Shawn Hubler

Op Images: A couple more fightin’ words in the water wars

Gov. Jerry Brown delivers his now-famous “shut up” speech to the Association of California Water Agencies.
Gov. Jerry Brown delivers his now-famous “shut up” speech to the Association of California Water Agencies. The Associated Press

Shut up. Shut up.

Can you believe he said that? Just when you thought California’s water wars had used up every fightin’ word invented, Gov. Jerry Brown this week opened a whole new floodgate.

Facing a room full of water managers at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento on Wednesday, Brown humorously shushed the critics of his twin tunnels proposal. Until they had matched the “million hours” he and his staff had spent on the eye-glazing complexities of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the governor told the assemblage, the naysayers should just – well, you know the story. How could you miss it? It’s been ricocheting around the Internet for days.

For the record, Brown was smiling. But given the ensuing furor, the two-word zinger he used might as well have been “Yo’ mama.”

“We will not go away, and we will not ‘shut up,’” the folks at Restore the Delta shot back in a prepared statement.

“Delta stakeholders have invested countless hours over the past seven years poring through three separate versions of the governor’s tunnel plan and for him to tell us to ‘shut up’ and ‘read it’ is insulting to millions of people in our Delta communities,” retorted San Joaquin County Supervisor Kathy Miller.

“Hey, Jerry, pull your head out of your rear,” posted a representative Fresno Bee commenter.

Evidently, the humor was lost on some observers. But – sorry – that “shut up” was funny. And for Brown, it must have felt fabulous.

Given the blah-blah posturing, lawsuit-happy squabbling and passive-aggressive demanding of apologies that now characterize public discourse, I don’t blame him. If I had his job, I’d probably feel like telling someone to shut up 10 times a day.

This state has real problems – climate change, income inequality, a seriously scary lack of water. But what gets attention? Imagined insults. Purported offenses.

We set aside real civil rights questions to debate whether the attorney general should process some ugly kook initiative on “sodomy suppression.” We postpone real action on the drought while we home on its possible impact on abandoned kittens. Fight over a flag in a student government lounge at UC Irvine? Quick – get on Facebook.

Not that we shouldn’t sweat some of the small stuff, and not that outrage doesn’t have its pleasures, but there are priorities.

Like most Californians, I’m stumped by the mess in the Delta. And I salute anyone who can spend one hour, let alone a million, trying to figure it out. One thing I do know, though, is that it’s not going to be good if we can’t agree on a way to fix our water problems, and the developing political gridlock is making the Peloponnesian War look like a game of cricket.

Against that sort of backdrop, a “shut up” or two among friends is almost charming. Next time, Brown might even consider going bilingual. Just imagine it in Latin.


Doesn’t that sound official? No?