January 18, 2011
Is California "Governor Moonbeam's" Budget Cut Proposals, Including the Substantial Elimination of Funding for Public Libraries, "Like for Real, Man"?
Chicago's legendary newspaper columnist Mike Royko gave Jerry Brown the nickname, "Governor Moonbeam" back in the 1979. It originated in Brown's rock 'n roll girlfriend at the time, Linda Ronstadt, who was quoted in a 1978 Rolling Stone magazine interview humorously calling Brown "Moonbeam." Let's just say Royko was not a fan of the 60s Generation, nor of all things "wacky" Californian. But this grind-out a column every damn day newspaper-"person" schooled in Chicago-style politics regretted publicizing the nickname soon thereafter and, in 1991, disavowed it stating Brown was just as serious as any other politician. Coming from Royko, that was a compliment with a dose of cyncism added for good measure.
I, for one, always liked the "Governor Moonbeam" nickname back then. One couldn't imagine it being applied to Brown's immediate predecessor as Governor of California, Ronald Reagan, and it did represent the yin and yang of California state politics. During his two terms as governor, 1975–1983, Brown demonstrated a strong interest environmental issues and gay and lesbian rights issues at the state level. For example, by the end of his second term he had appointed five openly gay and lesbian judges to the state bench. For readers too young to recall any of this, environmental issues and the appointment of openly gay and lesbians to public office was not the expedient thing to do in politics outside, even inside, of California at the time.
More Fiscal Conservative Than Reagan. During his term in office, Governor Moonbeam refused some perks that when with the job. He lived in a rented apartment instead of the then newly constructed governor's residence and drove to his "day job" in a Plymouth Satellite instead of being chauffeured in a state limousine. Some may view that as staged "man-of-the-people" stunts. However, the American Conservative later noted that Brown was "much more of a fiscal conservative than Governor Reagan." In fact, Brown's fiscal conservatism resulted in one of the largests budgets surpluses in California State history by the time he left office. Did I mention he was and is a member of the Democratic Party?
After losing much, if not all, national political capital and creditability by repeatedly seeking the Democratic Party nomination for President of the United States in 1978, 1980 and 1992 with no chance of getting it. Brown sort of dropped off the national scene. But he worked his way back into California state politics, serving as Mayor of Oakland (1999–2007), Attorney General of the State of California (2007–2011) and being elected Governor of California, succeeding Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Upon his inauguration on January 3, 2011, Governor Moonbeam became the State's oldest serving governor at the age of 72. Being born in 1938, he is not a member of the Boomer generation, but many forget that no small number of Boomer-gen leaders were actually a decade or so older their base of support.
So here we have a senior citizen from days long past serving again elected as Governor of California. Someone who was never really a political outsider -- his father, Pat" Brown served as California Governor from 1959 to 1967 -- with a long track record that includes taking what were then percieved as risks on the national political stage while also be a fiscal conservative, one who even someone with a Midwestern sensibility that viewed both left and right coast political and social current affairs, namely Mike Royko, come around fairly quickly to recognizing from his Chicago-style political understanding as a serious politician to the extent that politicians should be taken seriously.
Thanks to Temple University's David Dillard collection of links covering Brown's budget cut-back proposals, we know that Brown is suggesting cutting $30.4 million from three of the California's most important public library programs. Is Brown serious? Is it political manoeuvring? Who knows. Brown has a track record of being a risk-taker, taking issues to the people. His established record of fiscal conservatism helped him get elected. There may be some legal hurdles ahead for his proposed budge. See the Christian Science Monitor's Will Gov. Jerry Brown's California budget run into legal roadblock?
Hopefully those in the California public library community will remind Jerry Brown what his father once told him:
My son asked me what I hoped to accomplish as Governor. I told him: essentially to make life more comfortable for people, as far as government can.
Public libraries are well within what state governments still can do. [JH]