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Gov.-elect Newsom, let’s work together, starting with housing the homeless

The homeless on Gavin Newsom: “A lot of us have homes...because of him.”

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to tackle California’s worsening homelessness problem if elected to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown in November 2018. Critics said little can be done without a massive new investment in both affordable and supportive housing.
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Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to tackle California’s worsening homelessness problem if elected to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown in November 2018. Critics said little can be done without a massive new investment in both affordable and supportive housing.

Congratulations to Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom. I look forward to working with you on solving the state’s most pressing problems. These include our state’s sorry fiscal condition, massive debt foisted upon our children and grandchildren and ending the boondoggle of all boondoggles, the high-speed train that improperly uses cap-and-trade funds, while doing nothing of substance to reduce California’s carbon footprint.

You’ve been opposed to high-speed rail from time to time, but now you’ll be responsible for signing the budget that does or does not continue a multi-billion-dollar black hole. It’s time to redirect this misspending for other urgent needs.

Let’s start with addressing homelessness. Even before I became an elected official a quarter-century ago, I worked diligently to help those who could not find shelter. This issue is so close to my heart that upon my 2015 special election to the state Senate, I chose to be sworn in at the Orange County Rescue Mission in Tustin.

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We both could rattle off previous bills on homelessness and some of the underlying issues most prevalent with mentally ill people in California. Yet the state has only taken small steps toward removing the barriers so the least among us can actually afford a place to live.

One of my recent legislative efforts came in a bill that I co-authored with state Sen. Kevin de Leon. Senate Bill 1206, the No Place Like Home Act, became Proposition 2, which voters approved on Tuesday. It authorizes the state to borrow as much as $2 billion against the state income tax on millionaires to build housing for homeless mentally ill individuals.

John Moorlach.JPG
John Moorlach

I also helped move forward the bipartisan Assembly Bill 488, which creates a long-needed Orange County Housing Finance Trust to fund the planning and construction of homeless housing. Orange County generates the second most personal income taxes among California’s counties, but also has to deal with a large mentally ill homeless population.

Looking forward to 2019, there is much more to be done. You have called for building 3.5 million new homes by 2025, a herculean task. But that certainly is possible in a state that once built the State Water Project and the world’s best public universities.

You are quoted as being proud of outraging activists by cutting welfare for single homeless adults and applying those funds to housing services while San Francisco mayor. Good for you.

Now I suggest an even bigger “Nixon goes to China” opportunity to move the dial on housing construction – reform the California Environmental Quality Act. Designed to protect the environment, CEQA instead has become a bureaucratic monstrosity and NIMBY tool that greatly increases the time and cost of building housing of any kind.

When the will is there, CEQA has been magically modified to expedite construction for sports stadiums and arenas, including exemption bills this fall for the Oakland A’s and Los Angeles Clippers. I did not vote for those bills because I oppose CEQA favoritism.

What’s good for millionaire players and billionaire owners should be good for the middle class and the homeless. But Gov. Jerry Brown did little on CEQA reform as he presided over the worst housing situation in generations.

Gov.-elect Newsom, let’s push for substantive CEQA reform stop the expensive and unnecessary high-speed rail fiasco, address the state’s debt and care for the least among us.

John Moorlach, a Costa Mesa Republican, represents the 37th District in the state Senate. He can be contacted at Senator.moorlach@sen.ca.gov.

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