The day after he was elected for another stint as governor of California, Jerry Brown declared, "If you want frugality, I'm your man."
His bargain-basement campaign proved it. And as reporters sat on wooden benches at his austere campaign offices in Oakland, Brown said he'll sift through the deficit-plagued state budget for ways to save money before even thinking about raising taxes. "Get ready for hard surfaces and wooden benches," he said.
Two days later, he rejected renting office space for his transition, deciding instead to work out of the Department of Justice, which he heads as attorney general, and his warehouse campaign office in Oakland.
Can the plain, blue Plymouth sedan, the rolling symbol of frugality in Brown's first governorship, be far behind?
Many believed that the Plymouth and other symbols of Brown 1.0, such as eliminating state-provided briefcases for bureaucrats, were just posturing. But Brown is frugal – or cheap – on a personal level. As governor, he rarely carried cash and mooched off others at restaurants and bars. He once sat stonily after speaking to a Jesse Jackson rally in Cleveland as Jackson directly asked him to donate money to his organization.
The wooden benches in Oakland were reminiscent of the benches he and other Catholic seminarians occupied – and similar to those he installed in the reception area of the governor's Capitol office, replacing soft sofas that encouraged sleep-in demonstrations.
A memo that circulated through the state Department of General Services in 1976 explained his official frugality.
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