Newsom lauds policy proposal in UC Berkeley students’ final project

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, center, along with public policy dean Henry Brady and law dean Gillian Lester, judged the "America's Next Top Policy Model[er]" competition Monday evening.
Nathaniel Solley/Staff
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, center, along with public policy dean Henry Brady and law dean Gillian Lester, judged the "America's Next Top Policy Model[er]" competition Monday evening.

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At a UC Berkeley graduate student policy competition Monday evening, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said he wished he had implemented one of the student policy proposals while he was mayor of San Francisco from 2004 to 2011.

The policy proposal, Trust in Infrastructure, placed second out of the eight proposals featured at the America’s Next Top Policy Model Finale event in Sutardja Dai Hall and advocated partnerships between city governments and private businesses to facilitate local infrastructure projects.

“I thought, ‘Damn it, I wished I had thought of that,’” Newsom said. He added that as mayor, he was seeking to construct more partnerships between the San Francisco city government and the private sector.

The presentations were the final event in Distinguished Practitioner of Law and Public Policy Jennifer Granholm’s innovative twist on finals. Instead of have students take an exam, Granholm required her about 50 public policy and law students to divide into groups of three or four to draft policy proposals and then present them to the class. The class then voted for the eight to be featured at the event.

Granholm said that as the former governor of Michigan, she was inspired to format the class’s final as policy proposals to offer politicians innovative solutions to political challenges without reinventing the wheel.

“It built bridges across the campus,” said Gillian Lester, acting dean of UC Berkeley School of Law. “(The departments) came together to create something that was better than us individually.”

After each presentation, the three guest judges — Newsom, Lester and Goldman School of Public Policy Dean Henry Brady — commented on students’ performances and the content of the policies. More than 120 UC Berkeley students, staff and alumni, along with the judges, then voted to determine which team’s policy would win.

Other proposals included a carbon tax to reduce carbon emissions and a policy advocating for the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana to help California’s economy. Newsom said that as lieutenant governor, he already advocates many of the policies presented.

“All of you deserve an extraordinary amount of compliment,” Newsom said, applauding the students. “I’m just impressed as hell.”

Each team was graded not on how it placed but rather on the quality of its overall policy proposal, including the content and accessibility of its video, five-page proposal essay and presentation, Granholm said.

A special edition of the student-run campus publication PolicyMatters Journal will publish a select number of proposals along with links to their proposal videos and presentations, which will be sent to all governors and mayors of the nation’s largest cities, Granholm said.

“Presenting a policy solution involves finding data, communicating persuasively, and learning from other states, cities, and countries,” said UC Berkeley graduate law student Shyaam Subramanian, who presented the Trust in Infrastructure policy proposal, in an email. “This final was great because it allowed us to develop those skills.”

Contact Michelaina Johnson at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @MichelainaJohns.

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