Gov. Jerry Brown's Tête-à-Tête With Prop. 1 Opponents

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It'll wind up being just a footnote in the 2014 California general election campaign that ended Tuesday night: A few days ago, Gov. Jerry Brown held a campaign rally of sorts in Williams, a farm town on Interstate 5, about 50 miles northwest of downtown Sacramento. As the Sacramento Bee noted, the lack of a competitive campaign against the Republican candidate for governor gave Brown the luxury of just hanging out on a Saturday afternoon in a part of Colusa County his ancestors helped settle in the 1850s.

“We haven’t had that many rallies,” the Bee quotes Brown as telling a gathering in a local park. “But I don’t think we’ve needed them.”

But before he spoke, Brown had a little unscripted meeting with No on 1, the small group that represents the only organized opposition to the $7.5 billion water bond on Tuesday's ballot. (That's the video above.) They've opposed the bond on the basis of: a) cost; b) concerns that the bond will go to pay for dams that will harm fish and wildlife while not significantly improving the state's water supply; and c) fears that hundreds of millions of dollars from the measure will go to purchase water for habitat restoration that will ultimately be exported to farm and city users in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.

Brown, of course, has made Proposition 1 the centerpiece of his election effort this year. His campaign organization has raised more than $16 million to pass Prop. 1 and Prop. 2 -- the latter a measure to expand the state's rainy day fund. The pitch is "Prop. 1 saves water. Prop. 2 saves money."


Anyway, back to Brown's meeting with the citizens: Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, field director for No on 1 and executive director of an environmental group called Restore the Delta, told the governor that the water bond won't really fix anything.

"You know what, we're going to have the same problems whether it passes or not, and we know that," Barrigan-Parrilla says.

Brown responds: "We're going to have big problems. We've got big problems. We're going to have a lot to argue about" as the process unfolds of deciding where to spend major chunks of the bond money.

He stops as he walks away and has what an ungenerous person might see as the tiniest moment of meanness.

Looking at signs opposing the Delta tunnels, the controversial and immensely costly water conveyance plan he's championed, Brown asks, "Who's paying for all those 'No on 1' signs?" Here's the rest of the exchange:

Barrigan-Parrilla: The 'No on 1' signs? We've got about 20 donors. We've raised a whole $100,000.
Brown: That's pretty interesting. Of course, we have a little more money on our side.
Barrigan-Parrilla: Yeah, you do! Big ag, big unions ...
Brown: Big everybody. Well, I'm a big guy, so I get big things. That's the way it works.