I recently returned to my Pittsburgh home from a trip to Sacramento. I went reluctantly. When I fled my native California in 2008, I vowed never to return. A better way to phrase my departure would be to say that I felt pushed out. Overdevelopment sprawl and an increasingly reckless government made California unrecognizable to me. But a close friend’s retirement party drew me back.
My instincts to stay away were correct. Sacramento, within living memory, a quiet Central California city, is well on its way to matching Los Angeles and San Jose for unsustainable, quality of life-killing growth. As for societal trends, my hotel was located directly across the street from the State Capitol building, a favorite homeless encampment. Last month, homeless transients attacked state groundskeepers. The last thing a Sacramento visitor would want to do is take an after-dinner stroll around the block.
Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom, like many other state officials trying to sweet talk their way out of citizens’ backlash against indifference to the public health and safety concerns that the homeless create, has promised more housing programs. During his first ten months in office, Nesom signed $1.75 billion in new housing initiatives. Newsom also helped pass laws that would reduce evictions and exorbitant rent hikes.
Realists, however, know that more housing cannot keep up with Sacramento’s exploding population growth. Sacramento is growing at 1.5 percent, making it the fastest expanding large California city. Sacramento’s surrounding counties have also undergone major population increases. The City of Trees, as Sacramento is fondly but inaccurately remembered, is also the nation’s most competitive rental market and ranks among the highest when measured by monthly fee increases.
Given California’s population doubling between Ronald Reagan’s gubernatorial administration, 1967 to 1974, from about 20 million to today’s 40 million and projected to exceed 50 million within the next three decades, prudent leadership would try to slow immigration and thereby take the pressure off of the state’s already seemingly insurmountable problems. Yet Newsom walks on the opposite path, and at every turn foolishly encourages more immigration. Calling them “a stain on our nation’s history,” Newsom has relentlessly attacked President Trump’s reasonable attempts to bring about practical immigration reform, and instead has expanded illegal immigrants’ rights and protections. Under Newsom’s new guidelines, illegal immigrants will be allowed to serve on government boards and commissions, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be banned from making immigration violation arrests in statewide courthouses.
As part of Newsom’s immigration expansiveness, California became the first U.S. state to offer taxpayer-funded Medicaid health care benefits to low-income aliens younger than 25. The new policy is the irrational and costly entitlement follow up to Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2016 decision to allow children under age 16 access to health care regardless of their immigration status. A gloating Newsom commented that when it comes to health policy, “… (W)e [California] are the most un-Trump state in America.” Prospective migrants’ interpretation: Come one, come all! California will take good care of you.
Newsom’s pre-public servant career included investments in Napa Valley wineries – with assistance from the billionaire Getty family – and a restaurant and clothing chain, through which he amassed a multimillion-dollar fortune that enabled him to buy a Russian Hill mansion. As one of California’s most elite, immigration increases don’t affect Newsom. But the governor is elected to represent all his constituents, not just a select demographic that he’s decided to favor.
Newsom should ask exactly how many more immigrants California can support. If he answers honestly, he should act accordingly and act sensibly, something he’s shown no interest in doing.