Though no state was untouched by the difficulties of the last year, California was especially hard hit. On the heels of record-breaking fires, the world’s 5th largest economy was staggered by the coronavirus and subsequent lock-downs. As the vaccination program continues to ramp up across the country, businesses reopen, and schools return to in-person teaching, the Golden State is being seen as a bellwether for how the country will get back on its post-pandemic feet.
Lt. Governor of California, Eleni Kounalakis, joined The Cats Roundtable this Sunday to discuss the challenges Californians and Americans face as the pandemic becomes past-tense.
“The California economy is poised to rebound,” Eleni Kounalakis declared. “We have managed the storm pretty well in that regard.”
She pushed back on “scare tactics and hyperbole” that tried to paint high-profile moves away from the state as signs of blue California’s dysfunction.
“What we’re seeing is that our economy is still very, very strong, so we certainly are concerned whenever we hear these high-profile exits like Elon Musk and Charles Schwab,” Kounalakis explained. “We’re worried about it, and we do everything we can to make California as attractive as possible to business.”
Kounalakis echoed California Governor Newsom’s announcement last week that most regulations would be lifted by June 15th, thanks in part to the acceleration of the Federal vaccination program. With about 35% of Californians having at least their first dose of a vaccine, Kounalakis told The Cats Roundtable there were challenges to combat vaccine hesitancy.
This all spells one word for the Lt. Governor: recovery.
“I think nationally we’re really on track to recover quickly, and everyone is more than ready,” Kounalakis said.
But even as Californians wait anxiously to return to normalcy, they aren’t waiting to hold leaders in power to account. Exacerbated by hypocrisies highlighted during the pandemic, a petition to recall Newsom is expected to be on the ballot by the end of the year. But Kounalakis was confident the recall would fall flat.
“We’re all pretty confident that he’s going to beat the recall,” Kounalakis told The Cats Roundtable. “At the same time, these recall elections tend to be circuses. I think there’s going to be a lot of drama and intrigue along the way. So, unfortunately, it’s a kind of sideshow at a time when we need everybody in government focusing on the work at hand.”
If Newsom can claw back the confidence of Californians, the issues facing him for the remainder of his term are daunting. Particularly with the looming threat of a renewed fire season.
“We’re poised for another tough season,” Kounalakis admitted. “We have not had enough rain this year, so everyone is on high alert.”
But with the election of Biden, two flames seem to have been fanned. While firefighters seek new ways to combat the growing intensity of wildfires, California is also no stranger to the seemingly endless crisis on the US-Mexico border.
Kounalakis took a perspective that transcended party lines, one that sought to temper the human with the practical.
“I really don’t think this should be such political football,” the Lt. Governor said. “We need to have an organized, orderly system where we determine how people get in.”
Listen to the interview below