Jerry Brown Lore

A visit to the California Automobile Museum in Sacramento takes some people back in time to a happier era where the 1955 Corvette and the 1958 Cadillac El Dorado, signified coolness and luxury. Other museum visitors date a little farther back and remember the elegant 1934 Pierce Arrow, or the 1942 Lincoln Zephyr.

And then there is the timeless classic 1974 Plymouth Satellite, once driven by California’s “boy Governor,” Jerry Brown. It sits near the 1977 AMC Pacer and the 1971 Star Streak Motorhome — two other examples of 1970’s debaucheries.

1974 Plymouth Satellite

1974 Plymouth Satellite

…notice the personalized license plates: “1GOVS74.”

The auto museum is not so crazy about the former governor. The placard next to the famous pale blue car reads, “Jerry Brown was probably the most controversial Governor the state has ever had. His appointment of Adriana Gianturco as a Director of Transportation, and the subsequent sale of large tracts of land controlled by Cal Trans to balance the budget dealt a major blow to auto travel in the state.”

Brown picked the unremarkable pale blue car out of the state motor pool instead of being chauffeured in the traditional limousine, but then Brown also refused to live in the Governor’s mansion, opting for his own austere, bachelor-style apartment, sleeping on a mattress on the floor, so the tale is told.

“Governor Moonbeam,” as he was nicknamed, garnered as much attention as any Hollywood movie star. This was only enhanced when his relationship with singer Linda Ronstadt took center stage and possibly ruined his Presidential bid. Tales of Ronstadt roller skating in the halls of the Governor’s mansion my be folklore, but the unlikely couple, the unlikely governor and unlikely Presidential candidate seemed to attract the unusual.

Brown’s pale blue Plymouth was actually not one car, but one of a pair — one car for the northern part of the state and the other kept in Southern California. Brown did concede to using a Highway Patrol officer driver.

With Brown running again for Governor nearly thirty-years later, many in the state wonder if Jerry Brown Part Deux, will be a deja vu all over again. Eccentricities aside, as Governor, Brown empowered public employee unions, vehemently opposed the death penalty and appointed many judges who also opposed it. Brown decimated plans for Interstate 5 and is the cause of the “interstate” freeway being only two lanes in many crucial locations. He opposed Prop 13, but after voters passed it, he became a politically expeditious supporter. As a Presidential candidate, he campaigned on universal health care, “Buddhist Economics,” a “living wage,” and even considered Jesse Jackson as a running mate.

More recently, As Attorney General, Brown tried to kill the Voter ID ballot initiative by titling it “Limits On Voting Initiative Statute,” renamed the  California Jobs Initiative to, “Suspends Air Pollution Control Laws Requiring Major Polluters to Report and Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions That Cause Global Warming Until Unemployment Drops Below Specified Level for Full Year.”

Jerry Brown the moderate, remains to be seen. Brown is nothing, if not a survivor adept at personal reinvention. And while Brown may be frugal with his own budget, he has done exceedingly well at spending other people’s money. While Governor of California 1975-1983, the state budget increased more than 120%.

To cut costs however, during his campaign, the California Automobile Museum can probably arrange to loan to the frugal Jerry Brown, one 1974 Plymouth Satellite.

-Katy Grimes

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