebrand as a technology hub, and Nevada offered a $1.3 billion incentive package to bring in Tesla’s Gigafactory.
As the park and its tenants have prospered, the Reno airport has added flights connecting it with tech hubs like Austin. Hotels are marketing themselves as smoke-free and, in place of casinos, have added diversions like bocce courts and climbing walls. One newly revitalized retail strip has a yoga studio, a gastro pub, a marijuana dispensary and a bubble tea cafe on what was once a used-car lot.
Since helping to woo Tesla, Mr. Gilman has reached deals with various other tech companies, including Google and Switch, which runs data centers. A mysterious cryptocurrency company called Blockchains LLC recently bought about 67,000 acres, which was just about everything Mr. Gilman had left to sell.
“I’m out of work,” said Mr. Gilman, who noted that he had planned for it to take two decades for the park to sell out the rest of that land.
The Graying of Silicon Valley: “You Become More Responsible When You Have More to Lose”
Several years ago, a plastic figurine began appearing around Google’s offices, an aging alien with gray hair, a Google Glass headset and a sign that read, “Get Off My Lawn!”
The doll, a special edition of Google’s Android mascot, was a jokey tribute to the Greyglers, a group for the 40-and-over crowd at Google, and the doll hinted at how it felt to be an older worker in tech: funny, self-conscious, a little out of place.
The Greyglers still exist, but they’re no longer such an anomaly. Sundar Pichai, Google’s 45-year-old chief executive, would fit in the group. So would Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who co-founded the search engine as graduate students two decades ago; Susan Wojcicki, an early employee who runs YouTube; and most of the company’s other high-ranking executives.
For years, the self-appointed leaders of Silicon Valley were young people — mostly men — with age-appropriate behavior. They adopted brash mottos like “move fast and break things” and eschewed work-life balance in favor of all-night hacking sessions in offices that looked more like college dorms. Their successes were cheered, and their sins were shrugged off as the cost of innovation.
“Young people are just smarter,” Mark Zuckerberg crowed back in 2007, when he was the 22-year-old wunderkind behind a fledgling social network.
Now, of course, Facebook is a global powerhouse, and the company’s pursuit of growth at all costs has led to some truly dire consequencesaround the world and fueled a larger backlash against tech. At the same time, Mr. Zuckerberg has disproved his own theory. Now 33, he is still not old by any measure (except perhaps his own). But he is a smarter and more self-aware leader than he was a decade ago, and he has shown more willingness to accept responsibility for the company’s mistakes. After years of moving fast and breaking things, Facebook is at least acknowledging its flaws and trying, albeit clumsily, to fix them. That’s a start.
There’s a lot of growing up happening in today’s tech industry, where former whiz kids made their fortunes and are now settling down, starting families and starting to think about their legacies. Tech’s work force remains young — according to PayScale, the median employee at the five largest tech companies is around 30, roughly a decade younger than the median American worker — but the industry’s leaders have gotten older, and are seemingly more attuned to the power they wield.
“Five years ago, there was no talk of empathy or moral responsibility,” said Om Malik, a venture capitalist who has written about the tech industry for years.
Certain corners of the start-up world, such as cryptocurrency ventures, are still filled with reckless renegades. But the industry’s largest companies are now mature, bureaucratic businesses whose daily decisions are heavily scrutinized. That’s a good thing, since the issues many of these companies now face — global information wars, regulation and privacy concerns, diversity and sexual harassment challenges, and worries about technology’s effects on billions of people’s brains — will require thoughtful, grown-up solutions.
In recent weeks, I spoke to numerous industry insiders about this coming of age. Here’s what I learned.
Gregor Hochmuth, 33, an early engineer at Instagram, said some of today’s internet giants had grown up with positive-thinking cultures that left them vulnerable to abuse.
“The idea that a product could make your life worse was not in anyone’s perception,” said Mr. Hochmuth, who left Instagram in 2014.
That perspective helps explain the shock many founders felt when the internet grew into the foundation of global culture and commerce, and products they had built as quirky experiments became pieces of critical infrastructure.
“No one was thinking about ‘Wow, in 15 years, billions of people are going to be using this site every day,’” said Andrew McCollum, 34, one of Facebook’s founders, who left the company in 2006 and is now the chief executive of Philo, an internet TV company. “The goal was ‘How do we create something great?’ — not ‘What’s our plan for world domination?’”
Twitter, another company started by young idealists, is the latest tech giant to put itself under the microscope. In a series of tweets early this month, Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive, said the company was trying to improve the health and civility of its platform after years of neglect.
“We didn’t fully predict or understand the real-world negative consequences,” Mr. Dorsey, 41, wrote. “We acknowledge that now, and are determined to find holistic and fair solutions.”
You could chalk these statements up to self-interest. But Maureen Taylor, a leadership communication expert who frequently coaches tech executives, said this kind of earnest self-examination was becoming more frequent among founders.
“As you get older, you realize your responsibilities are bigger,” she said. “People are becoming very thoughtful about the ramifications of technology, and remembering that the whole point was to make the world a better place.”
The tech industry’s stereotypical accessory used to be the hoodie. Today, it might as well be the Baby Bjorn. There are a lot of new parents among tech elites, including Mr. Zuckerberg and Kevin Systrom, 34, a co-founder of Instagram. (Evan Spiegel, the 27-year-old chief executive of Snap, is expecting his first child this year.) And parenthood seems to be shaping their attitudes. In an interview with The New York Times this year, Mr. Zuckerberg cited his children as one of the reasons he was so focused on fixing Facebook.
“It’s important to me that when Max and August grow up that they feel like what their father built was good for the world,” Mr. Zuckerberg said.
Chamath Palihapitiya, 41, an early Facebook executive who now leads the venture capital firm Social Capital, told me that becoming a father had transformed his outlook on technology. He avoids screen time for his children, and is more wary of the tools he helped build.
“Before fatherhood, I believed that enabling my children to grow and explore through technology would be an obvious edge and something I’d support,” Mr. Palihapitiya said. “Increasingly, what I see is a detached generation of kids living behind screens.”
As their executives pursue personal growth, some of Silicon Valley’s large companies are also professionalizing their workplaces by cutting back on frivolous perks and enforcing stricter rules on sexual harassment and other forms of employee misconduct. (You could call this the “Uber effect.”)
Industries run by older executives aren’t necessarily paragons of virtue, either. (See: Wall Street.) But there is something to be said for caution, and tech companies now seem aware that they’re playing with live ammunition.
“You become more responsible when you have more to lose,” Mr. Malik said.
Silicon Valley works a bit like a forest — as old trees decay and die, they decompose and fertilize the next generation of growth. And today’s largest tech companies are beginning to show their age. Facebook is 14 years old, and Twitter is 12. Google, at 20, is now nearly as old as Microsoft was in 1998, when Google was started.
The tech industry’s maturity may be a sign of cyclical renewal. Fifteen years ago, Larry Ellison — the billionaire co-founder of Oracle, and the enfant terrible of an earlier generation of tech moguls — denounced what he saw as Silicon Valley’s slow-footed stagnation. (The tech industry was “as large as it’s going to be,” he predicted.)
Mr. Ellison was wrong, of course. Tech wasn’t stagnant, but the generation of mature companies that included Oracle was on its way to being eclipsed by newer and scrappier ventures.
If history is any indication, that cycle will repeat itself and a new crop of young tech leaders will emerge. But hopefully they’ll learn from the mistakes made by their predecessors. Technology is too important now, and we can’t afford another generation of naïveté.