Saturday, July 14, 2012

Willie Brown: "You've got to do projects, the bigger the better"

Photo by Luke Thomas for Fog City Journal

Like all successful Democratic Party politicians, Willie Brown's long career wouldn't have been possible without the support of the unions. I've called Jerry and Willie Brown "Development Democrats," but in reality all successful Democratic Party politicians are Development Democrats, since unions are an important part of the party's base, and union money is essential during elections. Without mentioning unions, Willie Brown was candid about this in his column last week:

It's going to come at a political cost, but Gov. Jerry Brown's push for high-speed rail was the right move, even in these uncertain times. I read the polls like everyone else. And it's true, right now most voters would say "no" to high-speed rail...But their feelings about the project will change when they start seeing the jobs that $3.4 billion in federal money creates.

Never mind all the serious problems with every aspect of this poorly-conceived project. It's all about jobs! The Feds are chipping in $3.4 billion, but they're unlikely to provide any more money for the project. Of course the governor's Ahab-like pursuit of high-speed rail undermines support for his proposed tax hikes on the November ballot that are supposed to deal with the state's $16 billion deficit.

And although critics have valid points about the potential costs in this shaky economy, we have to keep thinking 20 years down the road. That's true whether you're talking about high-speed rail or the Central Subway here in San Francisco. If you're into instant gratification, go find a hooker.

The reality: Governor Brown and the legislature are the ones going for a quick-fix, and critics of the project are "thinking down the road." The $4.7 billion state bonds---not mentioned by Brown---for high-speed rail will cost the state more than $300 million a year out of the General Fund even as the state systematically destroys the state's education system with severe budget cuts. I wonder how state voters/taxpayers will "feel" about that when the reality sinks in?

Brown wrote to similar effect earlier this year:

Gov. Jerry Brown is doing exactly what he should do with his call to go ahead with building the high-speed rail system: He's looking out for his legacy. You've got to do projects when you're governor, or mayor for that matter. The bigger the better. Jerry is trying to match his father, Pat Brown, who oversaw the building of the state highway network, the California Aqueduct and California's higher education system when he was governor.

Speaking of the state's "higher education system"---and its lower education system, for that matter: While Jerry Brown works on his Daddy issues, state budget cuts have already been devastating to the system, as have tuition hikes in the community college system, the UC system, and the state college system.

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