Jerry Brown veers off script at Oakland housing forum

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OAKLAND -- It was billed as a housing forum, but it turned into the Jerry Brown show.

The governor was here Tuesday with Bank of America Chief Executive Brian Moynihan to discuss the future of housing in California at a forum put on by the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.

However, in typical Brown fashion, he used the opportunity to wax philosophical on climate change, the virtues of marriage, the hollowing out of the middle class, healthcare and variety of other subjects. At times, the event seemed to be about everything but the advertised topic.

The governor himself acknowledged that, saying at one point, “I have to say something about housing. This is a housing forum,” before proceeding to talk about the need to “decarbonize” the economy.


Moynihan said he believed that the worst of the state’s housing crisis was over, and predicted that lenders, including his institution, would make it easier for potential home buyers to get loans to buy homes.

“I think we’ve gotten a little too tight,” he said of the industry’s lending rules. “We’ll loosen it.”

Brown talked about the need to reform the state’s environmental laws, noting that while he was mayor of Oakland, he overcame resistance to such measures by sheer volume.

“We put so many projects in the pipeline that the opposition couldn’t mobilize fast enough,” he said. “We overwhelmed them with mass. That’s kind of a Soviet model,” he quipped.

Brown again expressed skepticism that the federal government would make good on its promise to pick up the initial costs of expanding the state’s healthcare coverage for the poor under the federal healthcare law signed by President Obama in his first term.

The governor noted wryly that increased coverage would come with increased costs, but “luckily the federal government is committing its increasing deficit to cover our Medi-Cal costs.”


Brown said healthcare will be on his agenda next week when he travels to Washington to meet with other governors. He is also scheduled to give a speech on energy issues at the Environmental Resource Forum.


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