| Former (and future?) governor and current Attorney General Jerry Brown was waxing nostalgic about his days in the governor's mansion, driving the famous blue Plymouth ("it lasted 240,000 miles without an engine overhaul - now that was sustainability"), and suing Ronald Reagan over the governor's mansion.
But the core of his speech dealt with our climate crisis. Brown emphasized his administration's earlier efforts to encourage smart growth, urban density, walking, even trains. And he called for renewed action on this today. He conceptualized it as "elegant density" - get people out of their cars, build more walkable communities served by trains and other forms of mass transit, powered by solar energy, to not just deal with global warming, but to encourage a more sustainable California.
During the 1970s, Brown had tried to promote a similar agenda. He appointed a trains advocate as the head of Caltrans, promoted a solar energy program, and cut off funds for freeway construction projects, and establishing the Office of Planning and Research. He even promoted an ambitious Urban Strategy for California emphasizing density and limiting sprawl.
Prop 13's passage ended much of this as state government was starved of funds. But Prop 13 was about more than low taxes. It was the reaction of the lovers of suburban sprawl, of the 1950s model of California, against Brown's more forward-thinking model. As recently as 2001 arch-conservative Tom McClintock danced on the grave of Brown's sustainability strategy calling it:
a radical and retrograde ideology into California public policy that quite abruptly and permanently changed the state.
That radical ideology has been the central tenet of governance in California through four successive gubernatorial administrations, Democratic and Republican, to the present day. It was described by Jerry Brown as "the era of limits," punctuated by such new-age nonsense as the mantra, "small is beautiful." Suburban "sprawl" would be replaced with a new "urban strategy."
Republicans continue to make these arguments. They are bent on preserving the failed 1950s model of urban life at all costs. By doing so they have become a party of aristocracy. "Elegant density" isn't just an environmental and climate strategy - it's also necessary for the survival of California's working and middle classes in the 21st century. Republicans will fight against this, and so it is very good to hear Jerry Brown mounting a full-throated defense of sustainable living.
The rest of his speech is pure red meat - bashing the Bush Administration and its EPA ("those idiots"), denouncing them for the mortgage crisis, and calling for the repeal of NCLB. If he does have the governor's office in mind in 2010, this kind of playing to the base would make him an even more formidable opponent in the Democratic primary.