Cal­i­for­nia gover­nor re­sponds to deadly wild­fires from afar

Manteca Bulletin - - Local / State -

SACRA­MENTO (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown has re­mained a back­ground player as one of the worst se­ries of wild­fires in Cal­i­for­nia his­tory tears across the state’s wine coun­try and beyond.

He’s yet to visit the fire zones, pre­fer­ring to stay in Sacra­mento, where he’s is­sued emer­gency dec­la­ra­tions, se­cured fed­eral dis­as­ter re­lief and com­mented on the deadly fires at press con­fer­ences for bill sign­ings and in one visit to the state’s cen­tral Of­fice of Emer­gency Ser­vices.

“Our fo­cus is on get­ting re­sources where they’re needed most, not pulling them away for photo ops with the gover­nor,” Brown spokesman Evan Westrup said Thurs­day. Brown will visit some of the fire sites, which have rav­aged parts of Napa, Sonoma, Men­do­cino and Yuba coun­ties, “when the time is right,” he said.

That fits with Brown’s re­sponse to past Cal­i­for­nia dis­as­ters. When ter­ror­ists killed 14 peo­ple in San Bernardino in De­cem­ber 2015, Brown waited a day be­fore vis­it­ing the city. Ear­lier this year, he waited more than a week to travel to Oroville af­ter the emer­gency spill­way of the na­tion’s tallest dam col­lapsed, forc­ing tens of thou­sands to evac­u­ate.

It’s a de­par­ture from the way many gov- er­nors and may­ors han­dle dis­as­ters. When Hur­ri­cane Irma slammed Flor­ida last month Gov. Rick Scott was a fix­ture on TV, pro­vid­ing up­dates on dam­age and the govern­ment’s re­sponse. A decade ago, when a dev­as­tat­ing se­ries of fires struck South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, then-Gov. Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger made fre­quent ap­pear­ances on tele­vi­sion and vis­ited fire scenes within the first two days of the dis­as­ter.

Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a pro­fes­sor of pub­lic pol­icy com­mu­ni­ca­tion at the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, said such pub­lic show­ings don’t fit Brown’s pro­file.

“I’m not at all sure what he could do on site other than be the con­soler-in-chief and that’s, quite frankly, what’s be­ing ex­pected of our lead­ers at ev­ery level more and more,” she said.

Brown first com­mented pub­licly on the fires Mon­day at a bill sign­ing cer­e­mony and then spent much of that day and Tues­day work­ing to se­cure fed­eral dis­as­ter re­lief, Westrup said.

He made his first fire-spe­cific pub­lic ap­pear­ance on Wed­nes­day, three days af­ter the blazes be­gan, with a trip to the state’s emer­gency op­er­a­tions head­quar­ters in Sacra­mento. There, he greeted first re­spon­ders and of­fered brief re­marks on the fire­fight and the de­struc­tive forces of cli­mate change, while mostly let­ting state emer­gency and mil­i­tary of­fi­cials han­dle the briefing.


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