Monday, January 3, 2011

Inauguration week in Sacramento - a look back, a look ahead

It's a new year and there's a sense of "back to the future" in Sacramento.  Jerry Brown will be inaugurated this morning as California's new Governor at 11 a.m.  and is even taking up residence in an apartment within walking distance of the Capital, just as he did the last time around.  

I first met Jerry Brown in Santa Barbara in 1989, shortly after working for state Senator Gary K. Hart's campaign for Congress. We talked back then about how to get young people more involved in politics.  

In Brown's 1975 inaugural address, dug up recently by KQED's John Myers, he begins by noting the lessons learned from the last election, namely, that "More than half the people who could have voted, refused, apparently believing that what we do here has so little impact on their lives that they need not pass judgment on it. In other words, the biggest vote of all in November was a vote of no confidence. So our first order of business is to regain the trust and confidence of the people we serve." 

Although turnout in the November 2, 2010 election was higher than it's been in the past 16 years, it's still the case that less than half of Californians who were eligible to participate did in fact vote. I'm hoping election reform and expanding voter participation will also be on his agenda in this go-around.

Gov. Jerry Brown does in fact have a longstanding interest in election and political reform.  He served as Secretary of State, California's chief elections officer, before being elected Governor, and championed the Political Reform Act of 1974, which established campaign finance disclosure laws for California.  

Meanwhile tomorrow, across town, another constitutional officer will be sworn in for another term.  Secretary of State Debra Bowen will take her oath of office on Tuesday at 10 a.m. in the Secretary of State's auditorium with a live webcast.  I plan to attend and am eager to hear what will be on Secretary Bowen's agenda.

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