Friday, May 25, 2018




          Ever since the California Energy Commission adopted a new solar panel requirement for new homes sold in 2020 and beyond, the edict has been under concerted attack.

          “This forced mandate represents an extraordinary regulatory overreach,” lamented Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. and self-anointed consumer advocate. “Future homebuyers,” he added, “are the real losers…The other loser is the principle of free enterprise.”

          But consumers won’t lose in this, despite the complainers’ gripe that putting solar panels on new housing will add about $9,500 to the cost of each new home. The Energy Commission calculates that while its rule will add about $40 to the average monthly payment on new housing, it will also save an average $80 a month in electric bills, for a net gain of $40 a month to the new homeowners.

          And their actual gain might be far greater. For most new housing in California these days is built inland, far from the coastal strip where weather is coolest. Because air conditioners often run steadily there at least six months of every year, power use for basic household functions is much higher inland than along the coast.

          Add to this the steady increases in electric rates perpetually demanded by utilities and the usual aquiescence of the state Public Utilities Commission in granting them, and the benefits of solar figure to get higher each year. For solar power will cost the new home buyers very little beyond the original expense and they won’t have to worry about price increases that will afflict other homeowners.

          This does not mean the solar mandate is perfection. Immaculate has rarely been a word to describe the Energy Commission, whose dealings on hydrogen refueling stations, for just one example, have been rife with conflicts of interest.

          So yes, the new rule benefits builders and solar panel suppliers, adding to their profits. It also helps labor unions, whose members will get added work.

          But the new mandate will not aid only the new home buyers, who will likely have to meet slightly higher standards to get mortgages. It will also benefit all consumers. Here’s how:

          Putting solar photovoltaic panels atop as many as 80,000 new roofs each year (the approximate average number of new homes built in California in each of the last five years) will eliminate the need for the equivalent of one new solar thermal farm in the California desert each year. Costs of those facilities are usually borne by private companies, who recoup their investment by selling power to the big utilities.

          The utilities often then build hundreds of miles of transmission lines to fetch power from those solar farms in desert areas, adding billions of dollars yearly to their rate base. All customers foot the bills for that, while the utilities get a guaranteed profit on this use of consumer money, usually about 14 percent yearly for 20 years.

          Solar thermal plants, then, are a bad deal for everyone but the companies that own them and the utilities that exploit them. Anything that eliminates need for those plants is good for every consumer in the state.

          All that is entirely aside from the environmental benefits of adding large amounts of solar power annually to the state’s supplies, thus helping meet California’s 2030 goal of getting 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources like hydro-power, geothermal, wind – and solar.

          And yet, there remains the problem of home prices. California’s median price of about half-a-million dollars for an ordinary house has driven away more than 500,000 low-income families over the last 11 years, says a study commissioned by the Next 10 public policy non-profit group.

          To mitigate the added cost solar will bring at mortgage-application time, what’s needed is a sliding-scale state solar subsidy based on income. (The new rule already includes subsidies for adding battery storage to solar systems on new homes.) This should be built into home-purchase paperwork, with the money going directly to sellers and thus cutting some of the added $40 in mortgage payments.

          This is about all that needs to be added for this mandate to become one of the best public policy decisions California has seen in decades.

     Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, go to




          No law is more important to lifestyles in California than Proposition 13, the landmark 1978 law that limits property taxes to 1 percent of their 1975 values or 1 percent of their latest sale prices, with only very small annual increases.

          Now homeowners, renters and business owners alike can rest assured it will be at least two more years before there’s any meaningful change in the 40-year-old law, which passed with a 63 percent majority.

          Proposition 13 is the reason senior citizens who have held onto their homes for decades can stay put if they like, not worrying about taxes escalating right along with their property values. It’s one thing – maybe the only thing – keeping rents from rising to completely unaffordable levels. And it’s the main element keeping California taxes from topping the national rankings.

Because of those wide financial implications, Proposition 13 may be a key to many elements of life in California.

          But there have always been two fundamental inequities built into this law: One is the fact that property taxes remain almost stable as long as an owner holds onto a home or piece of commercial property, changing only when that property is sold. This means newer buyers pay far higher taxes for nearly identical assets. The second is the requirement that residential and commercial properties be taxed at the same rates.

          Advocates of more funding for public schools and other local services have long contended this second rule means Proposition 13 keeps businesses from paying their proper share of those costs, even though business property tax revenue has risen at a similar pace to what’s levied on residences.

          The idea of a “split roll” taxing commercial property more than living quarters arose within less than two years of Proposition 13’s passage. But the idea never went anywhere much and there has been no vote on it outside obscure legislative committees.

          But a split roll initiative is circulating right now, with sponsors in the School and Communities First Coalition including the California League of Women Voters. But that group has reportedly cut the fee it pays petition circulators for valid voter signatures from $3 to $2, probably assuring they won’t gather the needed 585,407 names until after the deadline for reaching this November’s general election ballot.

          So a vote on this key Proposition 13 change won’t happen until November 2020, in an election expected to draw very heavy turnouts at least in part because today’s presumption is that President Trump will be up for reelection.

          A large vote, expected to be predominantly Democratic in California, would up the prospects for passage of a measure that’s perceived in many quarters as anti-business.

          Few doubt it would raise somewhere between $6 billion and $10 billion in new property taxes for schools and local governments at a time when many face struggles with pension-driven deficits or their prospect.

          But there will still be some Proposition 13 action this year. California realtors have placed a measure on the November ballot allowing over-55 citizens to move anywhere in the state and keep their current tax level if they buy a new home for the same or a lower price than what they’re selling. There’s also a formula keeping property taxes down for them if they buy something more expensive.

          Seniors can already do most of this within some counties, but not all.

          But this would be a fairly minor change for Proposition 13, while a split-roll would be major surgery. The split-roll attempt is spurred at least in part by a 2015 survey of 104,000 likely voters which found 75 percent in favor of withdrawing Proposition 13 protections from non-residential property.

          Business groups led by the state’s Chamber of Commerce and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. (named for the co-author of Proposition 13) will surely fight strongly against that change.

          As Joel Fox, former Jarvis association chief, wrote the other day, “The business community will know the wolf is coming and will act accordingly.”

          Together with Trump’s presence on the ballot, that could make 2020 the most exciting election year California has seen in decades.

     Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, go to

Monday, May 21, 2018




          It’s silly season again in California. For the seventh time in the last 30 years or so, activists are suggesting the state needs to be split. But this effort has gotten enough financial backing to make the November general election ballot.

          While this year’s effort seems fatuous, some past attempts to tear California into pieces actually made a little sense. That’s especially been true of the so-called state of Jefferson, which would combine most of rural Northern California with a slice of southern Oregon and hope to create something new.

          That notion first appeared in the early 1940s, as rural residents felt trampled in state politics by the far more populous regions surrounding Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego. Their gripes have had more merit ever since the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark one-person, one-vote decision destroyed the North state’s former dominance in the state Senate, where representation long was based on geography and not population.

          Now, Jefferson adherents say they have so few representatives in Sacramento they might as well have none and that their interests are constantly overlooked.

          But Jefferson advocates have yet to prove their putative state could be economically viable, nor have they figured a way around the Constitutional requirement that – failing a successful state initiative – the entire state Legislature – and Oregon’s, too – would have to agree to their forming the first rump state since the Civil War era.

          Chances are, Jefferson would end up with two Republicans in the U.S. Senate, making odds very slim for the Democrat-controlled Legislature ever to agree to a divorce.

          But the newest state-splitting idea isn’t even Jefferson. It’s far more blatantly political, with convoluted new boundaries separating the most populous and solidly Democratic coastal areas, plus most of the Bay area and a region stretching east to Sacramento, from much of rural California, the Central Valley and Orange and San Diego counties, all places were Republicans fare better than along the coast.

          Unlike Jefferson, the new three-state advocates – who number no elected officials among their leaders – actually issued a “Declaration of Independence,” containing some language found in the original declaration of 1776.

          But it inserts some new passages: “The history of the present governor and government of California is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of a tyranny of the counties of New California and the state of California.” It lists as grievances “years of over taxation, regulation and mono party politics.”

          In short, these folks would like to take most of the land area of this state and create a place with few regulations, very low taxes and Republican rule.

          The proposed boundaries somewhat resemble those of a 2011 proposal from then-Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone, now a Republican state senator, who complained at the time that “We have a state Legislature that has gone wild…There is only one solution: a serious secession from the liberal arm of the state of California.”

          Stone’s idea didn’t get far when he proposed it, even if his planned boundaries weren’t quite as twisty as what the new initiative proposes.

          Both notions represent the current political split in California, which is less dominated by differences between north and south than by contrasts between the state’s inland and coastal counties.

          The new measure is far less complex than a six-state idea pushed a couple of years ago by venture capitalist Tim Draper, who essentially wanted to put six more Democrats and four new Republicans into the U.S. Senate. Draper tried to qualify a ballot initiative jump-starting his idea, but it never gained traction. Draper is also behind the new three-state plan, which would likely put four Democrats and two Republicans into the Senate.

          The bottom line on these ideas, and the other 27 that have arisen over the last 70 years, is that so long as the U.S. Constitution gives Congress veto power over any such notion, none is likely to go anywhere, no matter how Californians vote. For tripling California’s numbers in the Senate would dilute the clout of every other state.

          Which makes it little more than harmless fun to consider these things, while serious thinkers instead try to figure ways of making the current state work better within its existing boundaries.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

Link to map:




          If you’re voting today (editors: if running this column prior to June 5, sub “Tuesday,” “next week,” or “June 5” for ‘today’ here, as appropriate) in a neighborhood garage or the clubhouse of a park or a school auditorium, you may want to remember the experience well. It might not be repeated often after this primary election and November’s general election.

          Already, Californians in five counties (Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento and San Mateo) are pioneering the new experience that will almost certainly come to voters in most other counties two years from now.

          The new election system features “vote centers” rather than precincts and a big expansion of mail balloting.

          The aim is to expand turnout by making things far easier for voters. It’s the complete opposite of the vote-suppression efforts Republicans push in many other states where mail balloting has been made more difficult and identification is often required before voters so much as touch a ballot.

          After low turnout disappointed California officials in 2014 (25 percent of registered voters) and in the off-year elections of 2013 and 2015, they began casting about for changes. The new system will deliver mail-in ballots to every registered voter about 28 days before each actual Election Day, aiming to end any need for voting in a single place on just one day.

          Each county will also have several large vote centers, where anyone registered to vote in that county can cast a ballot regardless of home address. Computers will ensure each voter at the centers gets exactly the same local ballot he or she would have seen in the former polling places. It will also be possible to turn in mail ballots at vote centers, just as it’s possible now in most counties to turn them in at precinct polling places.

          The same safeguards as ever will be taken to ensure that voters don’t cast multiple ballots. Each mail-in vote will have the signature on its envelope checked against registration forms. Every voter will have to provide a valid address to get a ballot in vote centers just like in the old polling places.

          And yet, losing candidates and those who expect to lose will surely find fodder in this new system for crying “rigged election.” Just as before, there is nothing to prevent voters or groups they’re affiliated with from holding ballot-marking parties where they might receive instructions or guidance in how to vote. But they’d presumably be at such gatherings under their own volition.

          The hope behind the new system is that putting ballots in the hands of every registered voter will up the turnout substantially.

          “We’ve got to…implement a new voting method,” Democratic state Sen. Ben Allen of Santa Monica said while sponsoring the new system in the Legislature last year. “Our current system has failed, as our voter turnout rates continued to decline toward record lows.”

          If that meant the tradition of the secret ballot had to go, then the legislators who passed it and the men who signed it and are putting it into action (Gov. Jerry Brown and Secretary of State Alex Padilla) essentially said “so be it.” Of course, the secret ballot went the way of the dodo bird long ago when mail ballots became available to anyone who asked for them, starting in the late 1970s.

          Since then, ballot-marking parties have been commonplace, but they’ve never led to charges of fraud or coerced voting for particular candidates or propositions. Still, such outcries may arise now.

          The guinea pig voters in the five counties using the system this time will determine whether it leads to the greater flexibility and higher turnouts expected by the folks who pushed for change.

          But only time will tell whether all this actually spurs more people to vote. For sure, no one knows whether the almost inevitable charges of fraud and vote-fixing will have any merit. Also for sure, participation had gotten so low in recent years that a small minority of eligible voters often has made  key decisions for everyone else.

          And whatever happens, bet on computers, tablets and smartphones as the next frontier in this brave new world of voting.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

Monday, May 14, 2018




          Very rightly, the focus in this ongoing California primary election season is on candidates for offices from Congress to the governor’s office in the state Capitol’s “Horseshoe” suite.

          But this spring’s ballot also features five significant propositions, and if voters overlook them, they may come to rue the inattention.

          No, the spring propositions (no initiatives here) are not as sexy as what the fall ballot will bring, with heated campaigns upcoming on everything from gasoline taxes to carving California into three states and an attempt by paint companies to make taxpayers bail them out of liability for cleaning up problems caused by lead in their products.

          That timing is by Democratic Party design: The party’s legislators three years ago adopted a law putting all initiative propositions – those making the ballot via voter signatures – into the November general election, with none contested in the primary. Their thinking was (still is) that general elections bring out many more voters than primaries, giving liberal causes a better chance in the fall.

          But propositions placed on the ballot by the Legislature still go to the primary ballot. So we now face five measures lawmakers want passed.

          But voters might hesitate over at least some. Take Prop. 70, the product of a political deal allowing the state’s cap-and-trade program to continue long after its previous expiration date last year. In this system, the state auctions off to corporations a limited number of permits to produce greenhouse gas pollutants, sometimes collecting more than $3 billion a year.

          The money is supposed to be used for reducing the same kinds of gases in other places, but some cash has lately been diverted to the ongoing bullet train project and other causes. In order to get cap-and-trade extended to 2030, Gov. Jerry Brown and Democrats agreed to require two-thirds legislative majorities after 2024 in deciding whether to spend that money and on what.

          That compromise flies in the face of an earlier initiative that did away with the prior two-thirds-majority requirement for passing state budgets. If a majority vote is good enough to decide on spending the many more billions of dollars in the general fund budget, why require a supermajority for this one cash source?

          Despite its support from Brown and the state Chamber of Commerce, this deal makes little sense and voters may want to nix it.

          There’s also Prop. 68, a $4 billion parks and water quality bond measure including $200 million for restoration of the Salton Sea in the state’s southeastern corner. California’s largest lake, a product of a 1905 flood on the Colorado River, the Salton Sea has evaporated gradually since San Diego’s water agency stopped supplying it early this year. That is causing new levels of dust pollution in the air of the Imperial Valley and threatens the habitats of hundreds of migratory bird species.

          Creating ponds and channels around that lake to control dust is just one of many projects in this proposed bond; others include $370 million for ground water recharges, $725 million for parks in neighborhoods that now have few, $218 million for state park restoration and $443 million for “climate preparedness.”

          Voters usually go almost automatically for water bonds, but may hesitate this time after watching the state Water Commission take years to fund projects using money from a prior bond passed in 2014.

          Many will see the other three measures on this ballot as virtual no-brainers. Prop. 69 would confine use of new transportation tax revenues, including gasoline taxes, only to transportation. These funds have occasionally been diverted elsewhere, infuriating some. Similar propositions have passed previously, but are sometimes circumvented.

          The simplest proposal here is Prop. 71, which sets the effective date for all winning ballot measures five days after election results are certified, usually about month after Election Day. There is no substantial opposition to this one.

     And there’s Prop. 72, allowing new rain-capture systems to be exempted from property tax reassessments. The aim is to encourage property owners to catch more rain water, helping the state’s water supply.

     All of which adds up to a proposition list that includes a few relatively minor measures, but also a couple that require significant decisions.

     Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, go to




          As California’s run for governor nears its June primary election milestone, there’s still a strong possibility this will wind up as a two-Democrat race for the state’s top office.

          If so, it will be the ultimate playing out and test of the 2010 Proposition 14, which set up the top two “jungle primary” system here, with the two leading vote-getters in any primary election making the November runoff ballot, even if both come from the same party.

          The historically huge voter registration advantage now enjoyed by Democrats in this state is the main reason recent polls showed one Democrat – Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom – far ahead of the rest of the 27-person field as a majority of voters began receiving their mail-in ballots.

          Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a former San Francisco mayor, led those surveys and ex-Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was in a three-person scrum of significantly publicized candidates competing for the second November ballot slot.

          If the two Republicans running, Orange County Assemblyman Travis Allen and San Diego County businessman John Cox, split the Republican vote, it’s highly possible neither will beat out Villaraigosa for second place.

          So a lack of discipline among Republicans, who could not settle on one candidate even as late as their early-May state convention, could create a runoff race matching two Democrats.

          Of course, in this new era of #MeToo focus on sexual behavior and harassment, no one can be sure whether Newsom and Villaraigosa, both former participants in well-publicized extra-marital affairs, can maintain their current status with the women who cast the majority of Democratic votes. Both apologize profusely whenever they discuss those affairs. Both also purport to be better men today than before.

          The bottom line is that because Newsom and Villaraigosa have far outstripped their competition in the vital area of fundraising, they could face off in the fall. Both are liberals, Newsom somewhat to the left of Villaraigosa, a onetime labor union organizer who refused to cave in to public employee unions while he was mayor, one reason Newsom is Big Labor’s favorite in this contest.

          If they do match up, Newsom and Villaraigosa will test the basic premise of the top two system. When it was proposed, sponsors like then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his appointed lieutenant governor Abel Maldonado argued the new system would assure the election of more moderates from each major party. They figured that in one-party races like this year’s gubernatorial contest might become, members of the other party would choose the more moderate available candidate.

          Reality has been that in most such races, almost all occurring so far in legislative or congressional contests, voters from the party left out of the runoff have voted in small numbers, staying home or skipping over an office on their ballots and not bothering to choose what they see as the lesser of two evils.

          But Republicans will be motivated to turn out this fall, especially in the seven or eight Congressional swing districts Democrats believe they must flip from the Republican column in order to take over the House of Representatives.

          If turnout is heavy, the GOP’s almost 26 percent of the registered electorate could strongly influence the outcome, even if there’s no Republican on the ballot.

          One springtime poll from the Public Policy Institute of California showed that by a narrow 6 percent to 4 percent margin, GOP voters preferred Villaraigosa over Newsom in a putative matchup between the two. That’s not a very big slice of the GOP vote, but if higher percentages of GOP voters actually cast ballots for one of the two, they could be decisive.

          Villaraigosa’s margin among conservative voters was higher when party wasn’t figured in. Conservatives favored him over Newsom by a 15-6 percent margin, while he held a 6-point edge among self-described moderates.

          These numbers suggest that this just might be the year the top two system works precisely as it was planned and advertised. But all that, of course, depends on how the June primary plays out and it is far from finished.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

Monday, May 7, 2018




          Modern life may have caught up with political polling. Just as they have shaken up industries and activities from newspapers to taxis, from telephones to shopping, today’s technologies are making old reliable survey research techniques and tactics obsolete or inaccurate.

          That’s one big reason California has wild variability this spring in political polls leading into next month’s primary elections for governor and the U.S. Senate, especially for governor.

          In the space of two days in late April, the Survey USA polling firm found Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom leading with 21 percent support from likely voters to 18 percent for former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and 15 percent for mostly self-funded San Diego County businessman John Cox. Newsom and Villaraigosa are Democrats; Cox a Republican. Running fourth was Orange County Republican Assemblyman Travis Allen with 10 percent, just one point ahead of Democratic state Treasurer John Chiang. The top two vote-getters in the June 5 count will make the November runoff election.

          But just one day later came very different results from the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll, run by Mark DiCamillo, former head of the longtime and usually reliable California Field Poll, which no longer conducts surveys on public affairs.

          That gauge, like every other of the last 18 months, showed Newsom ahead, but with 30 percent support, almost 50 percent more than reported the previous day. The really big difference came in the next three slots, which were completely scrambled from every previous poll. Cox was now second, with 18 percent, while Allen vaulted past Villaraigosa to a 16 percent showing and the ex-Los Angeles mayor plummeted to 9 percent, with others far behind.

          About two weeks earlier, still another poll from the Public Policy Institute of California put Newsom ahead and Cox and Villaraigosa in a virtual dead heat for second, with Allen well behind.

          Never in a half century of political polling has California seen such variance.

          Most likely, it’s because of greatly varied techniques used by the three most significant outfits working here. Survey USA, whose national results in 2016 were as close as anyone’s to the actual outcome, uses many “robot” phone calls, trying to reach cell phone users who now dominate telephonic communications. Fewer than half of Californians now have land lines.

          The PPIC uses a lot of live callers, while the Berkeley IGS poll employs mostly email.

          “Let’s wait until after the election to see which is best,” says DiCamillo, perhaps a little irritated that some academics quickly called his results “peculiar” and “an outlier.”

          DiCamillo says it’s not merely technology, but also telephone users’ preferences that have upset the pollsters’ apple carts. “A declining share of voters are willing to participate when called randomly,” he said. “Forty years ago, about two-thirds of people called would take part. Now cooperation rates are below 10 percent. A lot of people simply screen our calls out.”

          This forces pollsters to experiment while seeking a method that matches the old reliability once generated by his former California Poll, founded by the late Mervin Field, DeCamillo said.

          “Polling is at a crossroads,” DiCamillo concludes. “That’s why we’re trying the internet. It gives us a lot of advantages.”

          For one thing, he said, it allows for listing all candidates, not merely those with the most money or prior prominence. That’s probably why his Berkeley IGS survey had little-known Republican James Baldwin in a statistical second-place tie with the far better-known Democratic state Sen. Kevin de Leon, both far behind incumbent Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein in the primary run for the U.S. Senate. No other poll has even listed Baldwin, whose fund-raising is so slim he hasn’t needed to file reports with the Federal Elections Commission.

          “It’s very different from doing it by phone,” DeCamillo said, describing his panel of likely voters as chosen both for willingness to participate and their past primary election voting history. They also must list an email address on their voter registration forms, something many longtime, regular voters never did.

          So it’s a brave new world for the pollsters, and as DiCamillo said, the proof will be in the pudding, when real votes are counted on Election Night.

     Elias is author of the current book “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government's Campaign to Squelch It,” now available in an updated third edition. His email address is



(One in a series of interviews with significant candidates for governor of California)



          Picture a California where it’s illegal to drive on freeways, now populated instead by layer upon layer of robotic drones. A California where new housing is mostly placed near rapid transit and bus stops and people actually do shift from their cars onto trains and buses. A California where high speed rail enables home ownership in remote locations for many thousands who can’t afford to buy now. A California where self-guided drone taxis are common.

          Gavin Newsom, the state’s Democratic lieutenant governor and the former mayor of San Francisco, sees all this and much more change in California’s not so distant future.

          Sitting with him can feel a lot like talking with Alvin Toffler in 1970. Back then, the futurist in a pre-Internet time forecast a long era of very fast change that could drive some people crazy, a worldwide information-based economy, chatrooms and devises that would remind people of their appointments. “Future Shock,” Toffler called his book covering these subjects and more.

          “Mobility in California will change radically,” said Newsom, the leader so far in every poll on the governor’s race. “We can have automated vehicles that interact with other new technologies like the hyperloop and other things like flying drone taxis, which are being tested in Dubai right now. All these things can interact with high speed rail very well.”

          Newsom believes California’s bullet train, now under constant attack even as construction continues in the Central Valley, will be built out. “We need to finish the first segment, from Bakersfield to San Francisco. Get that done and we might be able to draw private investment and more federal money to finish the line,” he said. “I think we’ll see huge prosperity along the route between the Central Valley and the Silicon Valley. But we do need to prove ourselves.”

          How about another statewide vote on the project, as some high speed rail opponents demand? “That train has left the station,” he said.

          But Newsom brings more to an interview than high-tech razzle-dazzle talk. Among his first acts as governor, he said, would be to change the state budget to promote much more pre-natal and early-childhood care. “I’m profoundly interested in this and it’s very underfunded,” Newsom said. “This is so important because that’s when most of human brain development takes place.”

          Newsom also wants companies to do more for contract workers who get few benefits as they move from firm to firm and project to project in today’s economy. He supports a recent state Supreme Court decision calling for companies to give those mobile workers more benefits, saying “Businesses need to do something for their employees’ future.

          “There is no silver bullet that will wholly solve the displacement from future technology, but the right solutions can help ease the transition and protect the workers most vulnerable…to automation,” he said. “It’s the job of the next governor to get ahead of this disruption and smooth that transition.”

The candidate also pledges fiscal discipline like what outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown has imposed. “We don’t need to be profligate to be progressive,” Newsom said.

          And he pledges to go after corruption in state government wherever he can, citing information technology procurement as a potentially fruitful area. “It’s manifest in many (state) requests for proposals that they are designed to be filled only by a single source,” Newsom said. “It’s an incumbent protection racket.”

          Newsom also indicated he will look hard at agencies like the scandal-ridden Public Utilities Commission and the Energy Commission, which often favors large corporations over small operators in awarding grants.

          And Newsom indicates there will be no letup in California’s resistance to policies of President Trump if he’s elected. “I’m a big fan of (state Atty. Gen.) Xavier Becerra,” he said, “especially because of how quick he’s been to lead on this.” But he stopped short of endorsing Becerra.

          It’s when he discusses the state’s possible future that Newsom seems most animated. “I’ve prided myself that we’ve always been able to look around the corner, from same sex marriage to marijuana legalization and gun safety. Californians should demand this kind of forward thinking from our next governor.”
     Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, go to