Dear Jerry

SN&R readers would like to say a few words to their governor-elect

Artwork by Walter Rhoades

It’s an understatement to say that Jerry Brown has his work cut out for him. Immediately upon entering office as California’s 39th governor, the man faces a $28 billion deficit (over the next 18 months), a faltering education system, sky-high unemployment and foreclosure rates, bloated and overcrowded prisons, and a precipitously endangered safety net. Among other things.

So just in time for his January 3 inauguration, and with his colossal new challenge in mind, we at SN&R decided to offer a special issue of welcome (and warnings) for Jerry Brown. We asked author, activist and former state legislator Tom Hayden to reflect on where Brown’s been, and where experience suggests he may likely be going in relation to solving California’s various crises. We asked readers and other “special guests” to write “open letters” to the new governor, offering congratulations and counsel. We also asked local artists to come up with illustrations and images of Brown’s now iconic face—boy did they come through with some wonderful work. Enjoy the results of all this in the following pages.

In the end, the project reminded us of how connected California’s past choices are about to become with its future condition.

What comes around goes around.

Jerry Brown is back in town.


It is very reassuring to witness that money cannot buy everything in California.

I enjoyed experiencing a thriving California during your first governorship and am looking forward to your new endeavors and reforms. Please do the following to take California out of this recession (semi-Depression?) and once again lead the nation. 1) Regulate and tax cannabis and the industry (California’s largest cash crop); 2) add per-drink tax to hard liquor (50 cents), beer (25 cents), wine (10 cents); 3) tax all tobacco products adding 5 percent tax each year for 10 years. Then reevaluate. The math is clear: These type of taxes are solidly supported by California voters. On a personal side note—smile more; it is not a sign of weakness!

Dian Kiser

Artwork by Rick Sealock

Just a short note to wish you the best and, perhaps, to offer my condolences as you are walking into the mire. I thank you for your willingness to run for this office, to lead at a very difficult juncture in California history. The budget crisis is so far reaching and seems insurmountable. It is tragic.

As a registered nurse working in a very busy medical clinic, I frequently hear from patients who are suffering from stress-related illnesses, voicing their fury regarding layoffs, furloughs, declining school support and performance, library closures, homelessness, decreased mental-health services, home foreclosures, joblessness, etc. The overarching bipartisanship fueling tunnel vision and impeding progress has become ugly and intolerable. What ever happened to the idea of a government created for the people? Please help us by addressing the issues on hand head on, while welcoming varied points of view so as to best arrive at the soundest conclusions and legislation. Perhaps the legislators need to personally share the liability their constituents face when the budget is not passed on time. Legislative accountability is either reflected positively or negatively depending upon the cooperative attitude and willingness to really listen to the pressing arguments and recommendations put forth.

California is such a beautiful and special state. Surely something can be done to prevent its demise.

Marj Allen-Koerber, 63
registered nurse

A born cynic, my natural pessimism hasn’t been reduced any by the long-running hideous wheelings and (raw) dealings of American politicians and their bedmates, the global corporatists, that have brought California and our nation—and by extension, the world—to their knees. I’ve remarked to friends more than once that the late 18th-century French had the right idea, and if I were to invest in any venture these hellish days I’d buy stock in a guillotine factory. Having said that, I’ve also gone way out on a limb by endorsing you as one of the megarare pols for whom I have any respect whatsoever—and for you, I have much. You’re smart, experienced and pragmatic. I think you also actually give a damn.

For your sake, then, and ours, please prove that you do. Help save our once-wonderful state by resurrecting a discarded art: statesmanship.

Mark Drolette
freelance writer

I was a PIO at OAT. (Love those acronyms.) The Office of Appropriate Technology was a department founded on your visionary imagination. Being a public information officer in that office allowed me to promote solar power, wind power, geothermal power and ocean wave power. If you’d had the ability to continue promoting these dynamic power sources, just think where California would be now in the green-energy field. Fast-forward to today. I have updated my résumé and am ready to join your team. I am probably correct in stating you loved OAT and the positive results generated when you were governor. It was your dedication to these green-energy sources that is needed today. Congratulations on your new position.


Patrick Powers
public relations

Artwork by Martin Wickstrom

These are my good wishes for you:

To remember everyone is my teacher.

To accept others as they are.

To look for and appreciate the specialty of everyone.

To pause before making decisions that affect so many.

To be authentic, the example I want to see.

To remain true to my values no matter how others behave.

To ask myself: Am I making a positive contribution to this situation?

To respond calmly.

To be content, even while being criticized and rejected is the mark of real strength.

These are my good wishes for you, Governor Brown.

Joni Roberts, 61

I am glad to have an experienced person as my governor. I want to discuss my point with you, sir. Most of the times political persons elected by the people try to favor specific bunch of peoples who has supported them in their election campaign. They always forgot that they are the representatives of all peoples regardless of which ones supported them or not. I am requesting you to treat everybody with the same rights and not be a representative of your supporters only. With best wishes for your upcoming job.

Dr. Ravi SherGill, 29

Artwork by Mark Stivers

Welcome back to the Sacrament. As a former Catholic, you know that a sacrament is an “outward sign of inward grace,” but without the proper disposition, that gift is blocked. So how can you prepare yourself to receive grace and let it flow through you to inspire the people of California? Forget your seminary training. It taught you to wrestle, endlessly, with ideas and concepts. Right now, California needs solutions. Don’t waste the next four years, helping ivory tower intellectuals pad their résumés. Adopt a Franciscan attitude: Value actual experience over academia. Oh, sure, you may be known as a politician who chats with the kitchen staff at fundraisers, but how often do you include people with real-life problem-solving experience on committees and commissions? Rarely.

Listen: We don’t need any more committees or commissions full of status-oriented theorists or otherwise unemployable former politicians (or their staff). We need innovation. We also need more truth, so practice acts of courageous cross-fertilization, like adding a poet to the Fair Political Practices [Commission], selecting a single mom on CalWORKs to serve on the Public Utilities Commission and including a high-school dropout on the Commission [on] Teacher Credentialing. Do what it takes to gather honest information about the changes this state requires to ground itself in reality about who we are and who we must become. Living from the Sacrament, guide California into a state of grace so that our care for each other, and especially, the least among us, serves as a beacon of what is possible for other states and nations.

Joey Garcia
teacher/SN&R advice columnist

During Brown 1.0, my economics students wanted to label your lifestyle (mattress on the floor, the Plymouth) just a reflection of one person’s idiosyncrasies. Fortunately, the Los Angeles Times published an article entitled “Jerry Brown’s Buddhist Economics.” I used it for years to introduce classes to E.F. Schumacher’s seminal work Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered. That classic has been reissued in a 25th anniversary edition and is more relevant today than ever before. The book provided lessons how cultures considered by the West as “primitive” could sustain a lifestyle more humane and satisfying than those exalting material wealth as the major goal in life. Then the Reagan Revolution’s “voodoo economics” was the opening salvo of greed that has led to today’s disasters. I assumed Schumacher was kaput. Not so! “There is nothing so strong as an idea whose time has come.” Schumacher is more relevant than ever. If we absorb his lessons, our state may once again regain the pride we felt during your father’s administration, adapted to today’s realities. BTW: Is that [Mediterranean] fruit fly still on the ceiling of the old governor’s office? Best wishes to you—if you win, we all will.

Bill Hines, 76
retired teacher

Artwork by Judy Lewloose

On the morning after your election, I was speaking with an older woman whose wisdom and experience I appreciate. She said, “He’s just trying to create his legacy. But I hope he does! Create away, Jerry!” Well, there are at least two things you could do that would guarantee a place in the history books as a great governor. One is virtually impossible, and the other is easy. In addition, the easy one will almost certainly get you into heaven (that may still matter to you).

The virtually impossible one? Well, that would be balancing the state budget. Good luck! I hope you are the right man for the job.

The easy one? Jerry Brown, just think, you could be the first Democrat in years to actually walk your talk on supposed Democratic values. You could, with a stroke (or two) of the pen, recall California’s National Guard from Iraq and Afghanistan. You would deserve (and maybe even receive) the Nobel Peace Prize in the bargain. Even if it’s posthumously. Create away, Jerry!

Thomas Lambie, 61
Grass Valley

Welcome to 2010. It’s been 35 years since you were last elected governor of the most powerful state in the union. A lot has changed since then. Back in those days the average cost of a house was $40,000, gas was 44 cents a gallon and a new car cost $4,000. Now young people use computers to shop, use cell phones to text their friends, watch reality shows, and wonder if college is worth the high costs.

Become an activist for the people of California rather than an actor playing the part. Bring the changes to get California working again. Take the chances that you were afraid to take for political reasons. Tax the people that need to be taxed and avoid the safe political decision. We need a leader than can be decisive and willing to compromise or butt heads when needed.

Congratulations on getting a second chance. I hope you become a noteworthy governor for California.

Patrick Hayashi, 45
university lecturer

Artwork by Dexter Howard

We receive you well and welcome you to govern the state of California with our support! You’ve proven your love for our state by taking on a difficult job.

I am a born-and-raised Californian. My family is deeply rooted in California and its history. My grandfather was a sheepshearer and my grandmother was a fieldworker, both with quite a lively past. They roamed and worked the early land of California. They told me stories that made me love my environment. They gave me a deep appreciation for our state.

Please help our state to grow and fare well again. We need to be revitalized on all fronts both economically and in spirit. Please be as effective as you can in promoting our assets, making new jobs and helping people in need. We are looking to you for leadership and hope you make new history with our recovery.

Carol Geurts
HR technician

California state workers are so happy you won the governor’s race. You are the best choice for the job right now. We all know you will do a great job for California’s future.

Thank you for running for governor again.

J. Carroll
state worker

The re-emergence of California as the place to be is happening all over again. I read this sentence to my daughter and she said, “Don’t write that, we don’t need more people here.” Anyway, voters got rid of Republican “minority” rule so the annual state budget impasse is a thing of the past. The state is rapidly recovering from the economic downturn of the past few years, and crime is down.

You can feel the exuberance in the air, on the streets, in stores, in the coffee shops. The weather is great—California has a climate fit for everyone, along with mountains, beaches and in between. The city and music scenes in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz and Venice/Santa Monica are vibrant and creative. The people who migrated to California in the ’70s and ’80s have become the movers and shakers. The young people of 2010 remind me of their predecessors of the ’60s, though more aware.

Yes, California is still the leader of the pack.

Ron Lowe
Nevada City

Artwork by Emilee Powers

General JerryBrownobi: Years ago, you served our state in the Republican Wars; now we beg you to help us in our struggle against the cruel and ignorant Empire. I regret that we are unable to present our state’s request to you in person, but our state has fallen under attack and we’re afraid our mission to bring you to Washington has failed. We’ve placed information vital to the survival of the Democratic rebellion into the memory systems of this R2 unit. The Democrats will know how to retrieve it. You must see this droid safely delivered to Washington. This is our most desperate hour. Help us, JerryBrownobi—you’re our only hope.

May your wisdom, vision and experience lead California and the nation from these dark economic times!

Mike Namba

It’s just a thought, but why not save a billion in annual prison operating costs and at least $6 billion in construction costs by opening 50,000 correctional contract beds? Annual contract bed operating costs are $22,500 less than a standard prison bed and nothing for construction. California has less than 3 percent of its in-state prison inmates in contract facilities, compared to the federal prison system with 17 percent. Fifty thousand contract beds could be used to house parole violators and wobblers serving terms of four months or less in prison only because of the county jail shortage.

Also, why not fix the parole revocation system and save $410 million annually and avoid spending $2.8 billion for prison construction? While you are at it, why not look carefully at possibly closing San Quentin [State Prison] and perhaps saving a billion—after moving death row to a Valley prison? You could apply the [Assembly Bill] 900 bond funds to the deficit! You would be very, very popular with taxpayers!

Rich McKone, 76
parole agent III, retired

Artwork by Manuel Rios

Congrats on the big win; I’m excited to have you as my governor—my first time, California’s second. The state of California is in a big fiscal crisis right now, and I truly only wish you the best to solve it day by day. I know you can, that’s why I voted for you. I ask that every Californian understand that this fiscal mess will not go away as quickly as everyone wants it to. Yes, progress is necessary, but it doesn’t grow in hours or days; it grows by weeks, months and years. As a community-college student, I ask that you examine the higher-educational system a little more closely. In order to make our state grow again, put money back in our educational institutions. If anything, state and government-assisted financial aid will really encourage more students to go to school. No one should be cheated out of an education because of money. So please, as a current college student and transfer, provide money for our institutions so us kids aren’t broke by the time we graduate. And hopefully we can make California a better place again for everyone!

Giovanni Martinez, 21
student assistant

1. Keep abortion legal and unrestricted. 2. Send the illegal aliens back to where they came from! 3. Make welfare recipients work! 4. Keep your promise: No new taxes! 5. Reduce taxes! 6. The schools are getting enough money. Cut “physical education” out and spend money on the three R’s.

Dan M. Jacobson, 74

We’re old enough to remember that “small is beautiful,” and with the current state of the state, small is necessary.

A constitutional convention could start by minimizing the state Legislature. Instead of two bodies, why not just one? The current Legislature is so slow at the important tasks, such as passing the budget, that reducing it to one chamber of 40 members could speed up legislation. This would set a good example for other departments.

To protect the public’s ability to give input, bills could be posted online for a minimum number of days before a vote. We know you can’t change the constitution, but you can offer this suggestion for the public to consider.


Neil Huddleson and Barbara DesChamps
retired engineer, 80, and publisher, 63

Artwork by Marie-Therese Brown

As your age-mate and fellow pragmatic idealist, I’m mighty impressed by your having gotten a second crack at that thankless job. Also envious that you take it up at a time of life when “you’ve got nothing to lose” and can be morally forthright, bold and creative about doing it. I’m counting on you to do what you can to restore dignity to our state government, support the legislative majority’s efforts to serve the people’s interests, maintain and reinvigorate public services, and protect the people’s property.

But we need something bigger from you: that you convene a statewide conversation—something without precedent, including as nearly as possible every single resident of California—about what kind of society we want, and what each person is willing to do to help achieve it. A powerful lesson in participatory civic responsibility, whose conclusions are recorded, gathered, digested by county and statewide commissioners, and presented to the political class and public at large as a guide to legislation and public life. That, rather than a constitutional convention, is what can fix this broken state, make us all proud to be participants in its history and make you the best governor any state ever had.

David Sweet
UC history professor, retired

I know you have tough decisions to make. I know you will have to wield power skillfully in order to get fractious California legislators to come to difficult agreements. I respect your ability to lead, to govern and to think critically. I believe this is your moment to be great.

Please tell us as soon as possible what your priorities and visions are for a better, more sustainable state government. Balance the need for fiscal discipline with a consideration of who is most deserving of government’s ongoing support and protection. I know you will strive to do no additional harm. Leverage the resources at your fingertips—including state employees like me—to restore and improve California’s environment, education system, infrastructure, social support and revenue stream.

You are poised to accomplish much. I think you will. Thank you for wanting to take on these challenges.

Kathryn Dominic
state employee

With 12 percent unemployment and a budget disaster, you’re going to have to raise taxes on those of us lucky enough to still have jobs. Because if you don’t, sooner or later you’re going to start thinking about all that money that goes into education, and you can’t touch that. Kindergarten through community college—that system is California’s golden goose. And each year that goose lays thousands of highly skilled, highly motivated, hardworking, taxpaying eggs. Any cuts to education will increase the number of undereducated, unemployable Californians, and too many of them find their way to the big house, which is already devouring too many tax dollars. So invest now or pay later. Don’t cook the goose, Jerry. Raise taxes and leave education alone.

William Doonan, 45
college professor