Gavin Newsom, in SLO, says government needs radical change

Lieutenant governor, in San Luis Obispo for luncheon, says government has fallen far behind

jhickey@thetribunenews.comOctober 31, 2013 

“Government is on a collision course with the future.”

Those were the words of California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who spoke Wednesday to a crowd of about 150 law professionals at a luncheon for the San Luis Obispo County Bar Association at the Madonna Inn.

During his 40-minute address, which was warmly received with a standing ovation, the Democrat and former mayor of San Francisco explained his belief that new technologies are changing the way smart people do business and connect with others to reach common goals.

Government, in contrast, is slow to change and falling far behind in its ability to meet citizens’ needs.

Online platforms such as Craigslist and E-Trade have forced the news and financial industries to rethink their business models, and an emerging “share economy” is connecting homeowners with paying visitors through the website Airbnb, Newsom said.

But meanwhile, California’s DMV website is on the brink of collapse; a $260 million project started in 2004 to link the state’s online court system documents never succeeded and its projected cost rose to $1.9 billion; and the University of California system is slow to provide the education that breaking-edge companies need. Google and others are creating their own curricula to bypass universities and train their own workforces.

“The old is being replaced by the new,” Newsom said.

When it comes to California’s government infrastructure, “We are operating on the leading and cutting edge of 1973,” he said.

Newsom didn’t offer any specific policy solutions but instead stuck to big-picture concepts.

“The global curve has risen,” because geniuses in other countries log on to the Internet and compete for American jobs, he said.

Rather than top-down industrialism with centralized power, the powerful shakers in a new society are using bottom-up, networked intelligence, and in order for California to right its course, “we must orient ourselves to take advantage of these trend lines,” Newsom said.

“We have to radically rethink the way we govern.”

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