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The new regime: Brains are in, bald is beautiful and no more smoking tent

Out with the old, in with the new, goes the timeworn New Year’s riff.

In California’s Capitol – the White Sepulcher, to borrow Harry Truman’s description of the White House – the phrase couldn’t be truer.

What are the differences between the current 72-year-old seminary-attending occupant of the corner office and his 63-year-old Austria-born action movie hero predecessor? In a word: Myriad.

Even the word highlights the dissimilarities between Jerry Brown and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Democratic governor might actually say “myriad” and, quite possibly, use it correctly without an article in front of it.

After three days at the helm of California’s rickety ship of state, the septuagenarian iconoclast is already steering a far different course than the man who declared war on the “car tax” and tore up the state’s credit card.

On the most superficial level, one obvious thing that’s vanished from the corner office in 2011 is hair. Burnt Sienna. Brooding mahogany. All gone. Less is more. Bald is beautiful. What other reason explains John Laird being named resources cabinet secretary?

Cowboy boots. Mood rings. Designer suits. All gone.

It’s now kinda cool to be old. Seventy-two probably isn’t the new 52, but Brown’s frenetic energy makes it seem that way. A related development is that experience, logging some laps around the track, is a plus, not a pejorative. Older folks are more likely to listen to the old hands.

Governor’s office staff also appears to be out. Particularly videographers. Didn’t have those in the ’70s, why would they be needed now? Also out: human resources personnel. Apparently the 39th governor will just pop by the Office Max on 17th and J Street on his way into work to buy pencils and carbon paper.

And there’s another difference. The downtown Hyatt and the suite occupied by the former governor is out; Midtown urban loft living is in. So is walking to work, rather than flying on a private jet.

After his inauguration, Brown went to his loft, kitty-corner from Memorial Auditorium where he took his oath of office, opened the window and waved to passersby, no doubt giving conniptions to the California Highway Patrol security detail assigned to him.  Brown and his wife, Anne Gust, were out walking Brown’s sister’s Corgi later that evening.

Those will likely be only the first of many conniptions the CHP will experience from a governor who breezes through Capitol hallways without having them sealed off, as his predecessor did. A governor who walks in the front door of his first floor office instead of entering through the private elevator that comes up from the Capitol’s basement parking lot.
Schnitzel is yesterday. Now it’s organic greens, usually eaten off someone else’s plate. Bean dip. Mexican food. Mom-and-pop Asian joints. Lazy Susan’s – makes it easier to get at other people’s food – are all also in the ascendancy.

Cigar smoking? Not so much. Smoking Tent? Hasta la vista.

Hummers and SUVs. Think Crown Victoria.

Geographically, Hollywood is out and Oakland is in. Brown’s victory party was at the beautifully restored Fox Theater. Students from the two charter schools he created as mayor participated in his inauguration.

Hollywood stars – including Oprah and Jay Leno – are also history. Policy wonks now rule. St. Ignatius and Josiah Royce rock way harder than Wag Bennett and Danny DeVito. Treadmills trump free weights. Didactics over sound bites. Improvisation over intricately crafted production.

Carefully scripted media events? Now it’s free-form political mosh pit. Similarly, schedules are out. Just ask the Department of Justice’s legislative unit, whom Brown wanted to meet shortly after being elected attorney general. He was seven hours late.

Also on the outs, at least at the moment, are tweets, press releases and the governor’s official website. Perhaps, as Brown famously said, he simply prefers to wait for “reality to emerge.”

Frugality and lowered expectations are the watchwords, not “fantastic” and “extraordinary.” “California” returns to its traditional pronunciation.

Leaving Brown for a moment and checking the other branches of government, in California’s justice system guys are looking like Warren Burger in the buggy-whip era, but heading the court and running the Department of Justice are young, ethnically diverse women.

In the Assembly, 28 newbies are in and 28 “veterans” are out. Majority vote budgets are in and Republican super majority vote leverage is kaput.  

Eight of the 10 new senators are “graduates” of the lower house.

Republican statewide officeholders? Out. All the way out.  

In some cases, though, as the French proverb says: The more things change the more they stay the same.

Blue state before. Blue state still. Democrats are still along the coast and Republicans inland. Six percent of the population still occupies 66 percent of California’s acreage. Chronic imbalance between state tax revenues and spending commitments? Oh yeah.

And returning to the Capitol’s corner office, one family dynasty may be out but another one is in.

“I’ll be back” still works because, well, for good or ill, Jerry Brown is back.


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