‘S— happens’ isn’t all Brown said about Bay Bridge

Gov. Jerry Brown’s office believes articles including mine in today’s editions have created and reinforced the impression that the governor’s May 7 “s— happens” comment regarding the Bay Bridge construction snafu was the total extent of his remarks that day, and that he suddenly got more serious yesterday.

The contention is that Brown has been concerned, engaged and serious about the issue from the get-go, and that the “s— happens” crack – while accurately quoted by my colleague, Steve Harmon, in his May 7 story – when taken alone might create the impression that the governor was being flippant about it.

I believe we’ve presented the governor’s words accurately and appropriately, but in the interest of full disclosure, here are the transcripts from the two interviews at issue.

From May 7:

Reporter: I’m on the Bay Bridge beat today, just wondering if you’re concerned at all if the public is losing confidence in the opening of the new eastern span of the bridge because of the problems of the bolts.

Gov. Brown: Well, not yet and there are very professional engineers that are looking into this thing. When they are ready to give us their report I think the public will be satisfied.

Reporter: Are you still enthusiastic in the possibility of the opening on Labor Day?

Gov. Brown: As far as I know, well I don’t want to say anything because we want to get the reports back. When we do I’ll comment on it.

Reporter: One more, one more question on the bridge. What was your initial reaction to the stories of the bolts being broken? Was it a shock to you? Did it feel like a setback?

Gov. Brown: Don’t know if it’s a setback. I mean look, s— happens. That’s all I can say.

From May 20:

Reporter: What do you have to say about the Bay Bridge?

Gov. Brown: I hadn’t known about this stuff – pickling bolts or some of this other kind of stuff. So I take it very seriously. That thing is not going to open unless it’s ready and the engineers are telling me that they’re doing the kind of work that will be needed for that.

Reporter: Do you think it will open Labor Day?

Gov. Brown: I’m not going to predict. First we want to make it safe.

Reporter: Are you confident with the caltrans from yesteryear providing the information to make that judgment?

Gov. Brown: Well, look, if the bolts fail they’ve got to go look at these records. Some of those records are ten years old. One of the companies was from Texas. Another one from Ohio. This was made actually during the Gray Davis years, fairly low down in the whole operation. So we’ve got to dig through to get the records to know what’s there. And then they have to test all of these bolts and make sure the bridge will be safe.

Reporter: So you’re personally getting involved in this?

Gov. Brown: Well, it’s a pretty big issue. I drive across that bridge too.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RR senile columnist

    Labor Day would be a fitting occasion to open the bridge. But, if last Sunday’s L.A. Times is to believed, it’s a miracle the bridge is even near completion. Sloppy oversight by the contractors is blamed. The original span was a marvel in 1937; by today’s standard it was a model of precision and excellence in construction.

  • JAFO

    The list of possible problem designers, contractors, fabricators, engineers, installers, supervisors, and quality assurance techs is long indeed. However, the list would not be complete if we left out Jerry and Willy Brown. Lest we forget, these two political hacks, then mayors of Oakland and San Francisco, respectively, rightfully shared most of the blame for the initial political infighting that led to this bridge’s design, it’s unconscionable cost overruns (from $1.4 Billion to well over $6.2 Billion today, and counting), and the unbelievable delays. Remember, this new span is intended to replace the one damaged in the l989 earthquake! Nearly 25 years have passed since that natural disaster. Those two clowns must be so proud. I’m sure they’ll still both be smiling shamelessly at the ribbon cutting, if it ever takes place.

  • Elwood

    What JAFO said!