Gov. Jerry Brown held a press conference at the California Resources Building in downtown Sacramento to announce his plans to build two large tunnels to ferry water from the Delta to Southern California and other areas. The conference (known in the news business as “pressers”) was set in a relatively small conference room on the 3rd floor of the building. A movie-line-like rope divided the room in half. Beyond it was a podium and a set of American and Californian flags. A large light with a softbox was setup to the right.
The tunnels are controversial and there was a lot of interest from media from both Northern and Southern California. The half of the room that confined the media was packed with about 50 reporters, videographers and photographers. Soon it became very warm from the body heat of the sardine-packed journalists. I wondered why we were all jammed in there when there was an unused auditorium downstairs on the first floor.
Sacramento-based Associated Press photographer Rich Pedroncelli, who has been to many of these types of events, posited a theory. He believes the Brown doesn’t really care for reporters and photographers and, if they suffer, then all the better. I don’t know if that’s true, but it became more and more uncomfortable for us. Sweat trickled down my back and beaded up on my brow. Although Brown seemed to be unaffected (remember he was on the uncrowded side of the rope), a thin sheen of perspiration built up on the upper lip of U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar who also participated in the “presser.” After an hour or so, the conference was over and the media trickled out of the building.
There was a public protest against the tunnels scheduled for about an hour later at the state Capitol a few blocks away. It was a sunny but mild day and the walk over was pleasant. The protest held by a coalition of about 200 farmers and environmentalists went on smoothly and orderly on the west steps of the Capitol. Temperatures were in the mid 70s or so and morning shade from the building covered about half of the protesters who were spread out over the stone steps. A gentle breeze wafted though the crowd.
As journalists we don’t take sides on an issue, especially a contentious one, but the protester’s rally was certainly more pleasant to be at than the governor’s press conference.