On Tuesday evening, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom spoke to an intimate gathering at the Fowler Museum on UCLA’s campus, titled “California: Getting Back to Business.” The event, hosted by the UCLA Luskin School’s Dean’s Associates program , brought together donors and invited guests.
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Lt. Gov. Newsom, who is also on the UC Board of Regents, praised California’s rich history in leading public education, innovation and job creation but lamented how the current condition of all three are in need of serious restructuring – not just reform. Newsom stressed how the University can work with private industries to help usher in a new era of partnership for education and for solving problems in civic government. When it comes to rethinking education, ”we have to look at something completely different,” he said.
Lt. Gov. Newsom stressed the need for an alternative system by acknowledging tuition increases and other government cuts to public colleges and universities, including a $2 billion cut to the California State University system. He said it was akin to putting “sand in the gears of this remarkable conveyer belt for talent.” He warned that without a plan for cuts the system is in serious risk of denying education to thousands of students.
Newsom cited a report saying between 1980 and 2010 California flat-lined at a 1.1% job growth rate annually. Newsom argued that the debate to restore greatness is necessary to revitalize California and return to a state that leads the nation.
“The nation outperformed California and we became average. I don’t remember California being a state that was average. We were a state of pioneers,” Newsom said.
To help restore California’s prestige nationally and globally, Newsom worked with the Brookings Institute on a six-month tour of the U.S. looking for ‘best practices’ that would stimulate California’s economy. Newsom concluded local government is the most powerful way to promote effective change.
“There isn’t a problem in this state that hasn’t been solved by somebody somewhere. I’m inspired every day when I go local. It’s about regions rising together,” he said.
Following Newsom's speech, J.R DeShazo, director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation  and a professor of Urban Planning, shared two projects, commissioned by private business that are examples of how universities, industries and civic government can partner successfully. DeShazo joined Mary Leslie, President of the Los Angeles Business Council, to create a renewable energy report and program focused on promoting solar energy. The program needed to be specific to Los Angeles and meet government and business standards—which meant environmental benefits, job creation elements and a low cost to ratepayers.
DeShazo said, “UCLA Luskin provided the intellectual firepower to the vision. We laid out implementation solutions that would bring solar to LA.” The program met the all standards and reported $300 million in tax credits for the private sector. “What’s happing in LA is very innovative right now as a result of the leadership that has occurred in the business and civic sector,” said DeShazo. Leslie said without the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation the program could not have leveraged the necessary resources of the private sector to invest and improve in the renewable industry.
“Investing $1 billion in coal creates 870 jobs, $1 billion in nuclear 1,000-1,500 [jobs], investing $1 billion in solar creates 1,900-2,200 jobs—for wind it creates 3,300 jobs. One billion dollars in retrofitting buildings you generate 7,000 jobs.” Newsom said. “So creating a fund for this and closing business loopholes are essential. It will create new strategic investments locally.”
He encouraged more private partnership saying universities have a major role in industries like renewable energy in creating a framework of evidence that can be scaled for the rest of the country.
Newsom thanked the Luskin School for “stepping up and stepping in” and ended on a positive note. “I’m optimistic but nonetheless pragmatic. We have more scientists, more engineers, researchers, Nobel laureates. California is the birthplace of nano and genome science technology and we have six of the top 20 universities globally. It’s time for us to start focusing on what’s right, not just what’s wrong. The best days are still yet to come."
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