Antonio Villaraigosa is serious about courting the Central Valley. The former Los Angeles mayor made yet another Fresno visit, speaking at a Maddy Institute luncheon about his run for governor.
Villaraigosa is attempting to distance himself from other top Democrats in the race by embracing a moderate stance. He touted his mayoral record, taking credit for improving education in L.A. and reducing crime by hiring more cops.
Shot at Newsom
When asked about health care, Villaraigosa says it is a right and not a privilege, but spoke out against a single-payer system. He criticized one of his party rivals in the governor’s race, Gavin Newsom, for flip-flopping on the issue.
“He said multiple times that he was for single-payer, then he said multiple times he was against it. Then in the last debate, he doubled down and said he was for it,” Villaraigosa said.
On water, Villaraigosa rejected Gov. Jerry Brown’s Delta tunnels plan, finding it too divisive between northern and southern California. He remains steadfast in his support for proposed dam projects at Temperance Flat and Sites Reservoir. He also called for more recycling and conservation.
Villaraigosa defended farmers from the stereotype that they waste water by growing food. “It’s bogus. Who’s eating those fruits and vegetables? The truth of the matter is we’re eating and drinking 100% of the water. We have to stop screaming at the farmers and start working with them. They’re putting food on the table.”
The candidate also talked about solutions for California’s housing shortage. His solution includes state funding for affordable housing, denser housing in downtown areas and shortening the approval process to build homes. He noted that he had the environmental review process shortened for a football stadium in Los Angeles. “Why not for affordable housing? Why not for infrastructure investment?”
Supports Gas Tax, But…
Regarding the gas tax, Villaraigosa supports it but says it must be spent for its intended purpose—to fix roads. He understands the burden it may create for some residents. “A 12 cent tax on gas for working people, for the poor, for people who have long commutes—that’s tough. We can’t lead out of the box at every turn. We have to do innovative financing like we did in L.A.” He said that can be accomplished with low-cost loans from the federal government and shortening the CEQA approval process.
Congressman Jim Costa provided an introduction before leaving the invitation-only lunch. The event drew other elected representatives like Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, and Esmeralda Soria and Paul Caprioglio from the Fresno city council. Others in attendance include Clovis city manager Luke Serpa as well as John Harris from Harris Ranch.
This was one of five Valley stops on the day for Villaraigosa who has visited the area multiple times since he started campaigning for the state’s highest office one year ago.