With the inauguration of Jerry Brown as the state’s 39th governor, there is a chance for the leaders of California’s government to take a step back, think carefully and address some of the issues that have troubled the state for years.  In his inaugural speech, Brown stressed a need to stop politics from turning into “mere spectacle” and regaining the “trust of the people.” Considering the dysfunction that has flowed out of Sacramento, political wannabes such as Meg Whitman, and pundits statewide, it’s reassuring to see that Governor Brown recognizes the disappointment many voters feel towards the state’s government.

[media-credit id=20177 align=”alignleft” width=”190″][/media-credit]However, Brown’s speech didn’t focus only on platitudes and ideology. He made it clear that he had a detailed plan for moving forward. Concerning the crushing state debt, Brown said that he wanted to clarify the budget process, removing the “smoke and mirrors” in addition to returning “decisions and authority to cities and counties and schools.” He further stressed the need to balance education funding with state debt, but refused to let education suffer, even in times of financial hardship, saying “after years of cutback, I am determined to enhance our public schools.” Impressively, Brown outlined hard numbers while discussing his drive for alternative energy, saying, “I have set a goal of 20,000 megawatts of renewable energy by 2020.”  Considering that Brown could have used his inauguration speech like many others, as a vehicle for hopeful speculation and meaningless clichés, it was inspiring to see that he has wasted no time in outlining a strong plan for fixing California.

Brown’s commitment to clarity and action, along with his austere image and straight-to-the-point attitude, could prove to be exactly what California needs to get out of the financial and political quagmire it has wallowed in for the past several years. Voters in California have a paradoxical tendency to vote for increased public funding and decreased taxation simultaneously, making it increasingly difficult to create a balanced budget. Both sides of the political spectrum fight to fund their pet projects and cut taxes to their power bases and it will take a figure like Brown, who isn’t afraid to say no — even to his core supporters — to get California back on track.

Replacing Brown as attorney general is Kamala Harris, who won an extremely close race against Republican Steve Cooley. An energetic figure, Harris has quickly proven that she loves the limelight and I worry that if she isn’t careful to let her record speak for her, she risks coming off as conceited, damaging the reputation of an office that is typically above political bickering. Brown gave a great example of how the attorney general’s office should be run and hopefully Harris will quickly settle in and start working on achieving results. She has many opportunities to do good for both the state and her democratic supporters, and I hope that she doesn’t waste this chance on showboating.