The cracks in the 50-year-old Oroville Dam, and the massive spillage and massive evacuations that followed, shed light on the true legacy of Jerry Brown. The governor, most recently in Newsweek, has cast himself as both the Subcomandante Zero of the anti-Trump resistance and savior of the planet. But when Brown finally departs Sacramento next year, he will be leaving behind a state that is in danger of falling apart both physically and socially.
Jerry Brown’s California suffers the nation’s highest housing prices, largest percentage of people in or near poverty of any state and an exodus of middle-income, middle-aged people. Job growth is increasingly concentrated in low-wage sectors. By contrast, Brown’s father, Pat, notes his biographer, Ethan Rarick, helped make the 20th century “The California Century,” with our state providing “the template of American life.” There was then an “American Dream” across the nation, but here we called it the “California Dream.” His son is driving a stake through the heart of that very California Dream.
Nothing so illustrates the gap between the two Browns than infrastructure spending. Oroville Dam’s delayed maintenance, coupled with a lack of major new water storage facilities to serve a growing population, reflects a pattern of neglect. Just this year alone, the massive water losses at Oroville Dam and other storage overflows have almost certainly offset a significant portion of the hard-won drought water savings achieved by our state’s cities. A sensible state policy would have stored more water from before the drought, and would now be maximizing the current bounty.
Once a national and global leader in infrastructure, according to a report last year by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, California now spends the least percentage of its state budget on infrastructure of any state. In the critical Sacramento-San Francisco Delta, an ancient levee and dike…