Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters holds a handout with Aesop’s fable of “The Ant and the Grasshopper” that Gov. Jerry Brown distributed as he released a revised state budget on May 13, 2016. Brown used it to argue that the state needed to build a “rainy day” reserve fund. Hector Amezcua Sacramento Bee file
Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters holds a handout with Aesop’s fable of “The Ant and the Grasshopper” that Gov. Jerry Brown distributed as he released a revised state budget on May 13, 2016. Brown used it to argue that the state needed to build a “rainy day” reserve fund. Hector Amezcua Sacramento Bee file

Dan Walters

Observations on California and its politics

Dan Walters

Writing about California still fun even after 57 years at keyboard

By Dan Walters

dwalters@sacbee.com

June 04, 2017 12:01 AM

I can attest that whoever first said that time flies when you are having fun was absolutely correct.

It seems like last month that I walked into the newsroom of the late Humboldt Times to begin work as a 16-year-old flunky. But it was nearly 57 years ago.

It seems like last week that I found myself in California’s Capitol, covering state politics for the late Sacramento Union. But it was 42 years ago and Jerry Brown had just been sworn in for his first stint as governor.

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It seems like yesterday that Gregory Favre, the newly minted editor of The Sacramento Bee, and I sat down in Lefty O’Doul’s saloon in San Francisco to decide whether I would leave the Union and bring my daily column about politics to The Bee. But it was 33 years ago when we met during the 1984 Democratic national convention.

More than 8,000 Bee columns later – 9,000-plus if you count those for the Union – I’m leaving The Bee. But it’s been fun for 57 years and still is, which is why I will continue writing about California and its politics in other venues.

Joining The Bee’s fine Capitol Bureau 33 years ago and writing those columns afforded me the opportunity to scratch my itch of curiosity about how California, this most fascinating state – or perhaps state of mind – was evolving and to explore how its politicians were or were not responding to that evolution.

That was particularly true about a year after I joined The Bee, when its editors allowed me to roam around California for weeks – about 8,000 miles of travel altogether – and write what turned out to be a very long series of articles, which later became a book, about how the state was changing as it neared the 21st century.

Although I had traveled in California extensively already, and lived and/or worked in a number of its communities, including those as disparate as El Centro and Eureka, the sojourn gave me a base of impressions and data that has informed my writings ever since.

And then there were – and are – the figures in and around the Capitol itself, a somewhat cloistered community of men and women from all ethnicities, professional backgrounds, ideological bents and personal attributes who collectively decide matters that will affect 39 million of their fellow Californians.

Some loom large, obviously – Jerry Brown, of course, and the other Brown, Willie, come to mind, along with Arnold Schwarzenegger. One of the file boxes I’m toting out of The Bee’s Capitol Bureau contains my personal archive of Jerry Brown’s first governorship, including two spectacularly unsuccessful bids for the White House, that I and others have found new reason to consult for the last six years.

My favorite Capitol characters, however, have been the rogues who plotted, schemed and sometimes fudged enough to get into trouble and even go to prison.

One who was infamous for his chicanery, now deceased, would send a box of candy to the office every time I mentioned him unfavorably in print.

Interestingly, however, the one politician who turned the tables was mild-mannered Gov. George Deukmejian, who threw a party for the Capitol press corps as he departed. He brought in a belly dancer for entertainment and, to my everlasting chagrin, prearranged for her to pull me up to dance with her.

So time has flown and it’s been fun – as well, I hope, informative to readers of The Bee and other newspapers. And I want to thank The Bee, a true California institution which has been in the McClatchy family since Gold Rush days, its editors and my former colleagues for allowing me to scratch my itch and witness the ever-changing tableau of California and its politics.