Council Member Olivier, “be very, very careful … it will be on your watches”

Fresno City Council Member Clint Olivier attended a meeting with Governor Jerry Brown where he cautioned cities on spending because a recession is near.

Politics, they say, makes for strange bedfellows.

In other words, when the pressure is on we tend to make allies wherever we can find them.


This truism came to mind as I listened to taped comments from Fresno City Council Member Clint Olivier delivered early in the May 10 meeting.

The agenda item was the “council member comments” period. This is when council members update the public on their actions on behalf of the city during the past week or two.

Olivier said he had recently attended a League of California Cities board of directors meeting.

I give you Olivier’s comments in full:

“We had a special meeting with Gov. Brown, who advised us that we need to be very, very careful moving forward. The Governor said that we are in, I think, our eighth year of economic recovery right now. As you know, California was recently upgraded to the fifth largest economy in the world.

“However, he said that it’s unprecedented in the history of the United States – eight years with economic growth with no recession. Gov. Brown sounded a lot like a Ronald Reagan or a George Deukmajian when he cautions the leaders of the cities that there is going to be a recession, and there’s going to be a recession in the next couple to three years.

“I think, statewide, unemployment right now + 4%. As many of know, unemployment is higher than that in the city of Fresno. Traditionally, it always is. The quote from him was, ‘This is Nirvana,’ with every city and the state government running the highest revenues that they’ve ever run and unemployment at 4%. He said, ‘It’ll never be this good again in your lifetime.’ He said the recession is coming and his advice was to make sure that we’re fiscally very, very intelligent and very conservative in what we do because there is a downturn coming. And when there’s a downturn there’s going to be increased unemployment and tax revenues will fall.

“I won’t be here (on the City Council) and Member Baines won’t be here. But it will be on your watches that that downturn comes and those tax revenues fall (Olivier looked at his council colleagues and City Manager Wilma Quan-Schecter). This is not coming from a conservative budget think tank. This is coming from Gov. Jerry Brown.

“I just wanted to share that with you. Of course, other cities let out an awful groan because every other city in California can’t afford to pay their pension. We’re the only city that can. But, there’s going to be a hit to the general fund, folks, on your watch. And that’s not coming from me. It’s coming from our governor. The votes that we take here in the next six months and in the next couple of years are very important.”

Olivier is a conservative Republican. Jerry Brown is as progressive as they come in the California Democratic Party.

Why would Brown, after decades of preaching the superiority of a command economy, suddenly channel the spirit of Friedrich Hayek and acknowledge that free market capitalism can produce economic heaven on earth if we’re mature enough to accept the occasional but necessary dip in the cycle?

And why would Olivier, who surely has read his share from the works of free market economists, give such melodramatic credence to Brown’s warnings when the Governor is simply stating something as obvious as “the sun rises in the east”?

Olivier at the council meeting made no attempt to answer either question. Let me make two quick guesses.

First, Jerry Brown hates President Donald Trump. He went to League of California Cities meeting to do some more plowing of the anti-Trump ground. If Olivier summarized the Governor correctly, Brown in essence said: “The economic sky was sunny and blue before Trump entered the White House; the economic sky by 2020 will be nothing but dark clouds.”

Again – the Governor is right. Recessions are to free markets what death and taxes are to life. They’re inevitable. The question for progressives of the Jerry Brown ilk is whether the best response to a recession is to let free markets fix things in due course or to impose elitist government theory on every nook and cranny of the economy. Actually, it’s not much of a question – they generally choose the latter option.

(For the record, my perusal of Wikipedia shows that America enjoyed an economic expansion from February 1961 through December 1969 that featured annual gross domestic product growth of 4.9% and annual employment growth of 3.3%. America enjoyed an economic expansion from March 1991 through March 2001 that featured annual GDP growth of 3.6% and annual employment growth of 2.0%. The current economic expansion that began in June 2009 features an annual GDP growth of 2.2% and annual employment growth of 1.4%. And I’d like a show of hands at Fresno City Hall from all those who remember the years 2009 through 2012 as living high on economic hog. As I recall, it was Gov. Brown in 2012 who killed all of the state’s Redevelopment Agencies because Sacramento was hurting big time for money.)

Second, budget hearings for Fresno City Hall are just around the corner. Mayor Lee Brand is slated to present his proposed 2018-2019 budget to the council on May 24.

I wonder if Council Member Olivier, a budget hawk if ever I’ve met one, has some recession-proof ideas for boosting general fund revenues. If so, I wonder if he’ll pitch them during budget hearings.

What would those money-making ideas be? I don’t know.

I do know I’ve heard Olivier say wonderful things about retail marijuana and the sales taxes it generates.

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