NewCo Shift Forum 2018
Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles, is not pleased with our President — or his own party. His policy successes in LA may lay the foundation for a White House run.
If you want to see the future of our national politics, you’d do well to study Los Angeles, one of the largest cities in the world, and the third largest metropolitan economy after Tokyo and New York. Eric Garcetti, the “melting pot mayor” of Los Angeles joined John Heilemann for a deep dive into policy, technology, and politics at the NewCo Shift Forum this past February. Below is the full 30+ minute interview, plus a transcript edited for clarity.
(video plays prior to conversation)
John Heilemann: We were looking for a video to play to introduce Eric Garcetti. First of all, this is probably the biggest crowd you’ve ever spoken to, right?
Besides the National Convention.
I thought you meant right here. No, the biggest crowd was a few weeks ago. Actually last year’s version of a few weeks ago. The Women’s March — about 600,000 people.
That one was not probably on national television.
I don’t know.
Might have been, who knows? Anyway, that is just nice because it gives a little bio. You’re like a one-man melting pot.
[laughs] If you can’t get elected mayor in Los Angeles (when) you’re half Latino, half Jewish with an Italian last name, you’re not trying.
You are the first Jewish mayor of LA, right?
Technically, not the first Jewish mayor.
First elected Jewish.
First elected Jewish mayor because in the 1880s, there was a Jew in charge of the City Council. The mayor dies under the charter. The City Council President becomes the mayor. Two weeks later, they figured out a Jew was in charge, held a snap election. That was the end of the first Jewish mayor.
[laughs] The first elected Jewish mayor…
…and also I think the second Mexican American mayor in about a hundred years?
In about a hundred years.
Like I say, a walking one-man melting pot. You are also the youngest mayor of the city, right?
Since the 1800s.
At 42, right?
Plus the 1800s, they were on their teens. After that, they got…
He’s a man on the move, a man on the make. You’re in your second term. You just got re-elected in November. I’m full of stats today. There’s a lot of people talking about Garcetti for president already.
You are not alone, in the sense of Mayors that people are talking about. You’ve got the Mayor of my city, Bill de Blasio. I’m from LA, so you’re the Mayor of my hometown. You’ve got the mayor of my city, Bill de Blasio. You’ve got Mitch Landrieu down in New Orleans. You’ve got that guy from South Bend, Indiana whose name pronounce.
Yeah. Mayor Pete. All of a sudden, people are talking about mayors as potential presidents. There have only been two, I believe in the history of the country, elected mayors who became presidents of the United States. Former mayors from small towns…Grover Cleveland from Buffalo, Calvin Coolidge from Northampton, Massachusetts.
I always thought Grover Cleveland was from Cleveland.
Yeah, it would have been much cooler. Why is it, do you think, right now? It seems to me like there’s something going on in the era of Trump that is making people look at mayors and say, “Well, why not a mayor?”
Forget the president question for a second. Mayors in any city are pretty non-partisan people where it’s problem solvers. Never before has there been such a contrast between national politics and local politics.
Cities are on the rise. Everybody’s probably talking about it. Here, it’s become almost an international cliché. The importance and the power of cities has never been stronger, at least, in modern history.
Couple that with Washington broken. These clichés that we hear from the media about two Americas, I agree. I just disagree with what they are. It’s not urban versus rural or heartland versus the coast. It’s Washington and the rest of the country.
In local communities, and they can be 2,000 people and they can be two million people, there’s a real sense that that’s the last place where American democracy still is alive and accomplishing things as well.
It’s interesting. One of the things in doing this over the last 25 years or so, you start to really believe in the theory of opposites. To Clinton, the antidote was born-again George W. Bush, to George W. Bush, who was a reckless shoot from from the hip, then you got cerebral African American Barack Obama, then after Barack Obama, you’ve got Trump.
In a way, I do think there’s something about the point you’re making about mayors…Pragmatic, not polarizing, where the policy rubber meets the road, as opposed to Trump which is a reality show, more than it is about that nuts and bolts stuff. When you hear people say to you, “Maybe you should think about running for president,” what do you think?
Any patriot right now should be thinking hard about how they’re going to change our national leadership both in 2018, which is more important than 2020. I’m never one who subscribes to the idea that somebody on high is going to deliver change.
The problem with the Democratic Party is, we’re like if “we just get another presidential candidate in there, everything will be OK.” We should be focusing on school boards, city council races, State legislatures.
For five years, I chaired our Democratic Municipal officials which are all the farm team and the innovators in the country. We had scream for attention from the national party. I think that’s beginning to change because that’s all we have left in power in many places.
But absolutely, it’s very critical that we look at where people are doing things and contrast it to what’s happening at the national level.
I’ll take one example, infrastructure. President Trump finally put out his “infrastructure plan.” I put that in quotes because, if you do the math, it’s actually $40 billion less than we spend on infrastructure today if you look at what he’s cut. Any day that they’re talking about infrastructure is good. He’s talking about $200 billion from the Federal Government over 10 years.
By the way, we have to match that with more than $800 billion local and private. It’s not much money. The same night he was elected, America’s cities passed with voter-led initiatives including the biggest down in LA, $230 billion of infrastructure in a single night.
While everybody’s all fixated on what DC’s role is, we have tremendous power we shouldn’t cede before we exercise it at the local level.
I want to talk infrastructure in some detail in one second, but I want to ask you a bigger question because you just pointed to it about Democrats. We’ve been talking about this a little bit the last couple of days. We just had a panel up here talking about the future of the Republican Party. The Republican Party’s in crisis. It’s in chaos. It’s having an existential moment and yet, they control everything. They’ve got the House, the Senate, most of the courts, the governorships. Almost every level of government.
The Democratic Party has all the energy right now. We see that in the off year elections. We see it at the grassroots level. Yet, the Party at the level of actually exercising power in America is about in a desultory state as I’ve ever seen it.
Right now, it’s easy for Democrats to be against Trump. The energy comes mostly from resistance. Obviously, the Party, if it’s going to govern and going to be the Party of power again in America, it’s got to be more than just the anti-Trump Party. Talk about what you think the Democratic Party should be beyond opposing Donald Trump.
You’re exactly right. We have to say what we’re for, not just what we’re against. We have to stop just playing defense. We have some people doing it wonderfully. I love the energy that’s out there and that will boost our turn-out.
For folks in between, all they hear is a lot of shouting back and forth. They wonder, “If you are in power, what are you going to do?” At this moment when unemployment is almost at its historic low, why is there such economic insecurity? And can Democrats learn to speak plain English again?
I always tell people when they come to work for me, and I walk door to door between elections. I knock on doors and just surprise people. Hey, it’s your mayor. They open the door, they shut it, then they open it again. Wait a second.
Sometimes, they open it again.
Yeah, 1 of 10 times, they open it again. When I start talking to them, I say, “You have to win their heart first.” They have an idea that all elected officials live some other life disconnected from real Americans.
Once you start being a good listener, you can hear this country speak. You can hear our constituents speak. Second, they might then invite you in or “Tell me your ideas about the problems I’m facing.” They expect you to be smart. They don’t expect you to be the smarty-pants, but to have some idea that won’t solve 100 percent but will address that concern.
The third thing, which is more important than either of those first two, is you have the guts and the track record to do. Are you a doer? How many men on the street, women on the streets that we hear after the election, “Yeah, I know that stuff about Trump. At least, he’ll shake things up.”
I don’t think people believe that with Democrats. They know how to oppose, but they’re not sure what they would do. That’s really focused on middle class economic security.
You mentioned infrastructure and I said I want to talk about that in more detail. This is a business conference primarily, but we spend a lot of time talking about policy and politics and the intersection especially in the innovation economy, etc.
You care a lot about public-private partnerships and you care a lot about infrastructure. Talk about Measure M and where that came from and what it’s doing for LA.
My economic development strategy for LA — LA is now the third largest urban economy in the world — Tokyo, New York, then LA. We’re about a trillion dollar economy. 18 million people in our metro area. Really, (my strategy) is focused on the different industries of tomorrow, infrastructure investments, and not leaving anybody behind.
On that second one, on infrastructure, I looked at my city and I looked at these stupid conversations we’ve had for 40 years. I don’t know if anybody’s here from LA. You probably all travel there. We don’t have public transportation to LAX, so first year: getting that done.
Passing Measure M. Measure M is the largest transportation infrastructure initiative in this nation’s history times two. It’s a permanent one cent sales tax for LA County that will, in the next 40 years, provide $120 billion to among other things, fix freeways, pave roads, but also build and extend 15 rapid transit lines in a single city.
This has never happened at one time in American history. The spillover of that, first and foremost, that’s a human thing, not an infrastructure thing. That’s about getting home to your family. That’s about what the circle you draw, what your dating pool is, if you’re looking for a future spouse.
That’s what concerts you go to, sporting events. It’s really everything is not about infrastructure, it’s about your life. Second, the flipside is, it’s going to be 787,000 jobs that can’t be exported.
I can get just as nationalistic as this president, it also gives us a chance to bring those jobs and grow those companies here. For instance, there’s not a single American company that builds train cars anymore.
The port of LA is where 43 percent of the goods come in with our twin port, Long Beach, to America by sea, there isn’t a single American company to spend the $2.5 billion I am (designating toward) redoing our ports, making it a zero emissions, green port, etc., because no American companies exist.
If we did this nationwide, we could actually see companies come up in the transportation technology space. You could see it in very key areas, where you see, for instance, the Chinese spending over $100 billion to win AI, to win semi-conductors, to win biotech, to win transportation infrastructure.
America should be doing that. Cities can help teach those lessons to Washington and lead the way.
I thought it was fascinating. We were just talking about this backstage a second ago. That what you guys found was that, when you told people you were going to do a permanent tax, that the longer the tax was going to last, all the way out to what it is now, which is permanent, it got more popular. Which is, for a lot of people, counterintuitive, the notion that we’re going to have permanent tax. People are like, “Oh my God. We’re a tax phobic country.” You found out the opposite. Explain why.
In California, obviously, we need a two-thirds vote. When we polled it, the longer it went, the higher it polled. We asked people — there was somebody in a focus group afterwards — when it was a permanent tax that polled the highest.
They said, “This is like schools. You don’t do a temporary tax for your schools. You know your children need to go to school. Their children will need to go to school.” Any of us who experience traffic, and we do a lot, not just in California, but around this country, lost productivity, lost family time. They said, “We want that to be permanently there.” That was a real eye-opener.
I convened a bunch of mayors and council members around the country about six months ago, under the Aspen Institute’s auspices. We were in a closed room. No press, no staff. Mostly Democrats, but probably about a third Republican. The Democrats were like, “God, we got to change all these regulations. The stuff that really protects our environment, keep it, but all these stones we put in our backpack, each one well intentioned. It’s so difficult to build anything in our cities anymore.”
The Republican, one of them who was there from Rhode Island, said, “I raised taxes 17 years in a row in my town and I’ve never really been challenged. People love it when I do it because they know what it’s going to be spent on.”
To that point, when people know their money is going to something specific, as opposed to a crazy tax cut that’s undefined and a windfall, that’s when people will trust government. They still by and large do at the local level, where they don’t nationally.
There’s another thing you started not long ago called Accelerator for America…
…which relates to infrastructure. Talk about that.
I just came back from Columbia, South Carolina, last week, where Mayor Benjamin there hosted us. We were in South Bend, Indiana a few months before that with Pete Buttigieg.
We’re going around saying, “What can we do now, to be, not a think tank, but a do-team? A do-tank of people who will go on the ground.” We’re going to help six cities do what we did in Los Angeles.
Including the Bay Area right now, who’s looking at this for maintenance and a potential expansion of your rapid transit system. We’re looking at playbooks for how you revitalize downtowns.
For winner cities, like San Francisco and Los Angeles, we’re not lacking for investment. You go to Dayton, you go to a town like Columbia, they need that innovative spark, and it usually starts with a downtown revitalization. We’re looking at things that we can fund directly. We’ve raised a bunch of money and we’re funding people on the ground. Imagine us rethinking the American Library. When Carnegie did that, it changed literacy in this country. Now, wouldn’t libraries in America be incredible maker and start-up spaces?
In rural areas where you can’t get broadband that’s fast enough in our poor urban areas? If you put a corner of that, because libraries are very successful these days, but don’t have much foot traffic, you can actually have people come in, teach people. A single mother, a kid of color growing up saying, “I go to my library and I’m going to start my economic future.”
You’re up here in Northern California, and this has been a persistent theme. We’ve been talking about it from a variety of angles here. I’ll put it in this context. If you’re a Democrat from California, one of your political assets — I would say your financial assets, and in terms of your public profile — is a connection with the innovation economy. We’ve seen it from senators, governors. You’re connected to Silicon Valley. Even if you’re from Southern California, you’re California. You’re part of this thing.
Right now, there’s unprecedented, I would say, backlash that’s beyond brewing. It’s bubbling over at this point, about the social media companies, some of the most prominent companies in this area — Google, Facebook, Twitter — and the role that their products have played in some pretty troubling things that are happening in our democratic discourse. Not just in the 2016 elections. But as we were talking about it a little earlier today, the conversation we have around guns, the conversation we have around the Russia collusion. Inquiries from Washington. People are saying, “Hey, there is bad stuff happening in social media.”
Whether it’s Russians doing it or other conspiracy theorists, people peddling fake news, these companies have gotten big, and they’re doing stuff that’s hurting us. There are few questions that come out of that. First of all, just on the substance thing. When you see this unfolding, what do you think the responsibility of those platforms is to deal with that problem?
Obviously, there’s an acceleration using those platforms. I don’t know if I’d blame them for that. I do think in the commerce space, there’s a huge responsibility that the big guys and gals have. For instance, Amazon, I was talking to the mayor of Dayton, Nan Whaley. She said that the big box definitely killed off main street. Amazon might not. It might actually revitalize our main street if done right.
In other words, we like handmade cool boutique-y things in a small town, just as much as you do in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. Now we have a reach that we wouldn’t have had before. Amazon’s sitting down, for instance, with the mayors of America, and saying, “How can we figure out a way to bring capital?” We are the most capital-starved nation, I would argue, in the world in many ways.
For somebody trying to do a start-up, the consolidation of financial industries made it extremely difficult. The savings and loans of the 19th century, they were profitable, but profitability wasn’t their highest calling.
They just don’t exist. Amazon can come in and do that. On the democracy piece, which is what you asked more about, there’s absolutely things that we need to do. I see folks like Reid Hoffman and others, who I know was here earlier, looking at what’s the counter (narrative).
You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. One of the great mistakes that leaders make is, I saw a lot of leaders when I came in, say, on ride share, who are future-phobic. You’re not going to keep the future away. The flip of that is they are future-passive. Either excited or bummed about it. Very few are future-guiding. We need to put those goal posts up on commerce, on democracy. There aren’t many leaders with technology knowledge. There aren’t many technology people with government knowledge. They put those lesser people, sometimes. We have to have that translation in between. Around the space of civic discourse, we got to get three-dimensional again. That’s why I go door-to-door. That’s why I do town halls. That space and that place is really old fashioned democracy, and those platforms can help push it in the right way.
I have two other topics I want to get to before I ask anybody from the audience to get up here and see what they have to ask. One of them is immigration, one of the hottest issues in the country right now. If there’s a center of resistance to the Trump administration, it could be LA. It might be San Francisco.
For a long time, you, I know, personally resisted the notion of having LA declare itself a sanctuary city. The city council, I believe, basically said, “We’re going to do it anyway,” late last year. You’re in a lawsuit with the Trump administration over that issue.
That specific thing related to funding and other things, and then the broader thing of the way the administration is proceeding with respect to DACA and other stuff.
Just talk about whether it comes to ICE, whether it comes to funding, whether it comes to law enforcement, whether it comes to just the climate. Where’s the rubber meeting the road in this moment in the Trump era, on immigration in LA?
We are at ground zero. I’m the grandson of a dreamer before they use the term. My grandfather came because my great-grandfather died in the revolution. My great-grandmother carried him over the border.
He didn’t get his citizenship till he was a veteran in World War II. Dreamers, who are only one slice of the immigration picture, and other immigrants, we have to find that pathway to integration.
In my city, 63 percent of our main street businesses are started by immigrants. 63 percent, a third of our GDP. 61 percent of us are immigrants or the children of immigrants. It’s almost a non-issue. I try not to get too dragged down by rhetoric and threats from DC, including their definition.
I don’t resist at all the term sanctuary city, if you define it as a place where your police department does its work independent from immigrant enforcement at the federal level.
Most people heard it saying, “Oh, it’s a place. There’s these towns where the mayors say, ‘If you’re criminal, come on. Come on in. We’ll protect you.'” If you’re undocumented like bonus point, a gold star. That mayor doesn’t exist. That city doesn’t exist. If you listen to “Fox News,” it absolutely does exist.
It’s really important for us to refrain, that for instance, Donald Trump’s immigration policies are dangerous. I do want to see dangerous murderers who are here, who are undocumented, get out of the country. When you have 400 ICE agents, which are how many there are in Southern California, for two million undocumented people, let’s make it a marine metaphor. There are sharks out there. If those 400 people aren’t going after the sharks, but instead now raiding 7-Elevens, like we saw a couple of weeks ago, they’re throwing a net without any targeting into that ocean. “Look. We’ve got 40 guppies. We’re making you safer,” when that shark is still out there swimming. It’s impractical.
Besides it being immoral, it’s impractical, and it’s actually making us less safe. Just on the law and order things, before we even get to the morality, this President is bad for the safety on America’s streets. [applause]
Speaking of safety, in terms of news a day, it’s now been a week, more. Guns are, obviously, in everybody’s minds right now. I’ll ask you a question I’ve asked almost everybody up here so far.
When you see what’s going on, both in terms of the activism of a new generation of kids, very powerful and passionate and emotionally affecting, and potentially, politically powerful. On the other side, businesses coming forward. In the realm of the banking sector. People thinking about investment strategies, whether it’s BlackRock or Vanguard. You’re thinking about the travel companies, the United and others, backing away from the NRA. We don’t know how permanent that is, but it’s happening. Are we in a new moment? Are the tectonic plates shifting here, or this is it going to be evanescent? We’re going to look up six months from now and we’re going to be exactly where we were before.
I certainly hope so. We’re seeing more leadership from…
On the former. That’s tectonic.
It is a tectonic moment. We’re seeing more leadership from America’s youth than we’re seeing from the White House. I always say, as a leader, you’ve got to know when to get out of the way. I’m just like, “Go on.”
For these young people who have a legitimacy that no elected official has, who have gone through a horrible experience, this is the moment to strike. It’s real leadership. It’s organic leadership. It’s strong leadership. It’s civil rights struggle. Those young people who can change the world.
We also have to make sure that we broaden that conversation out. In Los Angeles, we had common sense laws we passed. Like, if you have a gun at home, you have to lock it or have a trigger lock.
That’s not unreasonable, especially when you know the statistics. Most shootings are not mass shootings. Most shootings aren’t homicides. They’re going to be accidents and suicides. To make sure that we’re engaging people in that space, how many parents we have here? When your kids are playing at someone’s house, do you ask, “Is there a gun there?” In LA, you ask, “Is there a swimming pool?” But you don’t ask, “Is there a gun?” By the way, if there is a gun, is it locked up? That’s more likely to kill your child than a drive-by.
Targeting the people who have guns, we’ve had a Federal Government who like with the CDC and medical research, is literally saying, “You can’t even know things. You can’t have the knowledge.”
We stood up a gun intelligence center in Los Angeles. Working with the local ATF, because they can’t do it but we can. They can work with us to trace guns, to find guns, and to take illegal guns away from folks who would bring them in from out of state.
Guns that would be illegal here in California, guns that, one, we showed this year at our CrimeFest Conference. It was responsible for 35 different crimes, nine homicides, with many different owners. A single gun.
There is smart stuff we can do. Right now, it is absolutely time for us to follow those young people and demand some of the things that they’re demanding across this country.
Let me ask this one last question on this topic. The President has said a bunch of different things on this.
He sure has.
He’s surprisingly not fully consistent in some of his views. The one thing that he seems to really like is the idea that we should arm…he says well trained, adept, whatever his phrases are. He thinks we should have more guns in the schools, and we should harden our targets and have teachers, at least some number of them, turned into a paramilitary force. You deal with a pretty large school district in Los Angeles. One of the biggest, I imagine. Maybe the biggest in the country.
Second biggest in the country. First of all, what do you think of that as a public policy? What would you think the teachers in LA County would say to that as a proposal to make the school safer?
It’s insanity. The teachers that I’ve talked to think it is, too. Not that you can’t find — there are so many teachers in this country — somebody who likes it.
We can’t get the Federal Government to fund books in our classroom, but they’ll fund bullets in our classroom? The perversion that we’re even having to respond to this, I don’t even want to spend time on it.
I want to dismiss it and move to real things. It is absolutely the politics of distraction. The tougher questions that he was moving towards saying yes to, this has now dominated the news cycle for two, three days.
We don’t have to talk about whether an 18-year-old should have an AR-15, or whether it should be easier to get that than a handgun in Florida. We don’t have to talk about sugar locks. We don’t have to talk about locking your guns up.
We don’t have to talk about bump stocks, which for a moment, he was going to say OK and direct. This is a very effective White House on all of us of setting the debate and having us respond to it. I don’t even want to respond to it. It’s a stupid idea. I guess I just did.
You did, but that’s all right. Yes, sir.
You got me again.
Audience Member: Mayor Garcetti, I live downtown in Los Angeles. One of the things that just distresses me to no end is the homelessness. I haven’t heard much about what Los Angeles will do and how that will lead the nation. I see it in San Francisco and elsewhere. Give us some hope.
Absolutely. I’ve never been more hopeful and more depressed. Depressed day-to-day because of where we are, and more hopeful because of finally, the resources and the focus that we have to turn the corner.
Housing and homelessness. Homelessness is a manifestation of our housing crisis. I believe the housing crisis in California will make or break this state. For those at the bottom, it’s about being on the street. For those just hanging on, it’s about making rent. For the middle class, it’s wondering, “Can I ever buy something, anything, in this state at all?” For those at the top, they make decisions to grow their businesses here, because if their employees are saying we can’t stay.
I just had a press conference in downtown yesterday. I’ve chaired for the last four years and I’ll hand it over to Darrell Steinberg, the Mayor of Sacramento. The Big 10 Mayors, which are our 10 most populous mayors. The late Mayor Ed Lee was my predecessor. God rest his soul, because he was a great friend and somebody who focused us a lot on this issue.
We were asking the state government to step up with the six billion dollar surplus they have this year, to put a billion and a half of that into cities. In LA, as you probably know, we passed, not just one, but two measures.
The rest of the mayors, when I was with them in Washington DC, all California mayors. Mayor Faulconer in San Diego, Republican from the south, said, “This isn’t an issue. It’s the issue.” Lee Brand in Fresno, inland North, said, “Absolutely. In my city, it’s the issue.”
Mayor Schaaf in Oakland, same thing. We went through that like a chorus saying, “This is the thing we all spend the most time on.” When people say, “Where does it coming from?” It’s very complicated, but I’ll say two things.
It comes from trauma and high rent. Everybody on the street experiences, in different manifestations, from foster care, domestic and sexual violence, drug abuse, mental health, some sort of trauma. Many of them would be in housing hanging on were it not for the high rents.
If we’re not going to do something radical at this moment — to build more housing, to try to control the rents that are going up more rapidly than people can — we will see more and more people spill out on the streets.
I have housed as many people as were homeless the year I started. 30,000 more or less. We’re up 40 percent net, which means 140 percent new folks went out, or the equivalent in that time. We’ve almost housed 6,000 homeless veterans, and we’ve only 2,000 left. Sorry, 9,000 we housed. 2,000 left. We started with 6,000. For every one that we’re housing, another two-thirds of our vet was falling out on the street.
The last thing I’ll say on this is, it comes down to everybody’s wondering, “What can I do?” The model is to put people in housing with services. You can’t build housing and hope they’ll stay. You can’t serve people on the street and expect it to go away.
Here in San Francisco a model we’re about to adopt, because here it’s a city and a county together. In LA, we’re going to put together a single kind of a war room, where the city and county can have operation authority over encampments.
Say, “Look, we’re not just going to sweep people from one place to the next. We’re going to work this area for 60 days.” Offer as much help to everybody who wants to get out of there. Now under the measures that have passed, we have those resources for the first time.
By the end of 60 days, we’re going to clear this out. If there’s 10 people left, that’s when the stick comes after the carrot. They’re going to be the first ones to get Hep A. They’re the first ones who are going to die of drug overdoses.
They’re the first ones who are the victims of crimes in those areas. It’s for them first and foremost. It also has been the abdication of public space. It’s everywhere in the state, increasingly up and down the West Coast and other cities in this nation. I don’t hold out hope for Washington, but I do hold out hope that Sacramento will step up.
We’re going to take one more from Pete Leyden. You’ve got plane to catch, so let’s make it quick on both sides.
Audience Member: Pete Leyden, from the media company Reinvent. To what extent do you think politics in California has evolved over the last 15 years as a precursor of what might happen nationwide? 15 years ago, it was a red-blue struggle, polarized politics, paralyzed politics.
We’d go to a tough-talking outsider, Hollywood guy to solve things, like Trump. Now, it’s a completely deep blue state. It’s getting increasingly progressive and big swing. To what extent do you think that’s because of demography and technology, and the things that are essentially common to all Americans? To what extent does this look to the future of America?
I very much think that we’re the face of the world today and the face of this country tomorrow here in California. That’s exciting. I have this angel on my lapel which is the symbol for the 2028 Olympics.
I had to sell in the midst of the chaos here in this country, our country, to the world, after they’ve turned down New York and Chicago for bids in the past. I said, “Look. We can turn into ourselves, and we do that really well. You’re watching it happen, America.” Or bring us the Olympics and we can see our responsibility, and our obligations, and our friendship, and our connections with the world. Something we know very well here in California.
As long as we keep selling it, not just on the moral terms which you and I probably feel deeply, but on the practical terms. For instance, to the mythical coal miner in Appalachia, right now, who everybody talks about so much, there’s 50,000 coal jobs left in America.
In LA, where the city has about one percent of the country’s population, I’ve helped create 20,000 green energy jobs in the last four years. That’s 40 percent of all the coal jobs in America. They should be in Appalachia. They should be in the Midwest. They should be in other places.
The reason why we’re pro-immigrant is not just because we are immigrants and children of immigrants, but we know it works. Elon Musk, whether his brothers were undocumented, or semi-documented. He came into this country and has been a part of reinventing how we shoot to the heavens, how we travel on the terrestrial area and now how we drill it underground.
That’s just one immigrant. As long as we can make the pitch to America, we aren’t some outlier. I know, coming from the San Fernando Valley, where we both grew up, I can connect with somebody in Ohio where the car factory was shut down because, in the San Fernando Valley, the GM plant was shut down when we were kids.
As I always say, yes, we’ve got a lot more celebrities than other places, but most of us are nurses and bus drivers. We’re worried about our jobs in the future. We face the same insecurity about housing and our debt.
As long as California can do things like making community colleges free, more on-ramps to prosperity. And we can be honest with ourselves of where we’ve got to cut regulations and taxes to make this still a business-friendly place and build more housing. Absolutely, the California-model can be a national model as long as we talk about it the right way.