California’s iconic Governor, Jerry Brown, turned 75-years-old this month… the same age as the city he remembers visiting as a child — the Desert retreat of Palm Springs.
Of all the visitors who come to Palm Springs, few probably have as vivid a memory of their first time here as the state’s number one public official, Governor Brown.
As a reporter who has covered Brown since his first incarnation as Governor three decades ago, I’ve learned he remembers his history. And that was evident in an exclusive interview I had with him this week.
“I came to Palm Springs to the Colonial House, now I think it’s called Colony Palms,” the Governor told me, “I came there in the early 40s on a train with my mother and I stayed there for a week. I look the train from San Francisco to L.A. and a train then from Glendale over to Palm Springs.”
He was five years old, and it was in the midst of World War II.
“There were troops on the train as well, there were soldiers and camouflage on some of the fields where there were orange groves. And outside the hotel, which had a swimming pool right in the middle, there was sand.”
Brown had grown-up in the foggiest part of San Francisco’s West side, so a trip to the desert was always a treat.
“I just remember it as a fabulous vacation place. It was a dream to leave the fog of San Francisco and pull-up to the clear air of the desert. It was very exciting and the mountains often had snow on them.”
And there was always official business here, since his father, Gov. Pat Brown, presided over the state during an economic boom.
“Of course my father helped build the tram when he was governor, and when he was elected governor he went down and had a meeting there in La Quinta with President Eisenhower.”
But while Pat Brown had budgets that were flush with cash, Jerry Brown has the opposite situation, which is why he pushed a ballot measure last November that calls for a quarter-cent sales tax hike and an income tax hike on the wealthiest Californians.
“Were finishing a $16 billion dollar deficit after we’ve already cut $8 or $9 billion last year, and the reason is California has been kicking the can down the road for a decade and even longer when you dig into the budget history,” Brown said. .
“I really don’t think we should cut our university anymore or our schools, or safety net or our police and fire. So I think it’s what we need.”
And as for the naysayers who think California has simply become ungovernable? He brought the answer back to Palm Springs.
“The state is a lot more governable than the federal government and we’re more governable that the EU union and several other nations. So yes, we’ve got problems, we’ve got a big budget deficit, but remember this is a place that invests in the future, that is the home of Hewlett Packard and medical advances and biotech and fabulous scenery from the mountains to the desert to the ocean, so I see a very bright future for California and for Palm Springs in particular.”
I’ve always known him to be this kind of an optimist. But then again, the 75-year-old Governor probably couldn’t do his job twice without being one. ###