On Tuesday evening, Governor Gavin Newson delivered the State of the State address at a nearly empty Dodger Stadium, which has served as a mass testing and vaccination center during the pandemic. The speech traditionally is delivered in the Capitol to a joint session of the Legislature.
The poignant scene of empty seats at the iconic stadium also happens to be similar to the number of lives lost due to the coronavirus in California. “Stands once filled with roaring crowds are now silent and empty,” Sahar Robertson, a gubernatorial spokesperson, said in a statement Monday.
While the governor didn’t touch much on policy issues, he did focus on the state’s COVID-19 response and the glimmer of hope at the end of this very long tunnel. “Dream of brighter days ahead,” Newsom asked of Californians. “Because we won’t be defined by this moment — we’ll be defined by what we do because of it.”
Newsom also touted the $6.6 billion spending package aimed at getting students back into classrooms the end of the month and the $7.6 billion economic recovery package, which included $600 payments for low-income Californians.
“Getting kids back to school, getting shots in arms, and getting the economy back on its feet. These are urgent priorities, but not the totality of our efforts,” he said.
The governor also referenced his decision to reserve 40% of vaccine doses for poor and minority communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. “Vaccine equity is not just the right thing to do, it is also the fastest way through the pandemic,” he said. “Grocery workers prioritized. School staff prioritized. And farmworkers, put to the front of the line.”
The address was delivered as organizers collect the final signatures for an effort to recall the governor by March 17. Though initially enjoying robust approval at the beginning of the pandemic, Newsom has since been criticized for business sector closures, vaccine rollout, and ignoring public health guidelines when he attended a birthday party in Napa at the exclusive French Laundry. And while some praise the lifting of restrictions, others judge such actions as premature and feel Newsom has caved to business pressures.
“I know our progress hasn’t always felt fast enough,” he acknowledged. “And look, we’ve made mistakes. I’ve made mistakes. But we own them, learn from them, and never stop trying.”
Though Newsom has refrained from speaking much on these recall efforts during COVID-19 briefings, he did briefly address them Tuesday night. “So, to the California critics who are promoting partisan political power grabs with outdated prejudices and rejecting everything that makes California truly great, we say this: We will not be distracted from getting shots in arms and our economy booming again,” he said. “This is a fight for California’s future.”
Regardless of the many challenges facing Newsom and the state, he reminded Californians of the hope ahead. “California won’t come crawling back. We will roar back,” he said. “When this pandemic ends – and it will end soon – we’re not going back to normal. Normal was never good enough. Normal accepts inequity.”
He ended the address by emphatically stating: “This is our moment – to create the California we all want to live in, to extend the dream of prosperity, equity, and progress to all. And to continue to lead the world into the future once more.”