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A new program to raise $10 million for arena financing and turning Sacramento into an “Emerald Valley” were two key points in Mayor Kevin Johnson’s State of the City address Monday.
Johnson’s speech focused on boosting the local economy in three areas: building an entertainment and sports complex, green-sector jobs and reforming public schools to create a more competitive workforce.
“The economy is bad everywhere, but it’s worse here,” Johnson told the nearly 1,000 people in the audience.
“We have to take bold actions,” Johnson said. “We have to make the impossible possible.”
The mayor delivered the 20th annual speech at the Sacramento Convention Center in an event hosted by the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce.
Johnson introduced a new program aimed at raising $10 million toward the cost of building the entertainment and sports complex.
The “Brick-by-Brick” program will allow individual supporters to buy bricks with their names engraved on them to be placed in the entryway of the new complex.
Johnson said after the event that the program is in the early stages and costs for the bricks have not yet been determined.
The first three honorary bricks were given to City Councilman Steve Cohn and two young Kings fans, Jack O’Brien, 11 and Gil Vechner, 12. The two boys caught Johnson’s attention when they started a lemonade stand last year to raise money for the arena.
“It’s time to finish what we started. It’s crunch time,” Johnson said, referring to the March 1 financing plan deadline to prevent the Kings from relocating.
Johnson turned the discussion to employment concerns, saying he believes one of the biggest problems Sacramento faces is a dependence on state government and real estate for jobs and revenue.
“This sets us up to be the hardest hit in a financial crisis,” Johnson said.
Bringing green technology and green industry jobs to the region is one solution to that problem, Johnson said.
Among the goals Johnson outlined for 2012 are plans to raise $100 million to retrofit schools to make them more energy-efficient and “green,” and joining the Edible Schoolyard Program to bring school gardens, cooking classes and healthy eating to local schools.
“Becoming the Emerald Valley is within our grasp,” Johnson said.
Although he doesn’t have a direct relationship to local schools as the mayor, Johnson said improving education has long been a focus for him – and it should be a focus for the city, he said.
As a way to keep schools accountable to parents – and to make it easier for parents to decide which schools are best for their kids based on performance – Johnson said he is working to establish “report cards” for local schools.
The new rating system will assign a letter grade to every school in the county based on a range of performance criteria including student test scores and whether the schools are meeting academic standards.
Johnson said his office will not be responsible for consequences to a school for getting a low grade – the consequences will come from parents who withdraw their students or choose not to enroll them in low-grade schools.
Some business and civic leaders at the event had a positive reaction to the mayor’s address – former State Assemblyman and current president of the Sacramento Metro Chamber Roger Niello said it was “completely on point,” and County Supervisor Don Nottoli said it was “very well-delivered.”
“I think (Johnson) was absolutely right about the region needing to diversify its economic base,” County Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan said after the event.
“I think that’s the most important point he made,” she added.
Michael Ault, Executive Director of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, said the mayor did a good job of breaking down what needs to be done for the city into smaller, achievable goals.
“You just can’t have 30 priorities for the coming year. We have to narrow it to a few legitimately reachable goals,” Ault said.
“The sports and entertainment complex is clearly something we think needs to be accomplished in the short term and I think the mayor really highlighted that,” he added.
The current city charter does not require the mayor to give a state of the city address. Johnson has delivered the speech each year he’s been in office – four times.
If the mayor’s charter reform proposal gets on the ballot and is passed by voters, an annual state of the city address would become a requirement for future Sacramento mayors.
Melissa Corker is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.