George Will

Brown, a Catholic in everything but theology, regrets the end of the Latin Mass and three years ago had Gregorian chants and medieval music at his wedding. But he is dubious about certain important dogmas -- the incarnation, Heaven, etc. -- and it is difficult to discern his political beliefs, beyond a weary acceptance of the fact that in this megastate, which is planted thick with factions fiercely protective of the status quo, whoever becomes governor at the sufferance of those factions can only nibble at the edges of problems. The state government, which is hemorrhaging red ink, is heavily dependent on income taxes, which are volatile, and thanks to the state's populist tradition, initiatives promoted by the public education lobby and other factions have restricted budget flexibility.

When as Oakland's mayor he launched a military school for low-income children, he endured protesters who were, he says, suffering "misplaced concreteness." These gray-bearded "remnants" of the anti-Vietnam War movement "were looking for a war to protest." He preserved the school, promoted condominiums "to bring disposable income" back to the inner city, increased the number of charter schools from three to 24, expanded the police force and subsidized the arts to make Oakland attractive.

BART helped, by making San Francisco an easy commute, although he says the construction of BART "devastated" Oakland for a while. The moral of the story, he says, is that politics requires a long "time horizon" -- to fix California, 40 years. Meanwhile, he fumes that the proposed $50 million net to deter suicidal jumpers from the Golden Gate Bridge is an unaffordable "luxury."

In "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," a novel Brown admires, Milan Kundera writes: "Human time does not turn in a circle; it runs ahead in a straight line. That is why man cannot be happy: happiness is the longing for repetition." Brown, with Sacramento on his mind, happily heads back to Oakland, using a BART fare card purchased, he notes, with a senior citizen's discount.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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