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Gavin Newsom talks poverty, high-speed rail and immigration during Fresno visit

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat running for governor shown in this file photo, spoke with students about entrepreneurship and the emergence of technology in Fresno, California on Thursday, May 17, 2018.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat running for governor shown in this file photo, spoke with students about entrepreneurship and the emergence of technology in Fresno, California on Thursday, May 17, 2018. Associated Press file

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the California gubernatorial candidate who’s a self-proclaimed long-time downtown Fresno supporter, visited Bitwise Industries Thursday afternoon.

He spoke with students of Geekwise Academy, Bitwise’s technology-focused training program, about entrepreneurship and the emergence of technology in Fresno.

“I’ve been hearing about this place from many, many people for years now,” Newsom said of Bitwise.

He added he is a strong believer in having students learn in a space with entrepreneurs.

“One thing that is self-evident to me, and it should be more evident to others, is the extraordinary entrepreneurial talent that exists in Fresno and the central Valley,” he said.

Newsom touched on a number of topics during his visit.

Poverty and homelessness – Fresno is no exception to the high poverty and homelessness rate in California, Newsom noted. The county ranks No. 2 in the nation for cities with the highest rates of extreme poverty.

Newsom said his California economic plan, “Regions Rising Together,” is a bottom-up plan. Meaning, he looks at the issue of homelessness and poverty from a regional basis.

“One size does not fit all,” he said.

Some ways the issue could be tackled, he said, are Social Security income advocacy, rapid rehousing, a focus on prevention, supportive services, shelters and other methods regarding early childhood development.

Immigration – When asked about immigration and California being a sanctuary state, Newsom said he was not happy with local elected officials meeting with President Donald Trump to discuss immigration reform.

On Wednesday, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims took part in a roundtable discussion on immigration with the president and other leaders from the central San Joaquin Valley.

“I thought it was unfortunate that you (Fresno) had representatives at The White House and participated in a kind of commentary that divides our community,” he said.

Calling anyone an “animal,” doesn’t bring anyone together, Newsom said of Trump’s comments regarding immigrants on Wednesday.

“I think it’s dehumanizing,” Newsom said.

California high-speed rail – Newsom said the high-speed rail, a controversial topic in the Central Valley, will anchor economic development in its first phase: San Joaquin Valley to the Silicon Valley.

Newsom has long been a proponent of the project, but said he’s been a critic of the past business plans until the most recent one, which he called “honest.”

The rail’s newest CEO, Brian Kelly, is the “right person at the right time,” to continue moving the project forward, Newsom said.

Before Newsom ended his tour of the tech hub, he said it’s citizens of Fresno who make the city what it is.

“You have got to invest in people,” he said. “That’s what separates the greatness of California and what California represents to the world.”

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