Gov. Jerry Brown's firing of the veteran public affairs team at the new Bay Bridge has some fretting the state will pinch pennies on the bridge's grand opening next fall.

They envision a cheesy roadside ribbon-cutting where puffed-up politicians and reporters inhale vehicle exhaust along with stale cookies and tepid coffee.

Multiple sources involved in the event planning talks insist that won't happen.

State and regional leaders want an "appropriate" and "elegant" grand opening event funded largely -- better yet, entirely -- with private contributions.

OK. But let's be clear: The toll-paying public and the tens of hundreds of people who built the bridge absolutely expect to walk across that span on opening day.

They want to bring their children who will then tell their children and grandchildren about the day when day when tens of thousands of people stood on the world's largest self-anchored suspension bridge.

Yes, the $6.4 billion span cost too much.

Yes, construction took too long.

Yes, it would have been better if more or all of the steel had been fabricated in the United States.

Yes, a viaduct would (probably) have been cheaper and faster than a signature suspension span.

None of that matters now.

It is all, forgive me, water under the bridge.

The bridge is here.

Depriving the East Bay of a celebration would be like carrying a baby in the womb for two decades and handing it off at birth to the nanny without even a glance. You still have to pay all the bills but you miss all the joy.

If you doubt the value of a shared civic experience, watch video of the Golden Gate Bridge's 75th anniversary grand finale fireworks last Memorial Day weekend. (www.goldengatebridge75.org)

The Golden Gate's birthday party was beyond spectacular and they did it without a single toll-payer dollar.

Led by San Francisco Giants CEO Larry Baer and philanthropic heavy-hitter Nancy Hellman Bechtle, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy raised a reported $750,000.

"The key was to partner with an organization that knew how to raise money and put on major public events," Golden Gate Bridge general manager Denis Mulligan said. "Then we got out of their way."

It's unrealistic to think comparable dollars will pour in for the new eastern span which lacks an established nonprofit of the conservancy's stature.

The state and Bay Area Toll Authority did sign a deal earlier this year with the Bay Bridge Alliance, a fledgling nonprofit that promises to raise private money for an opening ceremony.

But on paper, the alliance is in over its head. Many of the board members are elected officials or public agency directors, not corporate or philanthropic powerhouses.

There are a couple of promising signs, though.

The alliance is expected to add to its board Bay Area Council CEO Jim Wunderman. He will replace former Port of Oakland chief Omar Benjamin, who left his job last month when it was reported he was among a group of employees who spent $5,000 of public money at a Texas strip club.

Renowned Democratic fundraiser, Brown ally, Alamo attorney and former California Transportation Commissioner Jeremiah Hallisey is also on the board.

With only eight months before the scheduled Labor Day opening, toll-payers may still need to kick in some cash for appropriate public access costs such as portable restrooms and shuttles.

State and regional leaders will never have a better opportunity than this one to replace the public's image of this bridge as the progeny of endless missteps with that of a world-class engineering and architectural marvel.

Don't screw it up.

GOT POLITICS? Read Politics With LisaV at politicswithlisav. blogspot. com:

  • Will we see partisan fireworks? The Rep's Michael Steele and Dem's Howard Dean keynote Contra Costa USA event on Jan. 24.

  • County Connection names its board room for the late Supervisor Gayle Uilkema.

    AND FINALLY: Contra Costa Assessor Gus Kramer will find no pay raise under his Christmas tree this year.

    A federal judge dismissed Kramer's lawsuit alleging county supervisors discriminated against him when they gave raises to other executives but left him out in the cold.

    The judge sided with the county, who argued the supervisors have a "considerable degree" of discretion when it comes to setting wages.

    Kramer could appeal.

    Or he could take the money he would have paid the lawyer and buy lottery tickets. The odds might be better.

    Contact Lisa Vorderbrueggen at 925-945-4773, lvorderbrueggen@bayareanewsgroup.com, politicswithlisav.blogspot.com or Twitter.com/lvorderbrueggen.