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He’s definitely no longer Gov. Moonbeam

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POSTED January 23, 2013 10:19 p.m.

Jerry Brown.

You’ve got to love him.

After a stint as governor from 1975 to 1983, when he earned the moniker Gov. Moonbeam, he now stands on the cusp of making his 2013 State of the State Address being called “the only adult” in the State Capitol.

Is he liberal? Is he conservative? He pursues big ideas like high speed rail. He insists on paying attention to small details such as individual department cell phone use. He’s not a party hack. He believes in building for the future. He doesn’t believe in sacrificing today.

In short, the man is pragmatic almost to a fault. Even if you disagree with some of his positions, such as the Twin Tunnels under the Delta, you can’t accuse him of coddling the special interests or walking a straight party line.

He was against Proposition 13, but when it passed in June of 1978 he carried out the will of the people. His implementation was so effective that Howard Jarvis himself appeared in a TV commercial for Brown’s successful re-election later that year.

Although his first term was marked with some controversial appointments – Supreme Court Justice Rose Bird and Caltrans Director Adrianna Gianturrco, for example – he was labeled by none other than “The American Conservative” magazine as “much more a fiscal conservative than Governor Ronald Reagan.”

His fiscal restraint allowed California to develop one of the biggest budget surpluses in history – $5 billion.

He’s now added to that feat by developing a budget with a real surplus for the first time in well over 12 years. It did take some new taxes but he also made cuts. You may not like the ones he made or you may think he should have cut more. But he did make cuts.

Brown has not been without his missteps. One of the most infamous was the Medfly invasion in 1981. He hung strongly to his reputation as a strong environmentalist. He nixed aerial spraying in the Bay Area and said it had to be ground spraying only. Within a month, millions of dollars of crops were destroyed. Brown reversed his stance. Still he was getting hammered by people who believed malathion – the pesticide used against Medlfies – was toxic.

That’s when his Chief of Staff, B.T. Collins,  who lost an arm in Vietnam, appeared on camera at a news conference and drank a glass of malathion.

Gov. Jerry Brown 2.0 is composed of all that experience plus what he gleaned working with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, as a Jesuit in seminary and handling one of the least thankful jobs in California – mayor of Oakland.

It was there that he remarked all that mattered for most people was that government made sure garbage was picked up, toilets flushed, potholes fixed, and the streets kept safe.

Government was no longer abstract for him. It was reality-based.

He went against the liberals and opened up a military-style school in downtown Oakland. The attendance rate skyrocketed. Discipline problems dropped significantly. Test scores rose.

The academy stayed in place as long as he was mayor. After he was gone, the liberals had their way and got Oakland to pull the plug.

Ironically, Brown used redevelopment agency funds effectively to help rebuild part of downtown Oakland. As governor he pulled the plug. He’d argue he didn’t have a choice.

You may oppose him on high speed rail. You may think his position on the stealth peripheral canal is crazy.  But you’ve got to admire his initiative.

It’ll be interesting to hear what Brown has to say today when he delivers his State of the State Address.

Brown is proving to be a savvy leader with vision – just like the governor credited for finishing the State Water Project, expanding the freeway system, and making the University of California system the premier high education organizations in the world. The governor who did all that?

It was Jerry Brown’s father Pat Brown.

Brown definitely complements the Golden State.

 

This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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