Gavin Newsom
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom gives his opening statement in a debate. Photo by Chris Stone

The votes electing you as governor of California were still being counted when our state was struck again by raging fires and yet another in an epidemic of mass shootings.

These are a grim reminder of how events outside of the governor’s office will make it hard for you and your advisers to focus on the types of proactive creative initiatives that should embody California.

So, Governor-elect Newsom, as you begin the somber duty of declaring disasters, issuing statements of reassurance and condolences, and lowering the capitol flag to half-staff, here are some disruptive ideas for keeping the spirit of California up–ideas you may not hear from those around you responsible for putting out the day-to-day fires:

  • Break down the bureaucratic barriers blocking former prisoners from becoming full-time professional firefighters. We need them now more than ever.
  • Create a California Surgeon General–someone whose high profile can take on the staggering health hazards of soda consumption, like U.S Surgeon General C. Everett Koop took on smoking under President Reagan.
  • Close a state prison. Building on Gov. Jerry Brown’s gradual shift from punishment to prevention will make our state safer and more solvent.
  • Open a new public university somewhere inland like Stockton.
  • Sentence youths who make mistakes to safe and secure campuses of learning and career training instead of to prisons.
  • Issue a California passport–one that could function like a REAL ID card but carry the added value of a sense of belonging.
  • Let the people weigh in online for your inductees to the California Hall of Fame. Even small ways of giving the public a say in insider decision-making could begin to add up.
  • Induct Colin Kaepernick into the California Hall of Fame. His induction would provoke deeper thinking about patriotism.
  • Rename the rose garden The Rose Bird Garden after the late and notoriously under-appreciated former chief justice of the California Supreme Court, the first female in that role.
  • Erect a Statue of Liberty West, one that welcomes immigrants from east and south.
  • As you’re filling vacancies at Caltrans, consider applicants who are trans, and for other top jobs too.
  • Finish the job of Obamacare by making Medi-Cal available to all eligible Californians, regardless of how Washington D.C. views their immigration status.
  • Don’t execute anyone.

And even in the darkest times, maybe especially then, hold some space for humor and fun:

  • Allow a taco truck to park right at the steps to the Capitol. Visitors from all over the world, and your staff working those long hours, will thank you.
  • Next Halloween, turn the Governor’s Mansion into a haunted house. Enlist those guys from Queer Eye to help.
  • Arrange for your kids and other kids to do cannonballs at the Hearst Castle pool, and quinceaneras at the Disneyland Castle. Remember, your years as governor will be their childhood.
  • Use line-item poop emojis, but sparingly to preserve the dignity of the office.
  • At your inaugural gala, dance a Greek syrto with your Lieutenant Governor, Eleni Kounalakis And dance with Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara too. Now that would embody California values.

And through it all, please stay handsome. Moisturize!

Daniel Zingale is senior vice president at The California Endowment and served as senior advisor to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and as cabinet secretary to Gov. Gray Davis. He wrote this commentary for CALmatters.

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