Gov. Newsom comes to Ridgecrest

Elected officials survey earthquake damage, pledge support for recovery efforts

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Gov. Newsom comes to RidgecrestThe earthquakes that continue to rock Ridgecrest and the surrounding areas prompted California Gov. Gavin Newsom to visit our remote community July 6, giving his entourage a tour of the valley and an opportunity to address the press.

“I’ve had the opportunity to show the governor, [California Office of Emergency Services] and the dignitaries who stand behind me some of what we’ve experienced,” said Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin, the first to address the crowd.

He noted that much of the impact has been internal “not just because it’s personal — for myself and the rest of our community,” but because the damages triggered by the earthquake lie beneath the surface in many cases.

“It’s hard to see from the outside.” McLaughlin said that the latest visitors have now gotten a glimpse of what Ridgecrest has been through the last few days.

“The governor called me the morning right after the quake, and said ‘What can I do? How can I help? I am here.’ I thought … those are nice political-sounding words. I will never hear or see from this man again,” said Mayor Peggy Breeden.

“Wow, was I wrong. Here he is,” she said, offering help, bringing ideas, bringing a team together that will enact the needed assistance from state agencies.

Newsom approached the podium, and told the crowd that he had just gotten off the phone with President Donald Trump. “We were reflecting on the fact that just months ago, we were battling the Camp Fire in the north, concurrently fighting the Woolsey Fire in Southern California … and now we have earthquakes.”

While the Democratic governor acknowledged that his disagreements with the Republican President are well-documented, he said the two have a common commitment on disaster relief and recovery.

“As a former mayor of San Francisco, and a fourth-generation Californian, earthquakes are familiar to me, as I think they are now to everyone around here,” he said. However, he pointed to some parallels between his Bay Area community and our remote desert.

Coming out of the 1906 earthquake, San Francisco adopted the rising phoenix for its flag because of the symbolism it represented — rising out of the ashes to become stronger and more resilient as a consequence.

“Our people are committed to each other, to a sense of community,” he said “That same level of commitment is demonstrable when you walk around this city.”

Newsom pledged support for the full recovery process. “The cameras will move on from this community here to the next natural disaster, or maybe to the next man-made disaster. This community will, I think rightfully, expect that the state of California has its back.”

Officials are working on putting together resources for people — including those without earthquake insurance, said Newsom. He also noted that unlike some disaster-caused damage, earthquake damage is not always readily apparent.

He said that California is committed, and there’s not a doubt in his mind that President Trump shares that commitment to rebuilding.

“I am here in that spirit. And in the spirit of gratitude and respect for the leadership of those behind me, and to the first responders — many of whom are having their first hot meal and who have not seen their kids.”

Stops on the tour included local businesses that have suffered damage, as well as individual homes that have been declared unlivable. The entourage also toured China Lake, which is in the early processes of assessing damage.

“By the way — this Naval base, for those who are not familiar, is larger than any other Navy land,” he said, noting that it represents a third of all of the Navy’s landholdings worldwide.

Newsom said he knew of no economic activity more important than getting the facilities on base fixed so that people can go back to work. “I’m told 86 percent of the local economy is tied to that base.

“You want to talk about a patriotic community … a community tied to the principles of patriotism, you should come here on 9-11 when they do their remembrance with thousands of flags,” said Newsom.

He commented on the irony of the series of earthquakes kicking off on the day our nation celebrates its birth. “It happened right here, in this community that is so committed to our Armed Forces.”

In addition to the current focus on recovery efforts, Newsom said that he hoped this was an opportunity to raise the consciousness and awareness of all Californians. “California’s beauty is defined, in many ways, by our seismology,” he said, pointing to the iconic mountain ranges that sweep the state. However, experts note that earthquakes are a natural phenomenon for the region.

“I know there are people who are not sleeping well, but we have an opportunity to be more prepared, more vigilant.”

Newsom acknowledged that while a 7.1 earthquake was serious for the Ridgecrest community, an event like that in a metropolitan area would most certainly have resulted in many deaths and billions of dollars in damages.

State leaders are examining everything from home-hardening building codes to investing in early warning systems.

“We all have a unique role and responsibility to be individually prepared.”

Story First Published: 2019-07-06