Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff hosted Gavin Newsom in a Dreamforce interview Wednesday, where the governor doubled down on his fiery rhetoric around San Francisco's homelessness crisis and said politicians are on the hot seat if problems aren’t solved.
"Things have shifted, and everybody's jobs are on the damn line, and they should be,” Newsom said. “We're only interested in real results, and that's our commitment to all of you.”
The two have a yearslong relationship that dates back to when Newsom served as San Francisco's mayor. Benioff is the godfather of one of Newsom's children and remains a strong link between the governor and the tech industry's donor base.
Newsom has continued to turn up the temperature on his rhetoric around homelessness. He referenced the changing political tides around the issue, which has risen to crisis levels in major cities like San Francisco.
He pointed to the example of Mayor London Breed actively protesting a court order from U.S. Magistrate Donna Ryu limiting the city's ability to clear homeless encampments.
A court order from Ryu in December limited the ability of San Francisco agencies to conduct homeless encampment sweeps based on the argument that the city was in violation of the law by failing to offer appropriate shelter and illegally disposing of people's possessions.
Newsom has jumped into the fray, saying his office will file an amicus brief in hopes of overturning it at the U.S. Supreme Court.
"That's a hell of a statement coming from a progressive Democrat from California that says we need help from the Supreme Court,” Newsom said.
Newsom said when he was mayor of San Francisco, he was labeled a "right-wing conservative" for supporting enforcement of sit-lie laws and spearheading the Care Not Cash program that cut direct monetary assistance for the homeless in exchange for housing payments. Funding to combat homelessness, Newsom said, rose from $500 million to $15.3 billion over the course of his term.
During an unannounced trip to the city earlier this year to survey the problem in person, Newsom said he saw deplorable conditions on the city streets and brought the heads of major state departments to witness the situation on the streets.
"People aren't giving a damn that any of us are there. They were dealing, were using, were abusing, and there was a police department substation, and it was all happening across the street," Newsom said. "All I thought was, how damn demoralized everybody must be. There go all our tax dollars and who the hell is running this place?"
Benioff noted that, to his eyes, the city had cleaned its act up for Dreamforce and wondered aloud why it couldn’t be that way all year around.
"Because we're sucking up to you. We can't afford to lose you," Newsom said, referencing Benioff raising the possibility that this year's could be the last Dreamforce in San Francisco.
Dreamforce is an annual three-day technology conference in San Francisco hosted by Benioff's cloud software management company, Salesforce.
The company says Dreamforce is the “largest software conference in the world,” boasting appearances from high-profile politicians, A-list celebrities and prominent tech bosses. This year marks the 21st iteration of Dreamforce, and around 40,000 people are expected to attend.
The event could have also doubled as a kickoff to a presidential campaign that Newsom continues to insist is not coming soon. Newsom has been on a bit of a media tour of late, acting as a surrogate for President Joe Biden's reelection and crisscrossing the country to raise money for Democratic candidates.
“Folks want to bring us back to pre-1964 voting rights, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, women's rights,” Newsom said. “They’re burning books. They’re banning speech.”
He also used the opportunity to define what he called “California’s foreign policy,” which includes a strong focus on environmental policy to mitigate the impacts of climate change. He’s planning an October trip to China to speak with the country’s leaders about climate issues.
“There's not a subnational jurisdiction on planet Earth investing more in this space,” Newsom said. “We want to dominate in the low carbon, green growth space.”
Kevin Truong can be reached at email@example.com