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Mayor’s Initiatives Pep Rally Squad

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A Perspective:

2011 City Management Academy's Class #2:

Mayor Johnson Presents with his Initiatives’ Pep Rally Squad

The second session of the 2011 City Management Academy (CMA) 12-week classroom for neighborhood association and other community & business leaders began with a 4-minute, professionally-produced video presentation complete w/ pulsing background music and splashy visual edits which highlighted some of Mayor Johnson’s accomplishments while in office.

As the video ended, Wednesday evening’s first speaker, the mayor (waiting in the wings — poised in the doorway shadows of a 5th floor New City Hall conference room, standing very still & quiet, head bowed, anticipating the room’s re- lighting and, perhaps, applause) was introduced to the class of 30 by an alumna of a previous CMA, and applause.

This observer experienced the next 3 hours as a press conference — albeit a somewhat well-spun one. But instead of the typical professional spokesperson offering calm, carefully-scripted soundbites for the consumption of an equally professional audience of media, the eight speakers who presented on the Mayor’s “Vision & Initiatives” seemed at times to be on the verge of a pep rally cheerleading squad in their zeal and almost relentlessly positive enthusiasm. At moments during the evening, a more apt comparison might have been that of a pharmaceutical sales rep to a physician's medical office staff, meal included. The sell was on — and even a hard sell, at times.

Johnson opened his remarks to the class by describing the just-watched video as much briefer than the 24 minutes of his annual State of the City speech given earlier in the week.

He reiterated the three most significant highlights of his “Think Big” vision concept:

  • Green Energy (the Emerald Valley) branding for the region’s economic growth
  • re-development of the J, K, L Streets downtown core district (including some version of an entertainment & sports complex known as the SacramentoFirst initiative)
  • a focus on improving educational resources and outcomes (perhaps initiating 3rd grade proficiency exams) and a "School Report Card" program for city schools

Several informed, specific questions from the room related to recent news including

  • the “Crash Tax” just passed by the Council
  • looming Housing & Redevelopment Agency (SHRA) funding cuts proposed by Governor Brown
  • county budget reductions affecting area social service agencies

got upbeat, non-specific, unsurprising responses from Johnson.  For those wanting even more details of Johnson's currrent version of public speechifying, check out this great Sac Press article covering an appearance from the Mayor at the Oak Park Neighborhood Association the very next evening.  Folks who saw both appearance noticed a strong similarity in content.

Following Johnson, we at the CMA were treated to a barrage of well-enough rehearsed spin-meisters hawking a variety pack of the Mayor's initiatives, some with the now-ubiquitous PowerPoint presentations so common to this style of efficient information and idea exchange:

  • – Anne Moore from Sacramento Steps Forward on the city’s homeless population challenges and solutions.
  • – Lauren Altdoerffer, Greenwise Sacramento, on the Mayor's branding push to create the "Emerald Valley" green initiatives.
  • – Andie Corso with STAND UP for Education, an education initiative to promote better city schools.
  • – Deborah Edwards of For Arts’ Sake on the "Any Given Child" & other programs to develop & promote Sacramento's arts and entertainment communities, venues and organizations.
  • – Keith Hart & MaryLynn Perry from Volunteer Sacramento on the push to make Sacramento's civic volunteerism "no longer nice but necessary" through various programs and agendas.

Others in the class may have gotten something in the way of new information, interesting ideas and, perhaps, encouragement from the presentations. The time constraints caused by a perhaps overly ambitious evening's agenda seemed to leave little opportunity for question-and-answer, or much more than rapidly moving through the speaker list.

What little time was available for questions drew mostly very specific, recent events-based attempts to get deeper explanations from presumptive key players, or at least those on the inside.  But with few and brief noteworthy responses, and candor rarely in evidence, a gloss of urgent, near-keening optimism was the apparent substitute for a conversational exchange of ideas with the class.

Some might fairly call this writer a cynic, and only skeptical on my better days, but public relations -style mechanisms for outreach specific to a room of decidedly engaged civic leadership seems verging on contemptible to me. The evening’s lingering aura of non-inclusion of outsiders by the Mayor's "pep rally team" of initiative insiders, the result of so many superficial & slick presentations, left this participant feeling dissed and disengaged instead of welcomed and encouraged.  And definitely not sold in any way. Grrrr…

Next week's class #3: a field trip to the city's 24th Street Corporation Yard & 311 Call Center Tour… so do stay tuned with this "storyline" as the 12 week odyssey continues.  Next Sac Press update will be posted here online Friday night, fer shure!

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