Good morning, California.

“Fires, droughts, rain, floods. Those are real problems, not just government kinds of problems.”—Gov. Jerry Brown, to the Sacramento Press Club, on what he’ll deal with when he heads to his ranch in Colusa County. Along with “real rattlesnakes.”

A conversation with Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown, center, with Miriam Pawel and George Skelton

In the final days of his fourth and final term as California’s chief executive, Gov. Jerry Brown spoke candidly at the Sacramento Press Club on Tuesday, where he offered some parting thoughts on how to best govern the Golden State, as CALmatters’ Ben Christopher writes.

For example: To hold office in this massive state is to walk a fine line.

Brown: “Politics is a difficult business. You need to raise massive sums of money from people who all want something. And if you give it to them directly you’ll go to jail. But if you don’t give it to them in some form, you won’t be elected to the next office.”

Also, patronage matters: “In politics, you should take care of your friends,” Brown told the Press Club. “Loyalty is important. Keep the meritocracy within limits.”

West Coast presidential contenders? Brown had advice for them, too: Move to New York, where a politician can get a three-hour jump on the news cycle.

“Proximity is a key issue that works against Californians.”

On what he’ll miss, and not miss, once he leaves office on Jan. 7: “I like sparring with the press, I like raising money, I like attacking my opponents, I like being attacked by my opponents,” he said. “I like it all. I like it all.”

 

Brown on commuting death sentences

Gov. Jerry Brown didn’t directly answer the direct question about whether he intends to commute the sentences of California’s Death Row inmates, but suggested he won’t.

  • Six former governors signed a New York Times op-ed over the weekend urging that Brown as one of his final acts as governor commute the sentences of the 739 inmates awaiting execution in California.

LA Times columnist George Skelton at the Sacramento Press Club asked Brown whether he would take that dramatic action.

Brown bobbed and weaved: “I’m not here to make news. I’m here to enlighten you.”

But he did say this: “The death penalty is going through the courts. It’s going to go for another couple of years. It is something that will ultimately always be resolved through initiative process. People know what they want on that topic. As long as people want it, they’re going to vote for it. I think at some point they’re probably going to vote against it.”

How CA wildfire policies have failed

Aerial view of Shasta County after the Carr Fire

 One in 10 structures, or more than 1.1 million homes and other buildings, lie within the highest-risk fire zones, the L.A. Times reports, while a flurry of other reports suggest government isn’t helping enough with California’s wildfire crisis.

  • Four megafires in 13 months have killed 118 people, destroyed 27,000 properties and scorched 700,000 acres in California, 1,100 square miles.

The disasters drive home the need for action. But a sobering report Tuesday from the nonprofit journalism organization ProPublica details how competing agendas at the local, state and federal government levels set the stage for July’s terrifying 39-day Carr Fire.

ProPublica’s Keith Schneider: “Every level of government understood the dangers and took few, if any, of the steps needed to prevent catastrophe.”

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports, meanwhile, that the California Public Utilities Commission has failed to implement legislation passed unanimously in 2016 that required San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric to prepare annual plans for reducing fire threats and identify who specifically would be responsible for implementing them.

  • It’s not just California, btw: A dozen climate-driven disasters across the country topped $1 billion in damages this year, Inside Climate News reported Tuesday. Click here for a map that’ll make you glad you don’t live Back East.

Oil giant accused of meddling in California

Traffic on Highway 101

Expect Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom to take up where Brown leaves off on oil and climate change, and then some—particularly given the recent story-behind-the-story on Trump’s efforts to roll back key regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, via The New York Times.

Oil companies pushed the Trump administration into relaxing gasoline mileage standards, and attacking California’s efforts to use its law to limit auto emissions, The Times reported.

  • The report was based in part on emails obtained in Wisconsin pointing to Marathon Petroleum’s nationwide lobbying effort, and a memo written by the Ohio-based oil giant, which owns refineries in Wilmington and Martinez.

Marathon’s memo: “Who should decide what cars and trucks consumers should buy, consumers themselves or unelected bureaucrats in Sacramento, California or Washington, D.C.?”

Fuel economy was set to rise to 54 miles per gallon under Obama Administration regulations. Trump is seeking to roll back that rule, to 37 mpg.

  • “It helps explain why we’re in this otherwise ridiculous fight,” Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols told me, calling the industry attack “part of a picture of deception and manipulation” that shows how “big oil is blocking progress on climate change.”
  • Gov. Jerry Brown, Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra and Nichols denounced the Trump administration’s plan in an October press conference.

Marathon spokesman Chuck Rice: “Currently, the Administration and the state of California are conducting negotiations regarding future efficiency standards, and we would encourage a resolution that is mutually beneficial to state and federal interests, consumers and the local communities where we are privileged to operate.”

What’s ahead: The state is preparing to sue once Trump puts the regulations into place, presumably early in 2019.

Commentary at CALmatters

Kent Scheidegger, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation: Anti-death penalty activists are calling on Jerry Brown to commute all death sentences in California. Like all governors, Brown is vested with a broad power to grant clemency. With that broad power comes the responsibility to use it for its intended purpose and not to block laws where the governor merely disagrees with the people’s decision. The responsible choice, the respectful choice, the democratic choice is to just say no to blanket commutation.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: The passage rate for California’s licensing test for lawyers has plummeted to an all-time low and law school deans, worried about losing accreditation, are urging the state Supreme Court to lower the test’s minimum passing score.

CALmatters' new CEO

CALmatters CEO Neil Chase

Neil Chase, an experienced leader of news organizations and a corporate advisor on digital brands and audience, will join CALmatters as Chief Executive Officer, the board of directors announced Tuesday.

Chase, the executive editor of the Mercury News and East Bay Times, will assume the CEO position from David Lesher, CALmatters co-founder, who will continue to serve as editor. For more, click here.

Please email or call me with tips, suggestions and insights, [email protected]org, 916.201.6281. Shawn Hubler, [email protected]edits WhatMatters. Thanks for reading, please tell a friend and sign up here.

See you tomorrow.