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Jerry Brown sets no-nonsense tone for California in inauguration speech

Gov. Jerry Brown urged lawmakers of both political parties to get out of their comfort zones and rise above ideology for the good of the state in a 16-minute inauguration speech Monday.

By Daniel B. WoodStaff writer / January 3, 2011

Jerry Brown (l.) is sworn as governor of California as his wife, Anne Gust Brown, holds a Bible and California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye administers the oath of office in Sacramento on Monday.

Robert Durell/Reuters

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Los Angeles

Although nearly giddy with obvious delight, Jerry Brown was all business in his 16-minute inaugural speech today. Experts say he wants to set the tone – especially in his crucial first 100 days – that he intends to be a no-nonsense, practical governor who won’t squander political capital the way predecessor Arnold Schwarzenegger did, missing early opportunities to take action before goodwill wanes.

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"The year ahead will demand courage and sacrifice," Governor Brown said after taking the oath from California Supreme Court Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. Brown noted the strain the recession has put on California and referred to polls that show most voters believe the state is on the wrong track. He urged lawmakers of both political parties to get out of what he called their "comfort zones" and to "rise above ideology" for the good of the state.

His main themes were drawn from his campaign stump speeches: no new taxes without a vote of the people, restoring as much local control of government as possible, and speaking the truth about the budget – no smoke or mirrors. He spoke of the sacrifices of his own ancestors, crossing the continent in a covered wagon, invoked the name of his own father, former Governor Pat Brown several times, and introduced his 99-year-old aunt as evidence that he’s not going anywhere.

“It was very clear that here is a guy who is invested in California and is not some kind of political hustler or gimmick man,” says Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, political scientist at University of Southern California. “He has a long history in this state and understands it well.”

“It was a fine speech. This was not the firebrand Jerry Brown of 1975,” says Barbara O’Connor, director of the Institute for Study of Politics and Media at California State University, Sacramento. “This was the older, wiser, more patient Jerry Brown.”

Brown promised to focus on the state's financial problems and asked Californians to prepare to make hard choices about what they want from their state government. He was introduced by his wife of five years, former Gap Inc. executive Anne Gust Brown, inside Sacramento Memorial Auditorium. She held a Bible that was her grandfather's and was used during her wedding to Brown.

The austere ceremony – followed by hot dogs and chips for attendees – was not without its lighter moments. During the oath, in repeating the words, “without mental reservation,” Brown verbally stumbled, paused and said, “no really … without mental reservation ….” The crowded howled.

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