Mayor Johnson Challenges Sacramento to Achieve the “Impossible”

SACRAMENTO – This week Mayor Kevin Johnson gave his 2012 State of the City address at the Sacramento Convention Center as part of the Sacramento Metro Chamber’s 20th Annual State of the City event.

In his fourth such speech, Mayor Johnson focused almost exclusively on the economy. Citing Sacramento’s extensive challenges, the Mayor made a case for why bold and transformational steps are crucial to Sacramento’s future.

“We can’t wait for the economy to recover on its own. We have to take bold actions to ensure we determine our own destiny. We have to make the impossible possible,” said Mayor Johnson.

Before 1,000 business, government, and community leaders, Mayor Johnson outlined priorities in three focus areas: building an entertainment and sports complex that will create 4,000 jobs for the region; promoting growth in our green sector to attract investment and diversify the economy; and continuing efforts to reform public schools in order to ensure a competitive workforce for years to come.

“It was an excellent speech,” said Roger Niello, Sacramento Metro Chamber president & CEO. “The Mayor articulated a bold vision spoke to a future that is ambitious and achievable. The Metro Chamber looks forward to working with Mayor Johnson, the City and our Regional partners to diversify our economy, create jobs and improve business climate.”

Entertainment and Sports Complex and “Brick-by-Brick” Program

During his speech, Mayor Johnson made the economic case for the facility as a project that will generate 4,100 jobs, bring 3.1 million annual visitors to downtown, and generate $157 million in annual revenues for the regional economy.

He also unveiled the “Brick-by-Brick” program, a new initiative to raise $5-10 million from individuals across the region towards the financing of the new complex. Supporters can purchase a “brick”, which will be engraved with their name and placed at the entryway into the complex. Honorary bricks were awarded to Jack O’Brien and Gil Vechter, two local boys who have raised hundreds for the arena by selling lemonade in their neighborhood. Council Member Steve Cohn also received a brick for helping inspire the idea.

“Every time we walk into the complex, we will be reminded that this was an effort of the entire community – something not built overnight, but brick by brick,” Mayor Johnson said.

The Green Economy and ‘Greenwise’ Joint Venture

The Mayor also spoke to the opportunity to diversify the local economy by promoting growth in the green sector. At last year’s speech, the Mayor unveiled the Greenwise Action Plan, a ten year effort to transform Sacramento into the “Emerald Valley” – a hub for green and clean tech.

The Mayor reviewed key 2011 accomplishments, including the $100 million in private investment secured to create 1,500 commercial retrofitting jobs via a partnership with Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room and the Ygrene Energy Fund. This accomplishment earned Sacramento designation as one of only five cities in the country selected to participate in President Barack Obama’s Better Buildings Challenge.

Looking to 2012, the Mayor laid out four major projects Greenwise will undertake this year: (1) the launch of an new regional entity called “Greenwise Joint Venture” to execute the Action Plan; (2) plans to raise $100 million in local private investment for school retrofits; (3) a new partnership with renowned chef Alice Waters to create “Edible Schoolyards”; and (4) plans to plant 30,000 new trees in 30 days to commemorate the 30th anniversary of
the Sacramento Tree Foundation.

Education and ‘City Year’

The Mayor also made the economic case for improving the city’s struggling public schools. With our dropout crises creating nearly $600 million in lost lifetime earnings for students who fail to graduate, the Mayor emphasized the connection between public schools and a competitive workforce.

“A quality education is necessary in the long run to ensure a robust and healthy economy in Sacramento. I don’t have any direct relationship with the schools. But I can tell you every mayor in every city has to be involved in schools in some way, because it’s so vital to the health of a city,” Mayor Johnson said.

“Don’t tell me our schools aren’t important to our economy,” said the Mayor. “We won’t be able to compete in the global economy until we fix our schools. “

The Mayor emphasized the major progress in 2011 through the Sacramento READS initiative, which seeks to make Sacramento the first city in the nation where every student reads proficiently by the end of third grade.

Looking to 2012, the Mayor highlighted three goals: (1) efforts to secure the distinction of the National Civic League’s All-America City designation, which this year will be determined on the basis of third grade reading scores; (2) the arrival of nationally-renowned education and service organization City Year in Sacramento through successful efforts to raise $4 million from the local community; and (3) the creation of School Report Cards to equip parents with better information on the quality of schools available to their children.

City Year is a national organization that unites young people for a year of service in high-need urban schools, recently approved the formation of a local start-up team in Sacramento after two years of working with the Mayor’s office, school district partners, and the local business community.

The Mayor emphasized the need for continued focus in other key areas, including public safety, flood protection, homelessness, the arts, civic engagement, and regional economic development.

Other speakers at this year’s address included 2012 Metro Chamber Board Chair John Frisch of Cornish & Carey Newmark Knight Frank, Winnie Comstock-Carlson of Comstock’s Magazine, Roger Niello, Metro Chamber President & CEO and Cort O’Haver of Umpqua Bank the events presenting sponsor.

Full transcript of the Mayor’s speech can be viewed online: www.cityofsacramento.org/mayor. For more information on the “Brick-by-Brick” program, please visit: www.thinkbigsacramento.com.