Former Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. said Friday it is time Republicans stopped trying to blame him for the state’s crime problem and took responsibility themselves for trying to solve it.
The former governor, who is the new chairman of the California Democratic Party, told a political action committee of the California Medical Assn. in Anaheim that his Republican successor, George Deukmejian, who ran on a law-and-order platform, has had more than 6 years to show whether his anti-crime plan is effective.
“He’s appointed half the judges. He’s appointed a majority of the Supreme Court. You’ve got a Reagan-appointed Supreme Court of the United States. When does it become a Republican responsibility for all this crime?” Brown asked.
“You can’t keep blaming it on a Democrat who isn’t there any more. At some point, you have to stand up . . . and say something is wrong.”
Appearing with his GOP counterpart, Republican State Chairman Frank Visco, Brown brushed off Visco’s challenges to join in a bipartisan political reform aimed at eliminating partisan gerrymandering of California’s legislative and congressional district lines, and instead attacked Deukmejian and other Republicans for their records on crime, transportation and social programs.
“When you cut substance abuse programs by 25%, as Ronald Reagan did, and you cut out family planning totally, as Deukmejian has, and then you cut out CETA programs so you can’t train the low-income people, and you don’t want to raise wages so people can support a family, it’s no wonder there’s a lot of crime,” Brown said.
“Are we going to correct that, or are we going to get more Willie Horton commercials that manipulate your fear but don’t do a damn thing to make you safer?” Brown said, referring to the rapist-killer featured in President Bush’s televised campaign ads last year.
Brown also said he believes that more state prison inmates should be put to work, but he stressed that wasn’t an endorsement of Deukmejian’s prison work plan, which is vehemently opposed by many Democrats and their supporters in organized labor.
“The work thing should be expanded. I understand that’s not an easy issue, but something like that ought to happen, and probably will,” Brown told the luncheon audience of about 80 directors of the CMA’s political arm, which is one of the biggest spending political action committees in California.
But Brown told reporters later that his remarks were “absolutely not” an endorsement of his Republican successor’s proposal.
“More work (in prison) is obviously needed. I didn’t specify how,” Brown said, adding that it is not his job any more to make or endorse specific plans.
The former governor also jabbed at his GOP successor over the volatile issue of increasing highway congestion, another issue on which Deukmejian criticized him in the past.
‘No Transportation Plan’
“Adriana Gianturco (Brown’s controversial Caltrans director) in her worst year built more highways than George Deukmejian in his best year,” Brown said. “There is no transportation plan, and most of what’s being done is because of a 2-cent (gasoline) tax increase I surreptitiously signed.”
“This must be a Republican problem, because I haven’t been there for 6 years,” Brown added.
In a lively 90-minute exchange, Visco repeatedly condemned the gerrymandering of California’s legislative and congressional districts that Brown signed into law in 1982, charging it discouraged and disenfranchised many voters by putting them in one-party districts. He challenged Brown to join him in reforming the way California draws district lines.
Brown rejected that challenge, saying the district lines only offset other political advantages enjoyed by Republicans.
“It helps level the playing field,” Brown said of the admittedly gerrymandered district lines. “Democrats control the Legislature. Republicans have won seven of the last nine statewide races (for President, governor and U.S. Senate). The initiatives are primarily conservative.”
But Visco said gerrymandered legislative and congressional boundaries contribute to voter apathy and the election and reelection of political extremists.
“Government by initiative is no way to run California, but that’s part of what gerrymandering has given us,” Visco said. “Defeat-proof incumbency also breeds both voter apathy and legislative arrogance by protecting ideologically extreme legislators who are out of touch with the values, beliefs and ideas of most Californians.”
Brown agreed that it is “not a healthy democracy if half the people are not participating,” but added that he believed that when Republicans talk about a fair reapportionment, they really mean districts that benefit Republicans.
The event marked the first time that Brown and Visco had met. Brown ended 6 years of self-imposed political exile with his election 3 weeks ago as chairman of the California Democratic Party. Visco, a Palmdale insurance agent, was elected to the GOP post two weeks ago.