Newsom needs to prove that he can garner the support of business titans both to fill his coffers and to help him make his case. One local CEO echoed a common refrain: “What’s he done? He’s never here, and when he is, he’s grandstanding.” And the venture capitalists I’ve spoken to aren’t sure they’ve seen their candidate yet. “This is a leadership issue,” says Mitchell Kertzman, managing director at Hummer Winblad Venture Partners. With the onerous budget-making process and the remnants of Prop 13 (which limits property taxes) creating funding logjams, “someone has to be courageous and modify these things.” If California were a business? “I’d wipe the slate clean,” says Kertzman, “bring the valuation down at near zero, and agree to start again. But this isn’t Chrysler or a startup we’re talking about.”
Fixing government by making it run like a business is the strategy Newsom originally campaigned on, and it’s the one Whitman seems to be sticking with. Long married and congenitally buttoned up, Whitman is emphasizing her “strong values” and business record while she formulates an expanding portfolio of views and solutions. “Growing the economy, creating jobs will be a big priority,” she told me recently, reverting effortlessly to her talking points.
Newsom, who has business credentials of his own, concedes that in a campaign, “you can usually get away with the ‘I’m going to run government like a business’ thing. It’s an applause line.” And then, he says, you get into office. “It’s a civil-service system. It’s not just a right/left advocacy thing. It’s nuanced. And it takes time not just to fire people, but to hire them.” You can either legislate change or go to the voters. By then, new economic realities hit. “And you have to react to that,” he says. “You have less influence outside your realm than you think.”
CCWC is hosting a candidate forum on SF Mayor Newsom on Tuesday 07/21/09 in twitter. Please join us at #TTnewsom for lunch, 12:00 – 1:00 PST, and share your thoughts. Would you hire him?