California Forum

Uniting cities and states to protect our values, leverage policies

California Gov. Jerry Brown and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown – with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell between them – sign the new Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement in April.
California Gov. Jerry Brown and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown – with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell between them – sign the new Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement in April. The Times-Standard file

As President-elect Donald Trump prepares to take office and implement his vision of a much smaller federal government, it is up to all Americans to work with him where we can and defend our values where we must.

Perhaps one of the most powerful ways we can defend our people is to make sure we are uniting with other cities and states to advance and preserve policies that help meet the challenge of a new Trump administration.

There are of course many other ways we can chart a vision of a government that protects working people – starting with making sure the policies and the programs we defend work well. Of course we need to keep organizing – making sure that voters in future elections understand what is at stake, and register and participate. And we need to propose the change voters sought this November to lift more families into the middle class.

But we should take a hard look at how we can use the combined power of our forward-thinking cities and states to leverage better national policies. And we have the benefit of three extraordinary governors, California’s Jerry Brown, Oregon’s Kate Brown and Washington’s Jay Inslee, who have demonstrated the courage to act boldly in the past.

Just imagine how much we could accomplish if these three governors agreed to work to bring our cities and states together on important policies that could become a breakwater against the national tide of Trumpism?

We have a powerful precedent in the regulations California pioneered to clean our air and protect our environment by working to reduce carbon emissions. We used the tremendous power of our internal California market to create a standard that the nation was eventually forced to follow.

When I served as mayor of Los Angeles and as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, I saw the tremendous power of local governments working in unison to drive state, federal and even global initiatives forward.

Fighting climate change is the best example – it is an effort that was pioneered by world cities well before states and nations joined the effort. But there are many other ways local governments worked together in partnership to protect people, with the “Fight for 15” minimum wage effort another clear precedent of how state and local governments working together can shape broader policy.

We live in the most robust democracy on the planet, in a system that was designed to blunt the power of demagogues. One of the foundations of our democratic system is our federal structure, giving tremendous power and authority to states to defend the well-being of their residents. And within our states, our big cities are laboratories for bold new policies.

California is once again the sixth-largest economy in the world. If you add the GDP’s of Washington and Oregon, California would surpass the United Kingdom to become the fifth-largest economy in the world.

That’s power – power we must use to protect our people against any dangerous policies advanced by a Trump administration.

Antonio Villaraigosa is the former mayor of Los Angeles and currently a candidate for governor. Contact him at