For the record, Governor Brown, please let me say thank you.
I’m beginning to think I’ve been too tough on you. Especially now that you’re being so very generous to me.
I deeply appreciated the beginning of last week’s State of the State address, and the direct mention of a story I’d written two weeks earlier, arguing that the annual tradition was outdated and that it’s impossible to sum California’s diverse regions in one speech:
For those who missed it, Brown began:
I am here today to report on the state of our state, choosing to ignore those who say that Article 5 of our Constitution, which requires the governor to report to the Legislature, is outdated; that you can’t report on the condition of our state from Sacramento because California is too spread out and too diverse.
Yes, you didn’t take my advice and cancel the speech, but I can’t tell you the kind of validation this represents for a writer. You pound out a weekly column and a few blog posts, and you’re never sure if anyone out there is reading you, much less thinking about what you say. Then come to find out the governor of the state is reading, and thinks your stuff is important enough to lead a big speech. I felt like Sally Field: You like me, you really like me.
If that had been the extent of your generosity, that would have been more enough. But no, no, it was Christmas in January! You followed that up by proving my point that you can’t really sum up a state like this.
It occurred to me that these critics – who have long recited our state’s decline – perhaps have nothing to say in the face of California’s comeback – except, “please, don’t report it.” Well, I’m going to report it, and what a comeback it is: A million new jobs since 2010, a budgetary surplus in the billions and a minimum wage rising to $10 an hour!
Now, I’m not sure you mean about “critics… who have long recited our state’s decline.” You must be talking about Walters there—I haven’t been around that long, at least by Jerry Brown standards, and since you read me so closely, you know that I think California is a great place, and could be much, much greater if we fixed the governance system and started re-investing in the future. But even if that’s meant at a blast at me, I’ll take it.
Because you go right into declaring a “California comeback.”
That’s exactly the sort of broad brush that makes state of the state speeches useless – and even problematic, since they misinform. There’s certainly a comeback where you live in the Bay Area, governor, with job growth and low unemployment. (You could have called this speech the “State of the Bay Area” address, given much of its tone). But you and I both know that in the vast inland and in much of Southern California, there’s not much of a comeback at all. Each region is different, which is why I suggested building a state of the state report around town halls in each of the state’s 12 regions.
Thanks for driving that point home. I’m so glad we agree on something!
And let me confess another thing: If I’d known you were going to devote the State of the State speech to me, I’m not sure I would have suggested ending the tradition in the first place!