James Folmer

I’m going to miss Jerry Brown. He is an interesting mix of a strong fiscal conservative and progressive politician at the same time.

When he was elected governor in 1974, he drove a blue Plymouth, refused to live in the new mansion, dated Linda Ronstadt and people called him Gov. Moonbeam.

Now, with a head as bald as a cue ball, he is about to end his fourth term as governor.

With the California economy humming and budget predictions fat and happy, he has stood firm in continuing to boost the rainy-day reserve to prepare for the next inevitable crash. It stands at $13.5 billion.

However, California coffers lost more than $100 billion in 2007-08 when the Great Recession slammed into the state like a tsunami. In 2008-09, it dropped another $83 billion. The Golden State has a long way to go to become recession-proof.

I first remember talking to Jerry Brown at San Diego State in the early 1970s when he first ran for governor. I asked him how he was going to pay for his liberal ideas. He took a 22-year-old college journalist’s question seriously.

He talked about looking for efficiencies and finding the right formula. Perhaps it was that line of thinking that led to cap-and-trade.

I expected to see him during a presidential campaign at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., while I was completing my master’s from Northwestern. He was late again.

After 15 minutes, I went downstairs to go work on another story and discovered a picket line Brown had refused to cross. I was tempted to accept a campaign button — no words, just a brown button. My dedication to objectivity precluded that.

When I was a reporter for the Vista Press, I saw him at Lake San Marcos, a rich enclave next to the city. He was two hours late and the hosts had ice sculptures, seafood snacks and free champagne — an irresistible temptation for a 24-year-old guy.

When he arrived, I was a tad tipsy. I said to him in front of the melted sculptures, “There are 400,000 people who live in North San Diego County. Why haven’t you had any public appearances?”

“Well, maybe I should,” he said, disarmingly. He never did.

I saw him few times when he was governor at political reporter gatherings, which I attended regularly in La Jolla.

Gavin Newsom or John Cox? Either way, I hope the winner carries on Brown’s legacy of fiscal restraint.

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