Mayor Kevin Johnson wants to get our mojo back

Jeff vonKaenel

The state of the city. That was the topic of Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson’s address at the annual Sacramento Metro Chamber lunch on January 20. Things are grim. The lack of jobs, especially construction jobs; the state budget crisis, which disproportionately impacts Sacramento; and the possible removal of local redevelopment money will all combine to make 2011 a tough year. We will have to do more with less.

Nevertheless, Johnson believes we can get our mojo back. Over the last 10 months, he’s been regularly meeting with community members and business leaders to develop a regional action plan. He gave us the highlights of the Greenwise Sacramento Regional Action Plan in his State of the City speech. But to really understand the scope, you need to take a look at the 100-page plan itself. Over the weekend, I did just that.

Frankly, the plan is impressive. It includes goals in three areas: the economy, the environment and community engagement. The plan details our existing situation, lays out goals and then proposes strategies for reaching each goal, measuring our progress along the way. This isn’t greenwashing. These goals are real, challenging, “reach for the basket” goals.

Johnson believes we need to think big. Our region can no longer depend upon state government jobs. We need to find a new economic focus. Johnson is betting on clean, green technology. His plan calls for doubling the number of green jobs in the Sacramento region to 28,000 by the year 2020. A great goal. But how can we accomplish it?

We currently spend $1.6 billion on food, but only 2 percent of it is locally grown. The plan calls for purchasing 20 percent of our food from local farmers and ranchers. If we bought 10 times more locally grown food, we’d create quite a few more local agriculture jobs. And we’d probably be healthier, too.

Our region also consumes around $5.8 billion worth of gasoline, electricity and natural gas. By investing in energy-saving retrofits for our homes, businesses and automobiles, we could reduce energy expenditures, increase local jobs and help save the environment.

We also spend a lot on water and trash. The plan calls for reducing, reusing and recycling 85 percent of our waste, and reducing water use by 20 percent.

The money to accomplish many of these goals already exists in our region. It’s just a matter of thinking differently, reordering our priorities and taking action to create, as Johnson calls it, a “self-sustaining green economy.”

And that’s what makes the action plan so exciting. As well as setting goals to transform our local economy while saving the environment, the plan aims to transform our thinking. And transforming our thinking is the first step to transforming our region.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.