Dan Walters speaks to the Fresno Rotary on Monday.

published on February 4, 2019 - 2:59 PM
Written by Gabriel Dillard

There was a gasp in the room of Fresno community leaders when Dan Walters, noted political columnist, shared his outlook on the future of high-speed rail in California.

“I have a hunch it is going to die,” Walters told the Fresno Rotary club at its weekly meeting Monday in Downtown Fresno.

He said a mix of funding challenges, lack of federal support and other pressing issues for California informs his opinion, as does new Gov. Gavin Newsom’s feelings about high-speed rail compared to Jerry Brown.

“Newsom is not so enamored of the bullet train,” Walters said.

Walters, who has been a journalist for nearly 60 years and whose column is syndicated across California, was invited to speak about his outlook for Gov. Newsom and the current climate in Sacramento.

Walters said its only common sense that Newsom won’t be able to accomplish the “lavish intentions” he promised in his campaign, including fixes to the housing crisis, health care for all and universal preschool.

Housing may be the No. 1 most-pressing issue that Newsom will face, he said. From a low of 30,000 new housing units being built in California during the Great Recession, there are about 130,000 being built each year currently. Meeting the state’s housing needs will require upwards of 200,000 new units, Walters said.

“It’s an existential problem for California,” he said.

Newsom has already started cracking down on cities not meeting quotas for affordable housing mandates, just recently suing the city of Huntington Beach for failing to meet zoning requirements for affordable housing.

Walters added that reforms to the California Environmental Protection Act will be crucial to draw the needed private investment into housing.

Walters said the No. 2 big issue after housing is water. A comprehensive water fix in California would require a number of different stakeholders coming together and agreeing to a grand bargain – an accomplishment enough that could help Newsom in what Walters sees as his aspirations for the White House.

“If he only did that he’d probably be hailed as a saint and canonized somewhere,” Walters said.

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