California Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom and local lawmakers argue over who should be responsible for the homelessness plaguing the state, as the governor threatened to withhold funds from those who dispute liability, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
The Democrat governor and local government officials, including many from his own political party, are arguing over the responsibility for the lack of progress in battling the ongoing homelessness problem across America’s most populated state.
The report explained that Newsom recently placed a temporary hold on $1 billion of state grants that were meant for city and county homelessness programs as he rejected the proposals from the officials that outlined how they would spend the money. He said the proposal was inadequate, even though it would have reportedly reduced homelessness statewide by two percent from 2020 to 2024.
People who work in state politics say Mr. Newsom’s policy moves and comments echo many Californians’ rising frustration over housing costs and homelessness, and indicate a willingness by the governor, who recently won re-election, to pick fights with local leaders to try to get results in his second term.
Mayors and county officials, meanwhile, have said they need the Newsom administration to provide reliable, recurring revenue streams and a cohesive statewide framework to address the issue. Instead, they said, most state money comes in one-time allocations with little guidance.
Many mayors were also rankled when Mr. Newsom told the Los Angeles Times he froze the homelessness funds because local leaders needed to “deliver damn results,” adding that he would be willing to play “mayor of California” if they didn’t.
However, WSJ explained that local officials had said that withholding the money they were already expecting is making the problem worse. On the matter, Los Angeles Democrat Mayor Eric Garcetti said, “Lives are on the line, and we can’t afford for this work to get mired in more politics.”
The WSJ said that according to advocates, “Problems including bureaucratic slowdowns and community resistance have made it difficult to deliver services.” At the same time, researchers also said that “even as some people are successfully sheltered, others will keep falling into homelessness until housing becomes more affordable.”
Newsom recently met with over 100 local leaders and agreed at the time to release the funds he put a hold on if each jurisdiction agreed to submit a better proposal by the end of November. According to a spokesman for the governor, 21 jurisdictions had agreed and were expected to receive the frozen funds sometime this week.
For years in California, there have been disagreements over who should be in charge of the homelessness problem, as the state reportedly has over 116,000 residents sleeping on the streets — the most in the United States — in addition to being one of the most expensive housing markets across the county.
The WSJ also noted that under Newsom, the state saw a roughly 15 percent increase in the homeless population since 2019, despite having the most significant funding increase to fight the problem. In fact, since the start of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, the state has committed around $15 billion towards homelessness, according to reports. Additionally, some majority cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco also raised taxes to help combat the problem as well.
The state’s homelessness problem also comes as Newson again reaffirmed his promise to Politico that he will not try to challenge President Joe Biden in the 2024 presidential election, despite his efforts of building a massive digital operation before the 2022 midterms.
Additionally, while the Democrat governor has been facing problems in his own state, he spent time during his reelection bid, which he largely ignored, attacking Republican governors who were running for reelection and are potential 2024 presidential candidates, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. He even spent money running negative ads in Florida.
Over the last five years, Newsom has won three elections in America’s most populated state. He won his gubernatorial race in 2018 and 2022 and had to go through a recall election in 2021.