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MADDOW: I speak to you right now from the great city of San Francisco. And although I speak to you from a darkened room with a fake backdrop behind me, I assure you that this is the single most beautiful large city in the entire country. And I say that with the self-conscious chauvinism of someone who grew up in the Bay Area here and whose whole family still lives here.
Here in San Francisco, the minimum wage is $9.79 an hour. There"s also universal health care here in this city. The mayor here said in his State of the City address in 2005 that he wanted all the 73,000 or so people in this city who didn"t have insurance to have access to health care anyway.
In 2006, the city started meeting to figure out how that could be done.
In 2007, their agreed-upon plan was put into effect. They did it.
If your family income is five times the poverty level or below, if you don"t qualify for public insurance programs like Medicaid or Medicare, if you"re a San Francisco resident, if you"re uninsured, you can get medical care under the program Healthy San Francisco. It"s not insurance. It"s a doable public coordinated program to let folks who are otherwise falling through the cracks have access to health care. I should also mention that San Francisco also has preschool for all. In the inadvertently funny official terms of the program, it"s, "free half-day preschool for all four-year-old San Franciscans who would like to attend regardless of income. Children living in every neighborhood and every zip code in San Francisco are eligible."
Did you hear that, you four-year-old San Franciscans. Decide what you want to do. You"re good to go." San Francisco"s is not immune from the nation"s troubles, although sometimes when you hear it feels that way.
The murder rate in the city is as low as it has been since the 1960s. The California unemployment rate is an atrocious 12 percent, but San Francisco"s is lower than that, 9.4 percent.
It is a favored sport of our compatriots on the political right to attack San Francisco as if it"s some sort of warning for what it"s like when liberals run stuff. It"s a little like warning someone not to fall in love because there"s a risk they might end up living happily ever after.
Joining us now for the interview tonight, Mr. Mayor of Francisco, Gavin Newsom. Mr. Mayor, nice to see you.
GAVIN NEWSOM (D), MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO: I"m missing my favorite show. Are you running for mayor? Is that what happens? Just three days in this town.
MADDOW: I"m running for booster-in-chief.
NEWSOM: I mean, the photo of you with that hat, though, may disqualify. But beyond that, it"s pretty unpleasant.
MADDOW: I don"t know. I think in some parts of San Francisco, that might help me out.
NEWSOM: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). That"s a good point. Yes. Actually, you"ve got the inside job.
MADDOW: We want a mayor who"s protected from the transmissions.
NEWSOM: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You"ve got all that debate down. That"s impressive. Public option, alive and well in San Francisco. I just left city hall and the American flag has been flying. It has not been replaced with the Canadian flag.
MADDOW: When you hear in political terms, national political terms, San Francisco, the shorthand that you don"t even need to explain.
NEWSOM: I know.
MADDOW: Itself - it"s standalone statement of what"s wrong with everything (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the country.
NEWSOM: Yes, exactly.
MADDOW: Do you sure feel it"s a tourism board advertisement? Or does it bug you?
NEWSOM: No, it"s amazing. It"s the birthplace of the United Nations. It"s also the birthplace of life science and biotech. It"s the home of some of the most innovative companies in the world. It"s one of the most dynamic economic cities in the United States and arguably, the world.
It"s got one of the most creative workforces. It"s a city of dreamers and doers, of entrepreneurs, of innovators, a city that, at its best, is always on the leading and cutting edge of new ideas.
You have mentioned a number of them - universal health care, universal preschool. We also have universal after-school, highest performing urban school district in the State of California.
We"ve seen seven years in a row of improved test scores. Comprehensive arts education - every child, every classroom. K-12 - the city funds it. We even put salad bars into our public schools to start focusing now on what we all should be focusing on health care debate, that"s wellness and prevention and focusing on reducing costs by getting smart about that kind of investment.
This is a city that has paid sick leave ordnance. Well, they said that would devastate the economic framework of the city. It did quite the contrary. This is the city with a local, earned income tax credit to allow working families to keep more of what they earn.
And our bond rating is among the highest of any big city in the State of California and the nation. We have a rainy day reserve. We have two-year budget cycles. We have 10-year capital plans, fiscal policies and efficiency plans that will put up against most cities.
We"re not immune to macro-economic challenges. We"ve got a big budget deficit this year, but we"re also a fiscally prudent city at the same, being socially progressive.
MADDOW: Well, in addition to having all of this things, the city also has term limits.
MADDOW: And so, even if you want -
NEWSOM: The future ex-mayor is sitting with you.
MADDOW: That"s right. Well, you"ve got a couple of years.
MADDOW: You would be termed on January of 2011. If you could run again, would you, if there weren"t term limits?
NEWSOM: You know, I think two years is plenty, but then again, my friend Mayor Bloomberg, had a different point of view, because he has a different balance sheet.
NEWSOM: So - a different paradigm. It"s a tough town. This is a town, as I say, that doesn"t like to dislike its mayors. It loves to hate its mayors. It"s a town most mayors are one-term mayors, the last two out of three.
Somehow, I survived re-election. I think the city"s ready to look for new leadership though. I am pretty passionate about this job. It"s an extraordinary gift. We are a city and a county, so you can do a lot of things that other city mayors can"t do because of the county functions.
And I"m able to take risks. I"m able to try new things. We"re able to advance issues around civil rights and human rights. And we"re able to get out front obviously on marriage equality. We"re able to take some risks on immigration policies and obviously on health care policies and education.
And I"ll tell you what. There"s not a city in this country - I mean this - that"s doing more on the environment. Maybe Portland, Oregon and I mean that with sincerity, but no other city that"s been more aggressive on environmental stewardship. And we"re bringing people together. We"re not dividing folks as we - quite a new strategy and a new paradigm of sustainability.
MADDOW: Well, you have filed the paperwork to run for lieutenant governor in this state. That doesn"t mean that you have declared that you are running.
MADDOW: But you have filed the paper works. You have the option. I agree, for once, with the common wisdom that the California State government is in running for the worst state government in this country by a mile. And it"s got competition.
MADDOW: But what do you think is wrong with California state government? And could you fix it by joining it? Why on earth would you want to be part of that?
NEWSOM: You"re right. I mean, there is - I believe this - fundamentally, structural. You"ve got get two-thirds to get anything passed. You think we have dysfunction with 60-vote filibuster in the majority of the Senate.
Imagine getting two-thirds in the state. So it"s tourney again of the minority. Governor Schwarzenegger can"t carry many Republicans, let alone any Democrats. So you have stasis as relates to even passing a budget. I"m not talking about revenue enhancements or tax increases, even a budget.
You have a problem with term limits. So the lobbyists have all moved in because people are turned down. They come and go as soon as get there to open the accounts to get to the next office.
You"ve got problems as fundamental as this. We don"t have rainy day reserves. We don"t have two-year budgets. We don"t have strong fiscal frameworks as relates to investments in cities and counties.
So, there"s a structural problem. In addition to that, we have an absence of ideas. And I always say, the best politics is a better idea. You want to bring together, come up with a better idea and those ideas tend to galvanize people in a positive way.
MADDOW: If you think that you"ve got good ideas for a state
government, that"s one thing. But if it"s the structural problems with
state government are preventing anybody with even - I don"t know if they"re
in the middle - any ideas from getting anything passed, then, literally,
why join that? Why would you want to go -
NEWSOM: We want to - instead of being on the sidelines, instead of walking away, instead of just rolling up your sleeves and saying, "Well, actually, I don"t want to get involved and do the hard work. I want to just sit back and relax." I"d rather get in the mix. I"d rather be part of that solution. I"d rather be part of that debate. I"d rather start focusing on ways we can leverage what we"ve done in this county.
They said it was impossible to do health care, impossible to create the framework in terms of education, support and environmental stewardship in this city. And we proved we can do it.
It was impossible to recruit and retain businesses in this economic environment. And we"ve been able to do that with some aggressive economic development strategies. I"d like to think the 57 other counties in state can take some of those examples and of course we can adopt other examples from those counties and start aggregating and disseminate them in a different way.
MADDOW: The last time we talked was in April, the last time I was here.
MADDOW: And it was the first interview that you did after you said you were ready to run for governor.
NEWSOM: I know. I sound like a politician. This is horrible. Yes, I do.
MADDOW: It"s always, "Are you going to run?"
NEWSOM: That"s what happens when you"re termed out. You worry about, you know, going back to - well, I have restaurants and hotels. So I can go back to work there.
MADDOW: Well, you haven"t decided that you"re going to run for lieutenant governor, but you did decide you were going to run for governor.
MADDOW: You"ve since dropped out. Why didn"t you get any traction?
NEWSOM: Because I had a brand new baby.
MADDOW: You"re blaming the baby? You"re not blaming the baby.
NEWSOM: She"s so cute. Last night, she kept me up. She can"t afford the (UNINTELLIGIBLE). She"s too young to understand this. She"s only five months. No, she"s perfect.
MADDOW: All right. Aside from the baby.
NEWSOM: No. There"s a combination and I know it. What a horrible thing I said. This is not live, is it?
MADDOW: Oh, no.
NEWSOM: You told me it was taped.
MADDOW: Get him the hat.
NEWSOM: We"re all set. Yes, give me the hat. No, it was a combination of all those factors at home and then my responsibilities at work. Look, I"ve got 6,000 people who contribute to the campaign. Hundreds of thousands of people opted in.
But I was running against a brand unlike any other in the State of California. And candidly, I was having a hard time raising the amount of money I need to raise to put a good fight, not only in the primary against former Governor Brown, but also to go up against Meg Whitman, most likely, who"s already put $39 million of her own money in to date, and is already going to put in north of $100 million to $150 million in the general.
I looked at that honestly and I thought about the sacrifice and in the city in the context of the money that you have to raise. And there was no way I could do all of that.
MADDOW: Gov. Newsom, San Francisco, not yet decided on whether or not he"s running for lieutenant governor.
NEWSOM: No. But it"s good to see you. Come out more often.
NEWSOM: And I love more of those introductions.
MADDOW: Yes, I know. I knew that it was going to start to make you - it was going to make you squeamish. It was going to be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) heartfelt.
MADDOW: All right. Nice to see you, Gavin. Thanks.
NEWSOM: Thank you. Good to see you.
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