Let’s give a shout-out to Gov. Jerry Brown, who last week stood up for the important right of freedom from the press.
When the governor said that he was going on vacation, but declined to say where, it was a much-needed reminder that even the most visible politician doesn’t surrender his entire right to a private life on the day he files for office.
While this might sound strange coming from someone who has been cashing paychecks from the dead-tree media for more than 35 years, politicians remain people. It’s also not much of a stretch to think that some downtime, without a TV crew peering over the back fence or reporters asking budget questions on the beach, might result in more relaxed, more thoughtful chief executive, one ready to find bipartisan solutions to the long-running problems facing the state.
We can hope, anyway.
If anyone should be familiar with the downside of a well-publicized vacation, it’s Brown. Back in 1979, during his first stint as governor, Brown went on an African safari with singer/girlfriend Linda Ronstadt. The trip put him on the cover of Newsweek and on the pages of People magazine. It also cemented his image as “Governor Moonbeam” and moved him off the news pages and into the gossip columns.
Politicians know nothing good can come out of a vacation where the press is invited or even notified. After his election last November, for example, Brown took some time off. But when his aides said the governor-elect were relaxing in Arizona, disgruntlement broke loose. Why, various liberal sorts asked, is Brown spending time and money in a state that many California groups and cities voted to boycott following Arizona’s passage of harsh anti-immigrant regulations?
At least Brown feels it’s safe to take a vacation. Back in the late ‘70s, when the governor spent a lot of time outside the state in an ill-fated – not to mention ill-advised – run for president, Republican Lt. Gov. Mike Curb would wait anxiously for Brown’s plane to leave California airspace and then happily make appointments, sign proclamations and otherwise act as a conservative GOP governor, to the dismay of the state’s liberal Democrats. Not to mention Brown.
While the state Supreme Court ruled that Curb’s efforts as acting governor were perfectly legal, they were generally agreed to be bad form and it really hasn’t happened since.
Brown’s vacation does, on the other hand, give Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom a brief promotion, as witnessed by a press release this week announcing that, “California Acting Governor Gavin Newsom Praises UC Hiring of Independent Investigator.”
Vacation or not, though, Brown put out the state’s annual Thanksgiving proclamation himself.
This is a good time for the governor to disappear on a road trip, since there’s little fun in his future.
By Dec. 15, the state Department of Finance will make its revenue estimate for the rest of the year. The Legislative Analyst’s Office already has reported that the state will fall $3.7 billion short of its budget plans. If the state money folks come up with similar numbers, it will trigger $2 billion in automatic cuts in K-12 education, state colleges and universities and social programs. It will also produce howls from not only the agencies, but also from their supporters in and out of the Legislature.
The state’s also looking at an estimated $13 billion deficit going into the 2012-13 budget discussions. The partisan differences that made it impossible to come up with an honest budget last year haven’t disappeared, so Brown should be prepping for another fight.
Next year also is an election year, with both liberals and conservatives pledging to put controversial measures on the ballot, ensuring more headaches for Brown.
Hope you enjoyed the time off, governor, because the upcoming months will be anything but a vacation.