Sacramento’s State of the City goes pep rally

Jeff vonKaenel

Mayor Kevin Johnson's State of the City address at Memorial Auditorium last week was one hell of a pep rally. The sound system boomed. The Sacramento Kings announcer emceed the event sounding like, well, the voice of “your Sacramento Kings.” An R&B band opened with a level of professionalism and a shortness of miniskirts rarely found at political events. Then came the national anthem, performed by a church youth choir and the band. They knocked it out of the park.

Finally, we were ready for the main attraction, our mayor, Kevin Johnson, who the day before had dined at the White House. It was a great opening. Johnson was the humble boy from Oak Park, unable to read the French menu items at the White House. It was a beautiful American story, truly.

After some talk about city projects in each of the council districts, it was time for the Kings pep rally. Do not get me wrong, I like pep rallies. They are generally much more enjoyable and entertaining than long, boring political talks. But then, many things are more enjoyable than political talks. Mud wrestling, for instance.

A pep rally is designed to inspire the committed and intimidate the uncommitted. Their goal is to convince normally rational athletes to risk bodily harm by throwing themselves in the way of a heavy moving force. And to do this with vigor and determination.

But read Johnson’s speech on paper, and it sounds silly. His overblown rhetoric about the arena saving Sacramento—that we should ask no questions about its financing, and that the Arena would define Sacramento—was so over-the-top that it was embarrassing. I mean, can you really see the arena as Sacramento’s Golden Gate Bridge?

I support the arena. And I like Mayor Johnson. He has brought new energy to the city. He has a vision. His experience growing up in Oak Park has helped him understand the lives of some of our less powerful citizens. And, unlike many others, he has learned on the job. His understanding of city issues and of the political process is light-years ahead of when he first ran for mayor. And I am impressed that he married someone who clearly has the smarts to challenge him.

There is a lot to like. Only Johnson could have saved the Kings. But others are accomplishing much without all the fanfare—Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Congresswoman Doris Matsui, Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna and Sacramento City Councilman Jay Schenirer, to name a few.

Seeing Johnson at the State of City event, I felt that we needed a little less pep rally and a little more time spent addressing the major issues facing the city.

The State of the City may have been the mayor’s finest pep rally. But it was not his finest moment.

Our content is free, but not free to produce

If you value our local news, arts and entertainment coverage, become an SN&R supporter with a one-time or recurring donation. Help us keep our reporters at work, bringing you the stories that need to be told.


Stay Updated

For the latest local news, arts and entertainment, sign up for our newsletter.
We'll tell you the story behind the story.

About the Author

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