California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at 2-1-1 San Diego / Photo by Megan Wood

As Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered his inaugural address inside the California Capitol in early 2019, something unexpected happened.

Newsom’s 2-year-old son wandered onto the stage, and Newsom, without breaking stride, scooped him into his arms and continued speaking.

Newsom pledged in that speech to “support parents so they can give their kids the love and care they need, especially in those critical early years when so much development occurs.”

The message was clear: The era of Jerry Brown, who was childless (though, like me, a proud corgi parent) and in the twilight of his career, was over. There was now a working parent, however privileged, in the governor’s mansion.

He and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom launched what they called a Parents Agenda, seeking to expand paid family leave, subsidized childcare and full-day kindergarten.

That was, of course, back in another universe where California was flush with cash and kindergarten was a thing kids could actually go to.

Newsom could never have predicted, let alone controlled, the existence of the coronavirus. He earned high marks at the outset of the crisis for acting swiftly and decisively, back when not everyone was sure it was something to be taken all that seriously.

But as things have dragged on, that initial wave of support and goodwill has waned considerably.

Part of that has been because though we’ve learned an extraordinary amount about the virus since those early days of panic and cluelessness, the ensuing guidance hasn’t always appeared to be evidence-based.

That is, for example, why so many parents are enraged by the news on Thursday that new shutdowns will include playground closures, though we know the virus doesn’t spread outdoors and there have been no known outbreaks attributed to playgrounds. When they remained closed through September, the state admitted that it had just sort of forgotten to reopen them. Now, it’s intentionally shutting them down.

And Newsom has largely ceded any decisions about schools to local districts, though school closures represent arguably the most agonizing of all the many agonizing disruptions Californians are dealing with. This week we learned there’s barely any data guiding decisions about schools.

I sure don’t believe that most Republicans, who for the last two years have made ensuring gig workers aren’t entitled to employment benefits their signature issue, are very sincere in their critiques of Newsom and how his policies are impacting families. I certainly find it convenient that Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who’s failed to lead on literally every big issue the city has faced under his tenure, is challenging Newsom’s leadership. (And by questioning, I mean allowing his paid consultant to hit “send” on snide tweets. Now that’s leadership!)

But that doesn’t mean criticism of Newsom is not warranted or fair. He came into office promising to help families of young children when things were going great. Now they’re going terribly – the worst they’ve ever been in my lifetime – and I hope more than anything that he doubles down on that commitment and figures out meaningful ways to help.

What VOSD Learned This Week

We had a pretty stunning slate of surveillance and criminal justice stories this week.

Students at SDSU and beyond are being flagged as cheaters for routine behavior thanks to surveillance software the college requires while students are learning from home. And the city asked defense contractor General Atomics to keep quiet about plans to use a ginormous military-grade drone to monitor speeding drivers on local roads.

Speaking of government entities trying to keep things quiet …

A federal lawsuit is poking holes in the Sheriff’s Department’s claim that an internal review board’s dealings can be shielded from public view because of attorney-client privilege.

And a lack of transparency has been one of several consistent themes among local prisons as they deal with devastating COVID-19 outbreaks.

The city of Oceanside released numbers detailing the makeup of its police department, following community concerns about a lack of transparency and inclusivity in the hiring process for a new chief.


New data sheds light on who’s leaving San Diego Unified as school remains online – and it turns out it’s not just wealthy families with the means to go to private schools.


Mayor Kevin Faulconer is on his way out, as we discussed on the podcast, but former Mayor Pete Wilson is back (the statue, that is).

Lawmakers in Sacramento, meanwhile, are heading back to work amid an extraordinary set of circumstances and looming shutdowns.

What I’m Reading

  • This is an extraordinary series detailing how one of the nation’s most prolific serial killers evaded officials by targeting victims the justice system didn’t care about. (Washington Post)
  • Once again someone has hit that sweet spot by providing the exact explainer I have been craving for a long time: how Charlamagne the God became the White establishment’s anointed Black voice. (Slate)
  • If you need any more evidence of why police shouldn’t police themselves, this account of how a Maine sheriff evaded accountability is a jaw-dropper. (Bangor Daily News)
  • Facebook finally has taken some steps to counter anti-vaxx misinformation. But new research shows it’s likely too late, and anti-vaccine sentiment has already taken root enough to impact people’s views of the new COVID-19 vaccines. (NBC News)

Line of the Week

“Eating indoors might be on the verge of being outlawed a few counties over from this restaurant, but not in this one, because there’s an invisible, disinfecting barrier on the county line keeping the virus out. Regardless, the space you reserved is practically outdoors anyway, like a fine dining garage or yurt, so there’s plenty of opportunity for the virus to fly away from your face.

You can drive through that invisible COVID barrier just fine, though, because a virus is small and weak and a car is large and strong. You remembered to fill up the gas before you left so you wouldn’t have to breathe any of the COVID air in the space between home and the restaurant. Very smart. Most people wouldn’t think ahead like this, which is why going to the big fancy dinner is fine for you in particular to do.” – As they say, chef’s kiss.

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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