What California Governor Jerry Brown has learned
The San Francisco Chronicle conducted a long interview with Gov. Brown at the end of his second stint as Governor, which was leavened after his serving two terms as Mayor of Oakland, California and one as State Attorney General.
Some great points:
1. Some problems can't be solved. But he said focusing on some issues dear to the Democratic left, such as making housing more affordable and narrowing wealth inequality, would have been a waste of his time and political capital.
“Now, you can always find people who talk about the cost of housing, the gap between the rich and the poor, but this is true in Sydney, Australia. It’s true in London, it’s true all over the world,” Brown said. “Those are challenges people ought to address, but I’d say just looking back at the time I was there, either these things were not as salient as the problems I dealt with, or they weren’t as high a priority as the ones I dealt with.”
It’s always a matter of picking and choosing, of deciding both what needs to be done and what can be done with a governor’s limited resources of time, money and clout, Brown said. And those choices are always going to leave someone upset.
“Not only can’t you make them all happy, but you can’t solve all problems — otherwise, you’d be dead,” Brown said. “As long as you’re alive, you’ve got new issues for tomorrow and next week and next year.”
2. Protesting to preserve privileges. But eight years as mayor of Oakland starting in 1999 tempered many of those early views. They also showed him how politics worked at the ground level, which shaped many of his views as governor.
“In Oakland, I would see people show up at City Council and protest almost any project, even relatively low height limits that they thought affected the character of the neighborhood,” Brown said. “So, great resistance to change, usually argued in terms of grand environmental or quality-of-life issues that I thought were patently misguided, ill-founded and distorted.”
3. Not all problems deserve to be addressed by laws. In 2011, the governor shocked legislators, including many of his fellow Democrats, when he vetoed a bill that would have required helmets for skiers and snowboarders under 18.
The Legislature was usurping the role of parents, he said in his veto message, adding, “Not every human problem deserves a law.”
4. Legislatures don't solve problems, they write and pass legislation. Attempting to change that legislative culture wasn’t one of his most successful efforts, Brown admitted.
“The Legislature exists, in their minds, to produce more laws,” he said. “They don’t exist to solve problems, they exist to make laws. Now, they’d like to solve some problems along the way, but the essential functioning of a legislature is lawmaking.” ...
Brown didn’t excuse himself from abetting the wave of legislation, admitting that he often signed bills while shaking his head.
“We have more lawmaking than in any time in human history,” the governor said. “Many of the laws are stupid. Many of them are not warranted. But in order to get along with the Legislature, you’ve got to sign bills that aren’t needed. And you even have to sign bills that you’d prefer not even to have.”
As much as I criticize community development organizations, one of the things Gov. Brown did that hurt revitalization was the elimination of local redevelopment corporations. He did this because they were financed through tax increment financing processes, which diverted revenue from the state, not just other local government entities like schools, and this was at the peak of the Great Financial Crisis, when the State government faced massive revenue shortfalls.
-- "Jerry Brown calls redevelopment agencies futile," SF Chronicle
-- "California bill would bring back redevelopment agencies," San Jose Mercury News