Yes, there were many other candidates for the 2014 Black Bart award. John Chiang won a new office and improved his chances in future Democratic contests. Peter Lee helped Covered California advance (and got a lot of good press along the way). The state’s many water agencies and districts convinced Californians to take water conservation seriously. Darrell Steinberg and John Perez and Bill Lockyer completed solid turns in office.

And I will never forget the voice and sight of Richard Martinez, whose son was among those killed in the Santa Barbara shootings earlier this year, thundering against such violence and those who frustrate sensible gun control. Martinez’s subsequent work on the subject has been thoughtfully strategic. I hope we continue to hear more from him.

But after much thought, I couldn’t deny this year’s Black Bart award to Jerry Brown.

He not only won a fourth term as governor, making history in the process, but also he won a fourth term while barely campaigning. Heck, he left re-election with a war chest he can use in his fourth-term political fights.

I agree with Brown on many issues, but I hate his strategy, particularly his unwillingness to take on the state’s thorny governance and structural problems. He also continues to misrepresent the true nature of the state’s problems, particularly by advancing the discredited notion that the state is overspending.

But, like a thief in the night, he gets away with it. Heck, he managed to convince voters and the press that he’s fiscally responsible in a year when he gave a huge tax break to Hollywood (and tried to make a similar giveaway to Tesla).

His most clever work involved sabotage of reform. Brown is often touted a man of big ideas, but he’s really a man of caution, and a skeptic of big changes and reformers. His strategy in dealing with reform proposals is to ignore them. When he can’t ignore them, he moves to a different strategy: passing half-measures that don’t constitute reform, but allow him to say that he attempted the reform.

We saw this in three areas this year.

On ballot initiative reform, he embraced a minor bit of legislation, SB 1253, which was dishonestly sold as real reform to the process, when it represented a mix bag of very small improvements. The more fundamental need to integrate the initiative system with the budget and legislative processes, which requires permitting legislative amendment of all initiatives (which is how initiatives work in the world outside California), was something he successfully dodged.

On budget reform, he sold voters – without funded opposition – on Prop 2, which was falsely portrayed as a rainy day fund when it’s really a limit on rainy day funds, tied up with a complicated new budget formula. Brown thus gave the diseased patient more of the disease.

And he hurt the long-term cause of universal pre-K in California by blocking historic expansion of the program and instead pushing through a minor increase in funding that will make it hard for the programs to succeed, and thus attract more funding in the future. That cleverly served the purpose of undermining a popular program about which he has expressed great doubts.

In the long term, these are missed opportunities for the state. But you can’t tell anybody that these days. Jerry Brown has the state in his hands.