Coming off a tough budget battle in Sacramento, Gov. Jerry Brown gave a Fresno audience a straightforward assessment of the fractured political climate in the state’s capital – but also a dose of optimism that change can happen.
Brown touched on several topics in his Aug. 17 speech, presented by the Kenneth L. Maddy Institute. About 175 people – including leaders in business, agriculture, education and politics – packed the downtown Club to hear the governor’s perspective.
He talked about realignment, involving the criminal justice system, to comply with a Supreme Court ruling to reduce prison overcrowding. “Lesser offenders” – parole violators in state prisons for 90 days or less – will instead go to county jails. Local law enforcement officials in California are working on plans to carry out the realignment and hope for sufficient funding.
“We believe they can be handled at the local level – with adequate money, time and collaboration between the state corrections system, local law enforcement, corrections and probation,” Brown said. “We’re trying to get our system aligned, effective, accountable and efficient. And, that’s bringing government closer to the people.”
The governor also pledged to put together a Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta water plan. This would greatly impact the Central Valley, where westside farmers face shortages due to delta environmental concerns and drought.
Brown also described struggles trying to win approval for legislation, and hopes to break down rigid party lines.
“We need people of independence, of judgment and the ability to let evidence and facts influence judgment rather than partisan colorations,” he said. “California is one of the best places in the world, and we can keep it that way if we are Californians first and members of one of those parties second.”
Attendees of different political leanings gave Brown a standing ovation, appreciating his frankness and desire to see political parties work together on pressing issues.
“It was a message that I think resonated with everyone here,” said PG&E’s Cindy Pollard.
Michael Hanson, superintendent of the Fresno Unified School District, said he appreciated the governor’s grasp of complexities but acknowledges the challenges. “He’s trying to operate from a place that increasingly doesn’t exist called the middle.”
Chuck Riojas, with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 100, said the dysfunction in Sacramento “is a disservice to the California public, either side. I think both sides have credible ideas, and I think they could work in a bipartisan fashion to move California forward.”