Half a Loaf in Governor’s Brown Speech
The tone that Governor Brown has set in the first month of his administration is a welcome change. Over the last six years, we’ve had an awful lot of Hollywood. And that’s great when the economy is booming because two bedroom housesare selling for $800,000 but when the same house is in foreclosure and its former owners are unemployed, Hollywood story-lines are hard to stomach. There’s an austerity to Jerry Brown and his new administration that fits into the reality that many Californians are experiencing. There’s an apparent willingness to face down the cold hard facts of budgets and numbers that’s refreshing. And an apparent unwillingness to “kick the budget can” much farther into the future that’s also refreshing. I’ve always felt when visiting Sacramento that the Capitol was insulated from local pain. It’s nice to see a Governor looking at perks like government cars and asking whether we can afford them. It’s nice to see him downsizing his public relations staff in comparison to the previous resident of the office. There’s an old school puritanical streak to his administration that contrasts very well with the prevailing culture in Sacramento of cigars, suits, steak houses and self-absorption.
The danger, of course, with setting this type of Puritanical tone is going too far. Back in another time, in another great recession, an American President named Carter carried his own briefcase and refused many of the perks of his office. But some folks say suffered politically as a result. People seem to expect a certain level of panache and vision from our leaders. Carter lost to a politician with more panache. And his speech referring to “malaise” gripping our nation was trumped by Reagan’s vision of “morning in America.”
We don’t need Hollywood pipe dreams but we do need a vision of a better future. I think Californians want to be inspired. We are still a state of big, outrageous dreams. We lead the nation in rags to riches stories. We are still a center of innovation. Hope is like sugar. It helps the medicine go down. As Dan Walters says in his article, Brown’s plan faces big hurdles. But with a vision of a better future for CA’s students and parents and a willingness to confront the entrenched education interests in Sacramento, he just might be able to jump over those hurdles with a skeptical public.
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