Gubernatorial candidate and current State Treasurer John Chiang engaged with local community members in the Stanislaus State Town Hall hosted by the university’s Democratic Party Club while he continues his campaign against fellow Democratic candidates Gavin Newsom, Antonio Villaraigosa and Delaine Eastin.
“John is an honest leader, able administrator and also [an] expert when it comes to finances, when it comes it budget, when it comes to money matters. What a key skill to build a better future,” said Dr. Harinder Grewal, chairman of the Stanislaus County Democratic Central Committee, helping introduce Chiang.
During the town hall, Chiang fielded topics on immigration, climate change, high speed rail and fiscal accountability, however, some of his most engaging remarks were made on the topics of education and affordable housing.
“My top priority as governor is going to be all in on education. If you want to change people’s lives, you have to make sure that every child gets access to a world class education,” said Chiang. “If we want to change people’s opportunities, we have to make sure that in all these communities we have access to more affordable housing. Young people are leaving this state in droves because they simply cannot afford to live here.”
He outlined a plan for education that included a focus on educational institutions, building partnerships between state, counties and educational facilities, providing access to early childhood education, expanding K-12 offerings, and providing sustainable sources of funding for higher education.
“We’ve done such a poor job that a few decades ago the state used to pay 40 percent of UC budget,” claimed Chiang. “Today, the state’s contribution is about 11 percent. I want to turn it in the opposite direction so that the state is headed back north in regard to what our contributions are.”
Striking a contrast between himself and his fellow primary candidates, Chiang emphasized his efforts to provide affordable housing. He had previously led an effort for a $6 to 9 billion affordable housing bond to be on the 2018 ballot as part of an effort he believed could’ve housed 500,000 Californians. A $4 billion bond ballot measure would ultimately be approved by lawmakers and supported by Chiang. In addition to the bond, he has also called for the return of Redevelopment Agencies for local governments.
“During that last financial crisis, the Redevelopment Agencies were eliminated, so local governments, which could get access to 20 percent of that money to build low and moderate-income housing, lost their number one tool to build affordable housing,” Chiang stated. “So, as governor, I would bring that back, so it would rebuild the components so that we could build more affordable housing.”
With agriculture being the economic base for Stanislaus County, queries on water issues surfaced during the meeting as Grewal sought Chiang’s solution to water supply and sustainable water storage.
For the gubernatorial candidate, this consisted of bringing predictability to an inconsistent water flow.
“There’s going to be a certain amount of allocation that’s going to be provided in any particularly given year. It’s not always going to be consistent, because you can’t guarantee all of it. But, at least you have a certain range and within each of the water agencies and those who are using it they have an understanding of what certain percentage that they are going to receive,” said Chiang, adding that agencies would have a sense of what will be promised as a baseline.
However, when it came to the sustainability of water storage, he reasoned that it wasn’t sustainable.
“We will implement the best tools that we have available, but we’re not going to have sufficient funds to try to capture all the water, especially a year with a heavy rain pour because the finances sometimes don’t work,” reasoned Chiang. “You may have massive rainfall one year and nothing happen for the next four years and the financial equation to make that work just doesn’t work.”
Overall, Chiang’s knowledge of the local area impressed Stanislaus State Democratic Party Club Vice President Adam Webber, and the club’s president, Jason Serang, who expressed praise that Chiang would take his campaign to Stanislaus State.
“We’re ignored because we’re from the Central Valley,” Serang claimed, “so L.A. is important, San Francisco is important, all these high population areas are important, but we’re important too.”
For the gubernatorial primary, Chiang intends to visit all California’s 58 counties to understand the needs of the respective communities.
“My campaign, I pledge that I’m going to visit all 58 counties,” Chiang stated. “I think it’s important for every community to understand that if you’re going to have a governor that they’ve been in your community and that when they’re making their decisions they understand what you want.”