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Gov. Brown's First-Year Performance Review

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Governor Jerry Brown promised a balanced budget - even though that would involve painful decisions for Democrats and Republicans.  But he found a Capitol building full of gridlock and partisan division.
We look back at how the governor fared in his first year back at the Capitol by giving him a performance review - just like you might get at your job.  I have mine right here - no, you can't see what my boss wrote.  And I also have two political consultants ready to evaluate him - Democrat Jason Kinney, who worked for Governor Gray Davis; and Republican Aaron McLear, who served Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
So let's get started with the first category:

Job Knowledge

Kinney: "Wow - is there an A++?"

That's the Democrat, Jason Kinney.

Kinney: "It would be hard to find someone who's sort of seen it all and done it all, but is also creative enough to handle the unique hyper-partisanship of the modern era."

Republican Aaron McLear's rating is mixed.

McLear: "I'm not sure if we've had a governor in the history of this state with more knowledge and know-how and ability to solve problems.  He certainly understands government."

But …

McLear: "He's just not been able to translate that into action.  He's not been able to translate that into solving things."

As in … no budget deal, no pension reform, no jobs package.

Okay, next category:

Productivity and Cost Effectiveness.

Kinney says Brown brought his legendary frugality back to the Capitol by cracking down on government cell phone and car use.  And he cut his own staff by 25 percent.

Kinney: "He's asking each staffer in his office to do more than they've ever had to do before.  And so far, it's worked for him."

But has it?  McLear says … maybe not.

McLear: "I think there's a point in which that you start to jeopardize transparency for austerity.  I think he went at times a bit far in cutting back to the point where he wasn't explaining to the people - through the press - exactly what it is that he was doing.  He wasn't explaining his agenda."

All right, let's move on to category number three:

Quality of Work

Kinney: "On state government's first priority and his first campaign promise, which was fixing the budget and the revenue mess, I think he's far exceeded expectations."

Democrat Jason Kinney points to Brown cutting the state's $26 billion budget deficit in half - and says his proposed pension overhaul was another high point.  But, Kinney acknowledges…

Kinney: "We're betting on the come here.  These things have not completely been accomplished.  So the proof will be in the product at the end of 2012."

McLear: "First of all, to be fair, this is year one of a four, maybe eight-year administration. So he still certainly has time to do things."

But Republican Aaron McLear says the governor couldn't get enough GOP support in the legislature for his budget proposal or jobs package.

McLear: "The approach he took - the strategy that he took - this year obviously did not work.  I don't think that by any measure you can say that his first year was a success in and of itself."

And the final category in Governor Jerry Brown's first-year performance review:

Teamwork and Communication

Here, Kinney says, there might be room for improvement.

Kinney: "When it comes down to a complete negotiation, a negotiation on details, we haven't had that kind of perfect product yet that's come out of the other end.  We don't have results yet.  But I think they're coming."

And he praises Brown for bringing the "strange bedfellows" of business and labor together on his upcoming tax initiative.  McLear acknowledges the governor genuinely tried to work across the aisle.  But …

McLear: "He came in saying that he was going to be the person who brought Republicans and Democrats together to solve problems.  And now, less than a year later, he's saying he's no longer talking to Republicans.  That's not a good thing."

Well, that's the review.  Exceeds expectations, says the Democrat.  Needs improvement, says the Republican.  And both agree the picture will be a lot clearer next year.

By the way, reporters asked Brown to grade himself at an end-of-year news conference last week.  The governor's response: students don't grade themselves.

Brown: "I think I took this semester on pass/fail anyway, so in that case, I've clearly passed."

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