A wide smile crossed my face Monday evening, Jan. 6, watching news coverage of the launch of Gov. Jerry Brown’s unprecedented fourth-term, a decidedly low-key inaugural event.
The next morning, I wore another prominent smile as I read The Tribune’s coverage of Brown’s inaugural speech, which also served as his State of the State address. His list of green priorities hit the jackpot for me.
I’m certainly pleased that our governor is pushing California toward dramatic and attainable green goals: Brown wants California to have 50 percent of its electrical energy produced by renewable sources by 2050.
I was also interested in details of his fourth term because I recall my few hours of personal involvement with Gov. Brown nearly 36 years ago. I had the privilege and pleasure of being Brown’s driver in June, 1979 when the governor, in his first term, attended a big anti-Diablo Canyon rally on the Army airstrip behind Cuesta College.
According to an article published in the Tribune by David Middlecamp the rally drew an estimated 30,000 and Brown — who had to promise to oppose the nuclear plant before rally organizers allowed him to take the microphone — was the keynote speaker.
Musical talent on hand included: Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, Peter Yarrow and Jesse Colin Young, along with local musicians.
While the event was winding down, I was told the governor needed a driver to transport him in his four-door Plymouth sedan back to San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport. I got the assignment, and with the governor riding shotgun, I headed the auto south on Highway 1.
Brown had been energized by the cheering throng and he opened up on a number of issues including the potential pitfalls of building a nuclear power plant near an earthquake fault. (The Hosgri Fault was the only known undersea fissure near the proposed plant at that time.)
One topic we did not discuss was Brown’s relationship with rock star Linda Ronstadt. A professional associate of mine was a longtime close acquaintance of Ronstadt’s, and I regularly sent clippings from the Telegram-Tribune to her condo in Malibu. Each photocopied article referenced the Hosgri fault’s potential danger vis-a-vis Diablo.
We knew that the governor spent occasional weekends with Ronstadt, and she reported to us that Brown read and discussed each news article with her. Hence, in hindsight, we believe we can take some credit for his appearance at the enormous antinuclear rally.
When the governor and I arrived in San Luis Obispo, Brown asked if there was a place where he could get “a really good omelet.”
Sure, I said, and pulled the Plymouth up in front of Louisa’s Place on Higuera Street. Brown opened his own door and we entered the restaurant. A waitress carrying a tray full of salt and pepper shakers witnessed the governor of California walking into her eatery and, apparently stunned, simply let go of the tray.
In an instant, Brown was on his hands and knees (alongside me) picking up the mess.
“Somebody grab a broom!” I recall Brown shouting out. The manager quickly came and told the governor it was OK, to have a seat; but Brown manned the broom and dustpan until the deed was done.
After the meal, I drove Brown to the airport and waited with him until the private single-engine plane (a small Cessna) was ready to fly him back to Sacramento. At that time, Brown had a full head of thick black hair — and he was constantly pushing a shock out of his face — as is evident in the photo I took.
Those who remember the 70s may recall that Brown’s detractors called him “Governor Moonbeam,” mocking the governor’s idealism and his passionate advocacy for renewable energy at a time when few political leaders were talking about solar and wind energy.
Brown was ahead of his time in the 1970s, and based on his vision for the future — juxtaposed with the disturbing, ill-informed resistance to climate change by popular media and political actors — he still is.
Speaking of Solar
The governor’s push for renewable electrical sources — he wants to greatly increase the number of electric vehicles on the road — raises the question: How is Cambria doing when it comes to renewable energy?
In particular, how many photovoltaic solar panels are to be found on Cambria’s rooftops?
In order to install solar in Cambria, a homeowner or business owner is required to get a permit from the county’s planning and building department.
According to county staffer Airlin Singewald, since 2006 there have been 47 “finalized permits” for photovoltaic solar in Cambria. Six permits have been issued in which projects have not been completed; two permits are “under review;” and one permit was issued for which the solar was never installed.
So, over the past nine years 47 of the estimated 2,762 homes in Cambria had the wherewithal to install solar energy. That’s a good start. Perhaps because Cambria has zeroed in on water issues, renewable energy sources have been put on the back burner.
Hopefully though, that back burner will be heated by the sun one of these days.