Michael Rossi Named California 'Jobs Czar' By Jerry Brown: Is It A Jab At Gavin Newsom?

08/18/2011 03:35 pm ET | Updated Oct 18, 2011

California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom had a plan.

He thought it a good plan. The type of plan that, if properly executed, could resurrect California's moribund job market.

More importantly, it was a plan that bore his watermark. It was something he could run on if, being the ever-ambitious politician he is, he ever decided to seek higher office. But for the plan to work, Newsom would need the full cooperation of officials with far more power than that held by his largely ceremonial office—he would need the help of the notoriously fracturous state legislature and, more importantly, Governor Jerry Brown.

That is precisely why Jerry Brown's appointment of former Bank of America executive Michael Rossi as the state's new "jobs czar" is largely being viewed as a slap at Newsom.

The administration announced the appointment of Michael Rossi of Pebble Beach to the unpaid position. He will act as the liaison between the state's business and labor leaders and the administration, advising Brown on regulatory, legislative and executive actions needed to promote job growth.

The 67-year old Rossi was a senior executive at the formerly San Francisco-based Bank of America. After leaving the mega-bank in the late 1990s, he has worked with organizations such as GMAC Residential Capital, Shorenstein Properties and the San Francisco 49ers.

A member of Newsom's staff told the San Francisco Chronicle they were "blindsided" by Rossi's appointment:

On Tuesday, when rumors started floating about Rossi being named, Newsom, who was attending a Lake Tahoe conference with Brown, was asked by Chronicle reporter Wyatt Buchanan what he knew. "I'm finding out as everyone is finding out," Newsom replied.

Newsom's plan calls for a focus on increasing exports, reinvigorating the state's manufacturing sector, developing green jobs in what the Lieutenant Governor calls the "clean economy" though public-private partnerships, establishing official state trade offices in foreign countries (particularly in Asia) and streamlining some of the state's regulatory practices to make them less onerous on businesses.

A crucial part of the Lieutenant Governor's plan is the creation of a cabinet-level jobs council. A bill creating the council is expected to be presented to the governor sometime in the next two months. Whether Rossi's appointment will derail the council's creation remains to be seen.

An editorial in the Chronicle praised Newsom's plan, calling it "welcome" and saying that, while it was still "far from a finished package...the thinking runs across the political dance floor for maximum appeal."

After spending much of the past year attempting to untie the Gordian Knot of the state's budgetary headache, Brown has been criticized for ignoring the plight of the state's unemployed workers. As California was one of the states hardest hit by the housing crisis, the state's unemployment rate has accordingly risen to a staggering 11.8 percent%—the second highest in the nation. As Brown pivots to a focus on job creation, his appointment of Rossi is largely a signal to the state's business community that he will be responsive to their needs.

Despite its apparent competition with his plan, Newsom put a positive spin on Rossi's appointment, writing on his Facebook wall earlier this week, "I applaud Governor Brown’s announcement that he has appointed a jobs czar. It is critical we put jobs, economic growth and competitiveness on the top of Sacramento’s agenda and I look forward to continuing to work with the Brown administration."

Newsom, who unsuccessfully ran against Brown for the governorship in the Democratic primary, has already amassed a significant war chest in preparation for the 2014 election cycle, indicating that he may eye another run for governor if the 73-year-old Brown decides to not to run for a second term.

Suggest a correction