Transcript: The Jerry Brown interview
While senior staff continued working through hundreds of bills that were on the governor's desk, Brown took some time to discuss his more than four decades in politics and his evolution into a technocrat who is now fascinated with how to make the machinery of government work.
Brown admitted his first presidential run back in 1976, announced just days after his 38th birthday and just about a year after he became governor, was overly ambitious. Talking about his return to Sacramento, 74-year-old governor says he knows more about how government works, and is more focused than he was the first time around.
"I have a longer-term game plan than I had 30 years ago," Brown said. "I'm thinking through how I can influence or move in a direction that takes the more creative and more productive of those values that I think are important.”
The governor touched on matters including the limits of gubernatorial power and effort to strike the proper balance when divising an educational curriculum.
He began the interview talking about how Proposition 30 was assembled with members of his senior staff. You can read the unedited transcript after the jump.
-- Anthony York in Sacramento
(The following is an unedited transcript from The Times' interview with Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this month)
This Proposition 30 is part of the budget solution. It came out of that. This is not some billionaire or some labor union or some animal rights group or some Koch brothers on the outside wanting to do something. This was really me exercising my job and not wanting to repeat what has been happening in the last decades. Which is you can’t pay your bills so you invent gimmicks, either revenues that you say are coming and are never going to come and you know it, or expenditures that are going to be cut, like $400 million unallocated reduction to prisons which you have no way of getting and you’re not going to get them and the next year it shows up again.
So, what I said, at this stage in my life I want to fix things. We are not going to kick the can down the road. I didn’t come to delay. It was to fix the budget and put California on a stable footing. In order to do that I had to get the Arnold taxes extended. I wanted to do it for five years, but I would have compromised at four, maybe even at three, but I couldn’t do that so that went the the initiative. That was the initiative history…
We didn’t have a lot of moves. We needed a certain amount of money and we had to get it from the people, because we are not going to get it form the legislature. You can take surverys and try to make best judgement of what people will accept.
If you tax oil companies you know the oil companies have hundreds of billions of dollars. So, if they want to allocate a little bit of that, that would be tough. You are tyring to find a pathway that has as few obstavcles as possible. That was the judgement.
I have some political thoughts of my own. I have developed them over a long period of time. And I do talk to a lot of people. I talk to you.. I talk to a whole variety of people. And then based on that we try to go forward.
I can’t do just what I want to do. That is kind of like a theoretical construct. Everyone says we should tax services andd have a much broader tax and what have you. But that Is not very popular. Talk about a non-starter.
I chose the path…Everyone I talked to came to the same conclusion... CFT wanted a millionaires tax. I thought we needed a broader tax. That’s why I wanted to extend Arnold’s tax. So I had to create and amalgam here to get the job done.
The only taxes people seem to want are on high income people and possibly what are considered vices. There maybe others. There may be some business taxes. Or many even like an oil tax. But then you have a lot of funded opposition. So there is a very narrow path.
In terms of the politics, I would say they are different is the sense that the money has not only increased in how much it costs to run for office but the sources are more centralized. I believe there were people that emerged out of local communities who developed their own based. Particularly before reappotionment, when you had so many senators that came out of the North or the Central Valley with a smaller population base. You had doctors, had business people and they had their own base of support. They were more independent.
Today the funding is more centralized. Who gives it, where do you find it. It isn’t that you are going to your Kiwanis club in Tulare and raising money at the local gas station and from clothing store operator. If you read the lobby list and look who is represented, this is where a lot of the money is.
There are the sharperedned ideological perspectives have more power. Whether a blog or talk show or Gover Norquist, or maybe it’s the Tea Party, or whatever set a tone.. that says the tax is really bad whether good or not. On the other side of course you have a lot of liberal progressive, union, enviromentally orieneted. They have own way, too.
There seemed to be a lot more … In a lot of votes only Republicans on one side and Democrats on the other. I veto some of these bills that only have Democrats saying yes. Why isn’t there one member of the party that deviates? Sometimes there are. A couple I saw in bills I was looking at where you had Republicans cross the party line. But at the same rate, you don’t see many Democrats cross the party line.
There’s more of a partisan quality.
Prior to Jesse Unruh, the speaker was not even a powerful position…there was more of an independence, less of an ideology and that creates a different environment. Now whether it’s better or worse, only time will tell. But I’m working on that.
(Under the new term limits law) I think there will be a little more continuity. Continuity is important. The staff knows more. You can’t have three or four thousand bills cirulating in the capitol through the process and expect more than a very small number of people to understand a very small amount of what is actually printed. It is pretty complicated.
I would think people would be able to work (together more)…The country is polarizing. The middle class is diminishing. The two very sigififcant economic changes is that the amount going to corporate profits is the highest ever, since before depression. And the amount going to wages is the lowest ever. That’s point one.
Second point is the income of the highest earners is the most disproportionate it has ever been. In California when I was governor the last time the top 1 percent earned 8 percent of income, which was about $150 billion. Now the income is almost 2 trillion, and the top 1 percent owns 22 percent. The difference between 8 and 22 is a huge shift. That came out of the middle class. That came out of the lower middle class.s I think that is underlying a polarization.
And you have one group that says the answer is to see government as the problem and block it and try to reduce it as much as you can. And the other says the problem is the accumulation of capital and the power of corporations and what we need to do is strenghten the hand of government and make it more intrusive, more invasive and more impactful so as to achieve more well being. And that’s really the choice…
What makes the choice hard is there is this zone of government waste which I have seen polling suggest people think is 40 percnet. Well, 40 perent of a 90 billion general fund is 36 billion. So there is a 36 billion dollar bank of waste that the public wants us to spend before we cut univeristies, eledelry, roads police, all other stuff.
Because of that relatively widespread belief … people say why should I pay for a tax even though it is not on me or it is very little when we have this bank we can go to. Go spend the waste bank. And the problem is the waste bank is not available. It’s window is not open in a way that I can access.
I want to show you some of the waste. See that? That is the little piping that Davis put in so they could have coffee here. When I took it out they told me it would cost 27, 000 to recarpet this. So my assistant Noel, whose Persian, said I have an extra Persion rug. So I said good. Give me the extra Persian rug and we put it in.
This table. I paid for this table. This is my personal table. My 7,500 bucks to pay for that. Everything in this room. All those smaller things we are doing and we will try to find other things.
I think they can do it more efficiently at the university. I’ve got a whole book showing how the university is spending moey it doesn’t have to. Certain kinds of research, sports, gardeners, a lot of things. But there isn’t a waste bank of 36 billion in California. Not even close.
The problem is waste is in eye of beholder and people will argue about it. So it’s hard to get a clear …
Does a chancellor need 350,000? 500,000? I don’t think you do. Well is that a waste? Well if you paying more than you need it is a waste. But then they say the market is that and if we don’t pay it, we don’t get it. And that is a lot of pension benefits. Just talking to (LA County Chief Executive Officer William) Fujioka. He is tyring to get a physician for county hospital. Said we will have a very hard time recruiting because we can’t give that pension. We’ll have to give them a 401(k). So he’s saying the pension thing went too far …
He doesn’t see that as waste. But a lot of year readers would say giving them that pension is waste
We are dealing with a world where there is not agreement on the basic predicates of the system. I have to first make it as clear as I can what the choices are and then persuade people to the direction that I think is good.
I’ve got to work through you guys. From my mind to your mind to their mind. With your system it is a welter of conflicting perspectives.
We have (Prop. 30 campaign manager) Ace (Smith). We have all our allies here. We talk. Trying to develop the best TV commercial. It’s just like when I ran for governor. You think about what it is and one day we will do it.
What would a ruthless ad be or a ruthless comment by me be? I don’t know what that would be.
Like I said at the Bee, we had some mistakes over here. Would you say the newspaper borrowed too much money? What about the church, and the way they handled those priests? What about the museum?
Everywhere you go human institutions have flaws. But here is the relevant point here : government is perceived as unique in the flaws that it has. And there is a certain hostility. Government has become the object people can look to as the source of our suffering and our problems and in that context it is hard to get people to say gee give more money to this entitity you see as the cause of suffering or dysfuction.
At end of day what have in this election is a very unusual civic day of reckoning. People are going to decide … if they say no we have trigger cuts. They are not going to be changes and we will still have to do more cuts on top of it.
If they say yes we will have more money. Things will be better. But I will still have to maintain a very strong hand on spending here because the pressure is incredicble. And it has been that way a long time.
There is only so much I can do. You take a survey and say how many people have a positive impression and how many have a negative and just to get to fifty is hard. So we know half the people going in may not be listening to whatever I say. So then you’ve got to find other people to say it. Teachers, nurses, policemen, sheriffs. So I will get the message out the best I can. But I also go to think about have I got the right messenger here.
(On his runs for higher office while he was governor the first time)
I did and I rather enjoyed it. I found it a little more engaging. This place can bog you down. That’s probably true of anything. Probably running a newspaper can get a little drpessing.
But there are a lot of proposals that are now part of the government. You’ve got the 33% renewable standard. We’ve got the timber tax. We’ve got the workers comp, we’ve got the pensions. The high speed rial the water. Just to make those work is a big deal. But doing what you’re elected to do is not news. Only not doing what you’re elected to do is news. That is one of the problems I’ve got. Even nuts and bolts is not news. You can’t say Brown came to work today. The news is, Brown didn’t show up today. That’s news. Somehow withing that paradigm, I’ve got to figure out a way to get that message out.
I know a lot more than I did 30 years ago. I feel we are doing more thngs, there are more things going on. The whole notion of teacher evaluation. People on one side and other side and there’s big discussion, certainly in Los Angeles and in the state and Arne Duncan…
The renewable energy and whether youhave feed-in tariff or people who put solar on roof should be paying for the utility system. There are a lot of issues here. For example, the PUC, peevy and those I have appointed …
I have a group of people, many of whom were here with me last time and they are now working I think at a higher level of knowledge and intensity and effectiveness ...
How did that realignment come about? How did I get all sheriffs and all the DAs who are mostly Republicans… I got that done because I started working with these people as attorney general. I built up a relationship. People like Matt Cate, they have a certain confidence in him…
[on building 23 prisons] We had all these lawsuit the problems reached a point wher they cried out for solutions and it so happened I came and I was here when we started building the prisons. And I knew something about it and I started building the relationship. And because of that there is a certina amount of trust. I think that’s been very important. Because without sheriffs and law enforcement we would not have gotten realignment. If we hadn’t gotten realignment we could still be fighting in court as to who we let out or don’t let out and where we get more money to borrow to build more pirons. There would have been a lot of stalement.
Just as if we didn’t have that majority vote, I don’t know how long we would have been working on that first year budget. But instead, we get a budget on time. Not perfect, but at least we’re making progress.
The PUC approved projects that are more expensive now than price of PVs that have come way down. If everytime a guy does a project and someone else later says something is cheaper, nothing will ever get built . It is a balance between building stuff you said you were going to build. That is a tough call for the PUC and we work with them to try to give them our advice.
If Romney wins it may shift different things.
I think on global wamring, one thing I’ve seen in my life. Things that are real don’t go away. They just don’t. Climate change I believe from everything I have seen is real. It’s getting worse because of greenhouse gases. We’ve got to do something about it. There might be a dealy. But I don’t think it can be changed. There are other things. Who knows. We have pretty good cooperation (with the federal government).
(On High-speed Rail) I don’t think they can take the three bill form us. So we can get going. We’ve got a good start, electrifying CalTrain… I think we can get there. But who knows.
In healthcare.. I takk to hospitals. I was talking to some of these health-plan guys, they don’t think Romney can really cut back totally on healthcare plan. It is too embedded.
I think Obama is going to win. I certainly think it is better. But if he doesn’t there could be more turbulence. The stop start. And this is the problem for America.
It is difficult to develop a path and stick on it. That’s true. That’s just where we are. And this great dysfunctionality in Washington has its mirror in the states. And the cities. People want things but they have a hard time recognizing what the cost is…
The whole state-local (relationship) is a function of local government doesn’t have its own tax base. And it comes with strings. Same with the federal government. We make a cut, the federal government says you can’t do that.
State, local and federal is complicated. I would like to see more (local control). And some of the Democrats don’t like it. They see it as more of a Republican idea, to give the states more authority.
We would like to be able to maange our Medical program with more discretion. If say we only have enough money if so many hours for IHSS we would like to be able to make that deision. Instead we get sued. Or we don’t get necessary federal waiver and they say you can’t do that.
We believe we need more managed care for the dual eligibles in Medicare and Medical. We believe we can save money.
One school district wanted kids who got good grades to have a golden notebook. And this became very controversial. There is a bil before me on the state banning not letting the school district do that. The question is can an elected school board decide on the color of notebooks based on the academic achievement of students or is that something that should be reserved only to the state. You can imagine what my response will be…
We get a lot of these things. Hundreds and hundreds of decisions that say state or local. I’ve got a law that I was thinking vetoing but I signed. A lot of them I almost veto but I sign because I mean, how much can you fight people? This is a bill that said the judge was required or I guess the records department or whatever to give a foster kid their birth certificate. My niece works as a judge in San Francisco. I said when a foster kid is in court, can’t a judge give it to them. Why are we deciding that? Why not local people? There are hundreds of thes ediecisions that come up because there is a problem then they come here and pass a bill.
I think there are a lot of things you can do local.. but if there is an instance of something going awry, if leg can do something they feel good. The trouble is, everytime you have the state do something like for example Arne (Duncan) wants these standards for all schools. Everytime we have a rule form state board that is a rule for thousands of schools, hundreds of thousands of teahcers, millions of kids. How do we even enforce that rule? We have a local school board. Why don’t they decide? They don’t like that.
Another bill says charter schools have to be part of the federal nutrition program. Charter schools are supposed to be freed for rules of education code. Peole say look, nutrition is profoundly important. Charter schools should have to do this. Charter schools say wait a minute most do but a lot of small startup schools cant afford this so leave them alone. On the one had if you have an idea, the idea is good, let’s make everybody do it. On the other hand maybe we should let people do different things.
There is a strong desire, I would almost say compulsion, for uniformity in state organization of many, many ideas. Some of them I am going to go along with. Some of them I won’t.
We had a bill on air guns. Whether they have to be colorized or not. Everyday we get bills shall state preempt local. There’s no one right answer. But I do think a more vital local government is a good thing although we see in Hercules now and places like Bell and Vernon they are not always up to the task. It’s a balnace. All this stuff is a balance.
[On the public’s trust in government] Don’t give government more? Then maybe we will do no. Maybe that is what America wants. But we know that is not true because over 60 percent of people don’t want schools cut. So we cut schools and they say how come didn’t go to waste bank. This is the difficulty.
Government is complicated and the test of this election will be can we clarify the choices such that whatever one is made, people will feel its ok.
[On reforming the state] There is no cheap and easy path. Government, like everything else living, evolves. Evolution is not a brand new experience everyday or every year or every century. It is a continuation of past patterns with present adaptation.
We got two houses. Senate. Assembly. That’s not a new idea. You don’t get a tabula rosa in government. It is not a blank slate. We are dealing with a world that is highly defined and structured. You can make moves to change it but if anything exists it exists because people came to the conclusion this is the way we want it. There is no quick fix outside of revolution, and revolution doesn’t seem to change much. Russia still seems like Russia. And the Chinese seem like Chinese…
There is no procedural quick fix…We don’t live in some immaculate world with no stain of interest. Everybody is interested. ..Everybody looks to see how the rules favor their interest. So there is no neutral grouping here. Not like constitutional convention of our founding fathers. We have a constitution. We have a legislature. We have tens of thousands of laws and practices. You can only make a few changes. Any change you make, if you go one way maybe trial lawyers like it. If you go one way, maybe insurance companies and doctors like it. There is no quick easy big fix. It is incremental. Step by step.
I’ve taken some big ideas and now I am trying to work them out. In distinction to thirty years ago there is a list of big ideas and I am working through them. I could list them… one of the things we haven’t done is this environmental review, whether we can have CEQA reform. I don’t know the answer to that.
The details of government are pretty interesting. I was running for president by April of my second year. By that theory I would have already been in the campaign.
I think there is more clarity about things that need to be done: Realignment. Water. The school funding formula. The pensions. Workers comp. Getting rid of redevelopment…
There is a lot of fallout from all the things we do. So I am dealing with the fallout. There’s fallout on realignment, there’s fallout on abolishing redevelopment. There’s fallout on pensions …
You asked, am I more involved in these details? The answer is yes. I find them very fascinating. It is a very exciting thing to make some of this stuff work. I’ve been here. This is my tenth year. I will sart my eleventh year in this room starting in January.
My father, that is his picture over there. That is him talking to Kennedy, right at that desk over there. Not that desk. It was another kind of desk.
There is a bill I am looking at. The Google car. Where they will have a car that is not driven by anybody. I said wow. This sounds kind of Moonbeam. I want to look at this a little more carefuly. That was a bill I was looking at last night.
If you deviate form the conventional people view it with either fear or loathing. If all you do is the conventional, it is boring and to me not interesting and probably not that helpful.
There is a certain amount of just taking in the laundry. And a certain amount of innovation. I would say I am doing a lot of the laundry here but I don’t think I have in any way given up on the vision of doing big things.
Every year we wait, the solution is more expensive. If you don’t do high speed rail the roads and airports will cost us more money. There will have to have more airport and more freeway and that will cost us more.
It’s like BART. I was reading BART carried 105 million people (last year), 110. That’s a lot of people and that cost real money. At time my father pushed that ... the bond issue was very close. A lot of people didn’t like it. A lot of people in San Mateo didn’t like it. So any of these ideas there is a resistance.
We built cathedrals in the Middle Ages. Can we build cathedrals? Can we do anything big? When I went to JPL, that thing was 2.5 billion dollars to put vehicle on Mars and then drive it around.. I think that is a good idea. It is bold. Sateve Jobs had bold ideas. In fact he was so bold they got rid of him, and brought in the CEO from Pepsicola to run the place and then they had to bring Jobs back. He created new things and built the biggest company in the world.
So, that’s what California is. California is the great exception. Carey McWilliams wrote a book in 1949: California the Great Exception, which I have been rereading. And that notion that California has been not only dremers but crackpots and charlatans and boasters. Mark Twain tells stories. California has always been like that ... It is a mix between hucksers and dreamers and inventors. It has been drawing people since gold rush and that spirirt of invention and creativity is something I am attraced to and I hope I can further it in whatever I do as goevrnor…
There is a lot fo NIMBYism. I’d never understood nimbyim because never was in local govenrment. In Oakland, people didn’t want change. Not everybody, but there’s always enough people that go to the city council and say no. And maybe sometimes they’re right. But to do thnkgs you have to destroy what is in order to create what must be...
To do things you have to change what is and there is a resistance. So you always have change factor and conservative factor and have to keep them balanced. It is not one or the other. It’s really both hands.
The two words are rigor, which means structure and the other is imagination.
Ok. If you only have imagination you basically have insanity because there is no structure. If all you have is structure you have rigomorits, it is dead. So you have to have a certain amount of structre and that only changes slowly and a certain amount of imagination.
It is like a body. Your structure is genetically composed and ou can’t change it. But you can adapt. If you can do ten pushps today I can show you how you can do 20 or maybe 30. And if you keep doing it you can acclimate but you you can’t fundamentally change ...
Given your body you have a certain potnetoal. You can make some changes but you are limited by the structure. Govenrmenthas a structure. You are limited to that sturcutre but you can make changes. The liberals, maybe we want to make more change. Cosnervatives less. But you need both. You need the rigor and the imagination
You need the big ideas. But you need to take in the laundry and clean the tables. And I am trying to do both. I have a better sense of that this time than I did before.
And I know more about it. This is a very big complicated government. One person can’t know that much. Now I have been around it a long time so I know more. But there are still vast tracks of the unknown.
One thing, well it’s not like, for example, lets take STAR tests. Steinberg doesn’t like it. Wants to reduce the STAR test. So in one way I like the STAR test because the kids gotta know arithematic, they have to know how to write, they gotta know some English, they have to know science. So that’s somewhat mechanical.
But on the other hand, every individual has different interests. I think it’s important that people go to school and they learn history, they learn philosophy, they learn music. They don’t get trained, but they get exposed to a much bigger world.
So this is an issue: How much should be training, lockstep,standarization, fill in the blank and anyone who deviates from that is bad. There’s a bit of that coming out of Washington.
On the other hand if you’re so lax and you just chit-chat in class, that’s bad too.
I had a teacher, Mr. McCurdy he later joined the Jesuits. One of his questions on one of our exams was, I want you to write your impression of a green leaf. OK. I wrote something pretty banal.
And I’ve been thinking every time I walk out here and I look at these green leaves, what’s my impression? Am I just dead? What can I feel? So he created a thought about imagination, impression, you can’t put that on a STAR test.
So how much is going to be the individual teacher and how they relationship they create with the student and how much is curiosity and how much is critical thinking engaged? How much can you mouth off, you know, the Spanish Armada was defeated in 1588. The Glorious Resolution … you know, so, it’s a balance.
So you ask, what are my big ideas? I’m very interested in How do we do that? I’ve been critical of the [Arne] Duncan approach, but on the other hand, when the OMI, the military school [that he founded in Oakland] comes in and the 6th grade is flat on the STAR test, I’m on the phone asking what the hell is going on around here? And they fired the 6th grade teacher.
So I’m of two minds.We’re not at 800 yet. We’ve been at this for 12 years, and we’re not at 800. This is hard going. And there are a lot of reasons for that. So, it’s complicated. You want to have a rich …
I want to do a lot of things and it’s not just like a slogan. Like some of these (lawmakers) say, I passed every bill. Well I don’t sign every bill. And whether they’re Republican or Democrat. I don’t take a knee jerk approach to things. I see things in many shades. I think that’s what life is.
As governor, I’m trying to make government work better, whether it’s the environment or our schools or our correctional system or our transportaion system.
You want to maintain beauty and quality and pragmatic effectiveness. So it’s a balance. That’s just what I do. And I definitely enjoy doing this.
It’s endlessly fascinating for me to figure out what is this balance between standardized tests and letting the teacher do whatever he or she feels like would stimulate those kids.
Look, I’ve got a very concrete … I’ve got the art school and the military school. I see them , I talk to them. The rigor and the imagination. But even in the rigor, should the military school be tougher, should the Guard play a bigger role or do we want to be more humanistic? I’m kind of inclined to think we should be tougher. It’s not clear to me.
So, how much should be standardized, how much should be free-form? I think it’s the kind of people you find. I look for people who can balance those things.
There’s a lot of bureaucracy. There’s a lot of, petty pace, what’s that thing from Shakespeare? … Every day, you just show up, it’s very bureaucratic. It’s not exciting.
Life has got to be vital. There’s got to be some excitement …
Anyway, we’re doing a lot of stuff. You can’t have 4000 bills and think about it. Even for me to slow the machine down, they get mad at me. They say you’ve got to sign this thing, you can’t think about it.
I think it will be better. They can get into it more. It’s just moving too fast. You’ve got to do fewer things better, I think. And I’m very aware…
(After taking a phone call, Brown returns holding a book, “Killing the Spirit” by Page Smith.)
So here’s an interesting point. This is Page Smith. He was in the history department in Santa Cruz. You went to Santa Cruz. Do you remember Page Smith? Well, he was one of the original guys. He kind of left in disgust when they started going more conventional. His wife I made the first head of the arts council and I got to know Page Smith.
This guy wrote a book, he’s the founding provost of UC Santa Cruz. He was there with Paul Lee. All these characters. And Bateson was there. Anyway, he writes a book very critical of higher education and he’s a humanist …
William James wrote an essay called the Moral Equivalent of War. He said men get really get their courage in war, it brings out the best in people. But it’s very costly. We need the moral equivalent of war.
When Roosevelt started the CCC, this Harvard guy, I won’t mention his name here, had a thing called Camp William James which was one of the CCC camps and the notion was the CCC was going to be that initiation where people go into a camp, work on trails, build things, and that builds the kind of character and comradery that you can get in war.
So, that’s something that inspired me when I created the California Conservation Corps. And even now as we close down the fire camps, can we find more money and get more kids going off to these fire camps?
The CCC used to have like 27 camps. Now they have like 4 or 5. And my whole idea was to get people out of the city. I know we’ve got LA and San Francisco, but I wanted to get them out of the city into some rural backwater, working on clearing streams and trails – whatever. And I’m still doing that.
So, you have CCC, we have an idea William James, you have an idea and there’s a continutity there. Same with the university. What’s the university all about? We’re always talking about tuition and about cutting but there’s a lot of question there on what’s going on at the university.
And people talk about especially at Cal State – it’s workforce.We’re creating people for the workforce. In other words, you’re a cog and I’m putting you in a machine and the machine’s going to run better because we have better cogs.
Well, there’s idea that the university is not about training, it’s about opening your mind. That’s what he talks about.
Well, how can I apply that? Well, maybe I can appoint certain people. I haven’t appointed anyone to the regents yet. Well, who should I appoint? That’s a good question. What are they going to do?
I’ve appointed some people to the Cal State and I’ve appointed some interesting people on the state board and I’m looking, but what impact does that make? If you want to make change, can the state board make an impact? Can the CalState make an impact? Things are very conservative in how they run.
Before when I used to go to the regents, I’d go armed and I was attacking. But it’s totally marginal. You can’t influence ... So now it takes more time, you’ve got to be more subtle, you need more allies. You need a long-term game plan.
So, I have a longer term game plan than I had 30 years ago, even though I’ve got less time because I’m 74, I’m not 36. I’m thinking through how I can influence or move in a direction that take the more creative and more productive of the those values that I think are important. And those values with the university are truth, beauty …
I also know these boards are not affected by one or two people, so there’s no rush. There are a lot of people I know. Blum I know, the lady who’se the president, she was the president of one of the movie studios. They’ve got people there.
I’ve put in some people on Cal State that I know. I looked for people. I appointed a guy that was in the Jesuits with me. Just like on the OMI board I appointed three people who I went to high school with.
Now, I know I can’t just take my old friends from the '50s and put them in positions. Actually, there’s two people who I knew from the seminary who left and went into the CIA. And I put one of them on OMI and I put one of them on Cal State.
But I’m looking for different … But I know that three appointments can’t make (a difference). It really takes ten. But by the time you get to ten, and you listen to this group and that group, and I gotta take care of that and you have diversity and this influence person – by the time you get your ten people, they’re so different that you have no impact anyway.
So this idea that you can influence by your appointees, you have to take care of all your various constituencies and then you end up replicating what is. And that’s why things don’t change very much.
***Now, I am more strategic now since I understand this better and I’m patiently looking for openings. I know that I don’t just want change for the sake of change because that’s superficial.
If you want to do something that you know is good but is different, the last place you’re going to get it done is UC. The second to last place you’re going to get it done is Cal State. And the place more likely would be the community colleges, because they’re more flexible.
So, if you say, what’s the role of online learning. It’s pretty interesting stuff. I don’t say it’s a total solution in any sense but it could play a role in making sure every kid could get out in four years if they want. Could the state actually say we will make sure you have an opportunity to do only four years or could we have a different kind of degree? I’m looking at that.
And what would be the role of community colleges, what would be the role of state colleges? Could they all work and interact? OK, I can’t figure all that out. I can’t think of everything. We’ve got water, we’ve got pensions, we’ve got timber tax. We’ve got a lot of stuff flying around.
Now it just so happens that I know a lot of stuff. I don’t like to say that because it sounds like I’m bragging, but the timber harvest plan – I helped create that when I was governor the last time …
There are all these things that I’ve devoted my whole life to in one sense. And now I’m trying to make them (work). Unlike when I was here,I said oh boy I can be president. I can beat this guy.Who’s running for president? Ford? Carter? I can beat those guys. So let’s go. But it was kind of ridiculous. I was only 38 and I had only been governor less than two years. But I’m an enthusiast.
Now I find each of these things extremely fascinating. Every one of these topics, I don’t care what it is. Water, which is monumentally complicated – and that’s what I’m doing. And each of these bills give me a slice of that and I look at it. And I don’t think anybody else does that.
And by the way people are giving me advice, but I’m generally giving more advice than people are giving me …
By the way when you talk about these ideas and where they came from like no taxes without a vote of the people. That came from a couple of guys who just showed up and said here’s what I think you ought to do. And I said, you know that’s a hell of an idea.
These were free and some of them weren’t even Democrats.
(On former parks director Ruth Coleman) We were cutting the parks and they said she was carrying out what we wanted her to do and they didn’t like her. But I said well they probably don’t like her because she’s carrying out the cuts. That’s the way I interpreted that.
Some people liked her and some people didn’t. She was a good soldier and she was taking the heat for what I was doing. So I couldn’t tell whether she was getting criticism because she was making the tough cuts or for other reasons.
It just turned out that it was time for a change and I’m interviewing people right now for that.
We’ve got a bunch of people around. We have cabinet meetings. It’s a complicated system but if something goes wrong then you fix it. The only problem is that you write and say now it’s a scandal. Well, if you get negative feedback something has to happen.
You’ve got to rule by exception. You think one person can run everything? A cabinet secretary?
What about these people that are making more money than I am, these agency secretaries? That’s their job. I talk to them. What if the person I hire isn’t any good either? Then I need someone who checks up on someone who checks up on them?
Some things are going to wrong. That’s life. When something goes wrong the question is not whether it went wrong,but what do you do to fix it.
Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown. Credit: Associated Press