The following is an installment in a weekly series of commentary articles by Cameron Arcand, founder of the conservative commentary website Young Not Stupid and a contributor to The Western Journal.
Jeff Hewitt serves on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors and is running as a Libertarian candidate for governor of California in the upcoming recall election. Hewitt sat down with Cameron Arcand to discuss coronavirus lockdowns, education and homelessness in the Golden State.
Cameron Arcand: California was big on locking down the state as a whole. As Riverside County supervisor, what kind of steps did you take to push against lockdowns in your county from the very beginning?
Jeff Hewitt: As early as May 2020 I thought there was something wrong. I didn’t like the arbitrariness and the governor’s particular groups that he considered essential and nonessential. I do have a background in science and have a Bachelor of Science in biology. So once I got past that initial fear of everybody dying in the hallways of a hospital with not enough respirators like we’ve seen in New York City, then I started seeing that this was being handled in a panicky way.
I was saying, “OK, this can go on for two or three weeks or a month.” I mean, we could handle that and get back. But it looked like by May it had been going on a couple of months.
CA: You’ve also focused quite a bit on education issues in California too. Our math and reading scores for fourth and eighth grade have consistently fallen below the national average. How would you plan to reform education in such a large state?
JH: First of all, the reason why any product is good, any service is good is because in the private sector you have something called competition. So if McDonald’s comes out with a product and then Jack in the Box or Burger King comes out with one that’s better and cheaper, then McDonald’s has to get better.
But in government, there is no hidden hand of competition. And in education specifically there’s very little choice, and the choice is really only available to those privileged few that have enough money to not only have all their tax money go to public education but then also pay for private schools.
That’s why you see such an inequity in these math scores and English scores in the most disadvantaged communities where the only choice is public education. So my first thing I would do is go ahead and instill an educational saving for each family so that you get that money that’s spent per child per year.
CA: The coronavirus crisis essentially amplified an already tragic situation that we’re seeing in a lot of major cities. You’re running under the Libertarian Party, which tends to support reducing government involvement when it comes to solutions for these issues. So how do you plan to help the homeless crisis in California without creating too much government overreach?
JW: The premise that California has a higher percentage of homeless compared to most other states is mainly because of its really mild climate. I mean, if you’re going to be homeless, you don’t want to be out somewhere where you’re going to freeze to death.
So they’re attracted here, but they’re also attracted here because there are very pro-homeless laws that are there. That means that you can set up your tent and live on a sidewalk right there in a beach community where you would normally have to have a $1 million condo, and there’s so many social programs that feed them.
Homelessness is not one simple thing. “We’ll just give somebody affordable housing and a job and they’re just going to somehow turn around.” There’s different groups. There’s one group that will always want to be homeless and we’re not going to change that. But for those that we can really change, ones with mental problems or substance abuse problems, it has to be a cohesive program. Where if you bring them in, you have to give them those behavior health services and rehab to give them a chance and set them up with a job.
CA: There are 46 candidates in this race for governor and there are not many notable Libertarian officeholders in the country. How do you plan to set yourself apart in this crowded race?
JH: My campaign is a campaign of healing. I want to get it so that we can have barbecues with our neighbors who don’t share our same political philosophy and realize that there’s more in common than just the fence between our houses. We don’t have that. So having a libertarian who is neither a Democrat nor a Republican in the governor’s office gives us an opportunity to see some real coalitions on things that we all agree on but won’t get together and do them because the two major parties hate each other so much.
I can talk to my Democrat friends on a lot of social issues. I’m right there and I will help them get those things through.
But then on a lot of concern on fiscal and regulatory issues, this one-fourth of Republicans that are in each of the legislative houses are going to have a voice now. I will have quite a bully pulpit for that first year to get the things they need done. I’m hitting with my focus on water, my focus on housing and my focus on education.
This interview has been lightly edited for grammar, length and clarity.
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