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Last Wednesday California Governor, Jerry Brown signed a measure to place a $7.5 billion water bond on the November ballot. This measure will replace an existing bond negotiated by then Governor Schwarzenegger in 2009 which, at over $11 billion was considered too costly and unlikely to pass. Assembly members voted 77-2 in favor of the measure and in the Senate, the margin was 37-0.

Those familiar with the divisive and sordid history of water rights in California know that a reasonable compromise solution has eluded politicians for decades. Auto travelers through the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys on Interstate 5 are visually assaulted by dozens of large signs posted all along the parched farmland bordering the highway blaming Pelosi, Boxer and Brown for the crisis. California's big valleys have some of the richest soil in the world, while large, vibrant metropolitan centers like San Francisco and Los Angeles need far more water than their natural watersheds can support and therefore import water from the more sparsely populated rural areas that typically vote Republican. The densely populated cities trend overwhelmingly Democratic and dominate state wide elections.

Water is California's life blood, and considering the worsening drought there just isn't enough to satisfy the thirst of such a large and diverse state. California produces almost half of the country's U.S. grown fruits and nuts and is the number one state in cash farm receipts. California's water problems are also the nation's problems. So this bipartisan result was a major victory for Brown, who, at 76 is not only the country's oldest governor, but the most experienced to boot.

Follow below the orange curlicue for more on Brown, California and its water crisis.

Brown was also elected as California's youngest governor, the youngest since the Civil War era that is, serving two terms from 1975-1983. He earned a reputation as a progressive, energetic and eccentric chief executive who also possessed a stubborn, miserly streak. He refused to live in the newly completed governor's residence in favor of a modest Sacramento apartment and walked to work, or drove himself in his Plymouth Satellite.

He was a fiscal conservative, who along with his Treasurer, Jess "Big Daddy" Unruh, built up a $5 billion surplus until Prop 13 wiped it out. But he was also an environmentalist, initiating one of the first rooftop solar tax incentives and was sometimes referred to as Don Quixote for installing the windmills you see along Interstates 10 and 80. His detractors also called him Governor "Moonbeam," appropriating a term of affection possibly from his then girlfriend, singer Linda Ronstadt, and using it as a moniker to ridicule him for proposing to launch a satellite--not his Plymouth--into space for communication, crop and watershed monitoring purposes.

As a former Jesuit Seminarian, he was a conscientious opponent of the death penalty and also a strong supporter of Gay and women's rights, appointing numerous women and gays to important government positions.

His first gig as governor was followed by unsuccessful campaigns for the Senate and the Presidency, study of Buddhism, and work with Mother Theresa in Calcutta. Brown returned to California politics to serve as Mayor of Oakland from 1999-2007 and as a hard-nosed and pragmatic Attorney General from 2007-2011, where despite his personal beliefs, he kept his word to uphold the State's death penalty.

Brown was elected to his third term as Governor in 2010, easily defeating Meg Whitman. Ironically, he followed the termed out Schwarzenegger, circumventing the State's 1990 term limits law on a technicality because his previous two terms were served before the law had been enacted. California is better off for this technical glitch.

The irascible and irrepressible Governor has turned California around by both cutting spending and convincing Californians to vote for a tax increase while approving a raise for minimum wage workers to $10.00/hr. He took a $25 billion deficit and turned it into a $4.1 billion surplus, a $29 billion shift for the better. One only has to compare what Brown has done to the results produced by Republican governors like Wisconsin's Scott Walker and Sam Brownback of Kansas to conclude that the Republican austerity, build from the top down economic policy has lost all credibility.

While Brownback blames Obama for his state's tanking economy, and New Jersey governor, Chris Christie complains about "revenue shortfalls," what exactly has Jerry Brown been doing with California's newly earned surplus? Well he has been increasing spending on higher education by almost 10 percent and over 4 percent on K–12. He has added $2.4 billion in additional funding to expand the Medi-Cal insurance program for the poor and raised the minimum wage to $10.00/hr? California job growth has outpaced the rest of the nation over the last year.

In his June 2014 article for The Nation, John Nicols makes the case for Brown being

"the most successful high-profile Democrat in America today. And there is simply no debating that, after four decades in the national limelight, he stands out as an intellectually dynamic and politically untethered leader in a time of gridlock, frustration and dysfunction."
Brown's acumen is perhaps nowhere more evident than in his brokerage of the water bond issue. California's current drought is the worst in recorded history.
More than half of the state is in “exceptional” drought, the highest category recognized by the U.S. Drought Monitor, which released its latest update on Thursday.

The Governor leveraged the state's worsening drought, skillfully overcoming longstanding regional and political divisions to forge a bipartisan compromise that is almost assured success in November.

To get sign-off from the dizzying array of interests, Brown hunkered down with lawmakers from both parties behind closed doors for the past few weeks, finally giving Republicans more of the funding for reservoirs and water storage they have long sought . . . The water plan satisfied Republicans and farmers by providing $2.7 billion to build two new reservoirs and placates environmentalists by providing billions more for water conservation, recycling and cleanup efforts. The bond also includes other water projects not directly related to supply, such as watershed improvements and flood management.

With control of both houses of the legislature, Brown did not need Republican support and could have rammed through a bill more favorable to the left without GOP buy-in,  but Brown said "he wanted their support anyway, to help sell the plan to voters."

"The pitch now is you've got a unified front," said Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego. "You got Northern, Central, South. You got Republicans, you got Democrats. You've got the Senate leadership, the Assembly leadership — both, you know, Republican and Democrat — and you got the governor."

Governor Brown's wizened countenance, seasoned independence and biting wit add to his mystique. When Chris Christie instigated a coast-to-coast feud by calling Brown "an old retread," in his keynote speech at the Republican convention in Tampa Bay, Brown clearly got the better of it all when he responded in a speech to organized labor.

The veteran Democrat said age may have left him with a lot less hair, but the years had provided plenty of experience and knowledge that Christie may lack.
“Because when you were 14,” Brown said to his new rival, “I was passing the farm labor bill. I was passing worker protections in California."
He then confidently challenged the notoriously overweight Christie to a
"three-mile run, a push-up contest and a chin-up contest. With the negative implication about Christie’s excessive weight abundantly clear, Brown said he would take any bet on the challenge, adding, “I have no doubt of the outcome.”

Brown's effectiveness in his third term reveals the misguided reasoning behind term limits and their attempt to solve the problem of entrenched, lazy and corrupt politicians getting reelected term after term. Artificial and arbitrary term limits throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water. Getting the money out of the electoral process would do a lot better job of weeding out the bad lawmakers by leveling the playing field for talented challengers. Elections are ultimately the most effective term limit.

Liberals are not always happy with the governor. His opposition to Marijuana legalization, his seeming ambivalence to fracking and turning to for profit prisons to help solve overcrowding in the face of fierce opposition from the prison guard union, have been particularly frustrating. But most unions and progressive groups generally just swallow hard and acknowledge that he is a consensus builder and an effective leader, even when they disagree with him.  Bill Press, popular liberal media personality and former member of Brown's first administration sums it up well.

“He’s managing the largest state in the union; he took it over when it was flat on its back, and it is thriving now,” Press adds. “He’s done all this without declaring war on public employees, without mass layoffs of teachers, without any of the John Kasich/Scott Walker draconian talk that says the only way you can balance a budget is by making cuts and breaking the backs of public employees. He’s proved that that’s bullshit.”

Fortunately for California, her 76 year old governor continues to confound conventional wisdom. He is well on his way to a double digit victory over his Republican opponent in 2014, Neel Kashkari, in what either may or may not be his final campaign.

4:26 PM PT: Thanks for all the great comments. Many have a different perspective,  important clarifications and facts that I would have loved to include in my piece. But that's what comments are for. Anyway, Jerry Brown and California water issues certainly stir up a lot of dust.

Originally posted to Doctor Jazz on Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 09:47 PM PDT.

Also republished by California politics and PostHuffPost: Connection-Conversation-Community .

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Comment Preferences

  •  Wow, even a public relations professional would (14+ / 0-)

    have a hard time topping your depiction of ole Gov. Jerry!!!!!!

    'More to story than meets the eye?'

     photo 10518687_10152600865522708_45793110.jpg

    Credit Facebook

    Move Single Payer Forward? Join 18,000 Doctors of PNHP and 185,000 member National Nurses United

    by divineorder on Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 10:18:33 PM PDT

  •  Not true! (7+ / 0-)
    ... or drove himself in his Plymouth Satellite
    He had a driver for the Plymouth.

    Arriving at an "event," he'd pull up at the curb, gaze at all the parked limos lined up, and mutter "Whose gas-guzzlers are these?"

    His prescient suggestion that California have its own satellite got him dubbed "Governor Moonbeam," a term jealous Republicans still use, because they are still dazed at his legacy of successful legislation (along with his early fiscal responsibility before Dems caught on) and they have nothing else to attack him with.  Years later, many states have also launched their own satellites.

    How children dance to the unlived lives of their parents. Rilke

    by ceebee7 on Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 10:26:11 PM PDT

    •  You may be right on the driver (5+ / 0-)

      I was trying to remember back and reference with current sources. My mother was president of the Northern California Central Committee at the time he was governor in the 70's, taking me with her to Sacramento numerous times, and I was paying attention the best I could for a youngster. I should not have added the word "himself" without corroboration. Thanks for your reply.

      •  My correction was facetious and intended (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Doctor Jazz

        only to amplify your point.

        One of our greatest and most unique politicians...  a true public servant, and immune to the normal back room graft.  I don't know if he would have been strong enough to survive Washington, though... way too honest.

        How children dance to the unlived lives of their parents. Rilke

        by ceebee7 on Wed Aug 20, 2014 at 02:00:28 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  in the back room however, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          something is going on re: this water bill's alleged "tunnel neutrality"

          "Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth. And don't be attached to the results." -- Angeles Arrien

          by Sybil Liberty on Wed Aug 20, 2014 at 06:59:03 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  "immune to the normal back room graft" (0+ / 0-)

          What gives you that idea? Oh I see, it's in the front room now.

          Mexico trade mission

          The trip, organized by the California Chamber of Commerce, includes a delegation of more than 100 state government, business, economic development, investment and policy leaders. Delegates paid $5,000 each for the four-day trip, which is subsidizing the cost of Brown's travel.
          Business participants include Sempra Energy, BP America and other representatives of the energy, tourism and agriculture industries. Representatives of the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund will also attend.
          nearly 10,000 people a year in Sonoma County experience homelessness, a rate four times the national average.
          A recent Sonoma County analysis portrays a homeless population that is less healthy and on the streets for longer periods of time than ever before in Sonoma County’s history.
          In your face winos! I think that article is trying to be positive?

          California is the current epitome of wealth disparity, please do not emulate. All government stats are measured by "median", so experts (and the middle class) can agree everything is fine. This is exactly the kind of crap that drives sensitive people to utter despair. Exporting our way to environmental catastrophe is good as long as we stay mellow.

  •  We do have a great governor here (13+ / 0-)

    and we do have a serious drought.

    I am glad the bill passed and those on all sides got a bit of what they wanted. Now maybe we can address the issue of our finite water supply and how new reservoirs and allocations do not actually add any new water to the state. It just moves it around. Taking what little is in one place away from there to use it somewhere else.

    The notion that cities are gulping down the state water is not quite accurate. California cities use about 10% of our total managed water with agriculture being the elephant in the pool. 86% is the estimated amount, with most of that going to livestock production.

    The biggest customer for California water, 60 - 70%, depending on who does the measuring, is beef.

    Move the cattle industry to another, wetter, state, and we could double California's available water supply.

    No new dams, no giant pipelines, just healthier rivers and many other benefits for this over worked western paradise all with one big cattle drive.


    •  Reservoirs do potentially add new water (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Doctor Jazz

      Depending upon where they are located and how they are managed, and especially in the more rain-driven watersheds where rain that falls immediately runs off and out to the ocean in heavy volume. They also allow us to mitigate the year-to-year boom-and-bust cycle of years with extraordinary rainfall versus years with little.

      Snow-driven watersheds have more natural storage, because the snow melts slowly into the summer, creating summer flows in creeks and into the water table.

      All that said, not every reservoir is a good idea, and they create environmental damage of one sort or another. Projects need to be weighed with great care. An issue is that the people who can afford to pay for them aren't necessarily the most local people, and that creates tension and conflict.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Wed Aug 20, 2014 at 04:24:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  We don't import new precipitaion to fill new (0+ / 0-)

        reservoirs. But trying to redirect attention away from an actual solution is very telling. Do you work for the livestock association?

        •  Ooh, thanks so much for the shill accusation (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Doctor Jazz

          Actually, I'm on staff here at Daily Kos. But, I do in fact keep livestock.

          I'm not sure what 'actual solution' you're advocating for, but I'll clarify my statement.

          My purpose was in pointing out that reservoirs can in fact have the result of making more water available to the system. Obviously, yes, this is water not going elsewhere. The question to ask is, will the water you keep be missed? In some watersheds, the answer is definitely yes.

          Where I live, we tend to get boom-and-bust rains, so just as an example, in the very dry winter we just had, more than half of our total annual rainfall came in just two weeks' time. Because a relatively small percentage of that was stored, there is water now for ag and for fish, in a place where a major river would be nearly dry and at lethal temperatures otherwise. And the big winter flow down to the estuary was not significantly changed.

          I'm in general not in favor of building new reservoirs - flooding a valley creates tremendous damage to areas we value. On the other hand, I don't think we can have civilization without reservoirs. Simply existing and having infrastructure, humans create environmental damage. Our job is to be thoughtful about it, to step lightly, and to leave some areas aside as free of our influence as possible.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Thu Aug 21, 2014 at 12:29:23 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Do you have a cite on that 70% of water to the (0+ / 0-)

      beef industry? I find that hard to square against the facts as I understand them.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Thu Aug 21, 2014 at 12:38:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I don't love hagiography, but I voted for Brown (12+ / 0-)

    and don't regret it.  Though he's made several poor choices including vetoing good legislation that would empower workers and slow down the growth of the prison industry, Jerry Brown is the best governor CA has had since...  Jerry Brown.

  •  Jerry Brown never really was Jerry Brown, (7+ / 0-)

    and now he's not even that.

    But I do notice that a pack of privileged mushy Love-Me-I'm-A-Liberal home-owners with six figure incomes are thrilled that he managed to shave a buck off the hike in minimum wage, and push it back a year.

    It's funny how the affluent classes are always so happy to "make compromises" long as it's shit poor and working people need being thrown away.

    The top 10% needs to be ignored just as firmly as the top 1% if the rest of us are every going to get a government that serves us.

    The UN should give Iraq a restraining order against the US.

    by JesseCW on Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 11:08:17 PM PDT

  •  The water bond is a turkey (13+ / 0-)

    The $7.5B "bipartisan" water bond deal was a sneaky bit of last-minute, end-of-session deception that will move ahead with Jerry Brown's massive Death Tunnels, a $67B public works boondoggle that will pipe most of the water that flows into the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta underneath the Delta and on down the San Joaquin Valley to provide subsidized public water for the Corporate Welfare Queens (like Beverly Hills/Aspen residents--and big donors to DiFi and Brown--Stuart and Lynda Resnick AKA Paramont Growers AKA POMWonderful) and Big Fracking Oil Companies like Chevron. The bond has $435M of new water-grabbing diversions for those privileged recipients. Let's take a guess how much new water will get down to, zero, that's right. Meanwhile, the Delta's rich agricultural soils will go to waste, the commercial and sport fisheries for salmon will go into the tank, Sandhill Crane nesting grounds will be despoiled and the largest estuary on the West Coast will be turned into an industrial area.

    {...sigh...} If only the Delta was the sole environmental and dumb-assed public works horror story in the water bond. But it's not. There's also a commitment to build at least 1 ridiculous new giant reservoir, probably at a site west of Colusa some 15 miles away from the Sacramento River, that will be used for energy-intensive pumped storage into a lake that will lose substantial amounts of water to evaporation while holding water valued at $340/acre-foot--which is way outside of ag's ability to use it. The public will be made to pay the price of the water bond for the benefit of a tiny few among the 1%. And they will be tricked into it b/c, y'know, drought. The water bond will throw billions of dollars at the sky hoping to make it rain.

    There are better solutions than this 1950s engineering mentality, but they aren't getting the light of day. Why? Jerry Brown wants his Death Tunnels SO BAD! He wants a legacy that will make him look good like his Dad, who started the unsustainable CA Water Project. It's a little like Shrub wanting to git Saddam done to make his Daddy proud. Brown got slapped hard when the voters rejected his first try, the "Peripheral Canal" with a 62.7% NO vote in 1982. Now he's back with the underground version and keeping the public at arm's length about what's really going on.

    Dan Bacher has posted many diaries about this disastrous project. See also Restore the Delta's detailed web site. Kossacks should look for the whole picture and seek to understand, rather than simply swallow the PR malarkey about Jerry Brown being a really swell guy.

    Energy efficiency 1st in the loading order

    by Left Foot Forward on Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 11:08:31 PM PDT

    •  interesting (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Can you recommend a diary which sets out an alternative?

      Is it your prediction that the measure will be approved by the voters?

      Seeking to be as wise as Fioral

      by GideonAB on Wed Aug 20, 2014 at 01:25:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  excellent, thanks for this.. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eyo, Dallasdoc, unfangus, Doctor Jazz

      especially this:

      subsidized public water for the Corporate Welfare Queens (like Beverly Hills/Aspen residents--and big donors to DiFi and Brown--Stuart and Lynda Resnick AKA Paramont Growers AKA POMWonderful)

      example No/1 why we have to get the money out of politics..ok, I made a little joke, but really, these people make me sick.

      The water thefts and diversions and politics they do are bad enough, but the icing on the cake for me is tey are BIG in the central cal nut farming...needing lots of norcal's water to do it. Their actions against the people of Fiji are sickening FIJI WATER and exemplify their approach to the world.

         But the most evil thing they do is think that because a competitor in the nut business is IRAN, they must support and advocate for economic and military war with Iran...killing people for profits. It's enough to make a religious person out of me right there.

      There isn't a more worse example of evil I know of today.

      Idi Amin is dead, Rios Montt is out of power and beset by legal troubles..even Osama is dead...

      And they have spent gobs on DiFi and the whole Democratic machine...look for them to fully support, to the max HRC as well...'friend of Israel' (therefore against the nut crop competitor, Iran.)

      This machine kills Fascists.

      by KenBee on Wed Aug 20, 2014 at 02:08:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Jerry Brown has a great advantage (6+ / 0-)

    The voters of CA have gotten fed up with corrupt Republicanism. He has been blessed with not only a Democratic supermajority, but also a relatively honest one.
    Actually, I think he has recently lost the supermajority, but it has not seemed to have stopped things. Have CA Republicans learned a lesson? They were the looniest of the loons and paid the price.
    I would suggest that though Brown is a good governor, his success is due to a fortuitous combination of circumstances. Like Napoleon, without the revolution, he would be a failure.

  •  I am a fan of Brown but not the water bond (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eyo, smokeymonkey, unfangus, Doctor Jazz

    The delta tunnels are an environmental disaster, and it should be noted that in a year like this one, they don't help anything at all, because northern California doesn't have any water to send anyway.

    If you take a look at that map with the big dark red blotch, you'll notice those much those areas are supposed to be sending water, not receiving it.

    Water is an exceedingly complicated issue and is very watershed-specific - for example, my watershed (the north coast) is not connected to the state water project in either direction.

    Brown has gotten some impressive things done - I might cite instead his work to change school funding so that low income and english language learner students get significant extra money.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Wed Aug 20, 2014 at 07:36:05 AM PDT

  •  Unfortunately I was only 17 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Doctor Jazz

    and couldn't vote for his first term, but have ever since. And I'll continue as long as he's able and willing to serve.

    "I sometimes lose my train of thought while engaging myself in meaningful conversation" - DN13

    by Devout Nonbeliever on Wed Aug 20, 2014 at 09:27:25 AM PDT

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