Friday, January 29, 2016

Highlights from Mayor Kevin Johnson's state of Sacramento address

This past Thursday, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson took the stage and delivered his highly anticipated state of the city address for 2016. In front of a packed crowd at the Crest Theater in downtown Sacramento, Johnson talked about what goals he’s achieved, progress that was made, and also a few challenges that are still a work in progress under his tenure.

This will be Mayor Johnson’s last state of the city address after serving seven years as mayor already, as he’s on record as saying he won’t run again to seek a third term in October, stepping down for a newly elected mayor.

The event had the tones of a celebration more than a drab political address, thanks to a performance by the local band Hip Service and some optimistic sentiments by Johnson, himself.

“We can’t just be a city for basketball fans, government officials and tech giants,” said Mayor Kevin Johnson. “We also have to be a city for families, college students and young professionals. We have to be a city for the homeless, the less fortunate and the underemployed. We have to be a city that works for everyone.”

So how is the city he helped govern measuring up these days? Here are some high points of Mayor Kevin Johnson’s state of the city address:

Starting with his first few days in office seven years ago, Johnson always spoke about easing our dependence on jobs in the government and real estate sectors and diversifying into new major employment sectors. A good part of Johnson’s speech at the Crest Theater addressed that same issue:

Mayor Johnson announced that two tech firms were moving to Sacramento within the next couple years, creating hundreds of quality job openings for residents.

AnPac Bio-Medical Science Co., a medical-diagnostics company in China, is looking to relocate to Sacramento and hire about 250 local workers within two years. AnPac’s founder and Chief Executive, Chris Yu, said that the company could eventually hire up to 1,000 workers in Sacramento.

And Flippbox, an innovative tech company that now resides in Tampa, Fla., is buying the historic Eastern Star building at 27th and K Streets. Once renovations are complete, the building will be home to their Sacramento operations with 25 new hires this year and up to 100 more in 2017.

Flippbox’s parent company, tech investment firm Silicon Bay Partners, is looking to move their operations to Sacramento as well.

Reportedly, some of these firms had serious interest in moving to the Bay Area, but after taking a good look at what Sacramento had to offer, decided that the lower cost of business, highly educated workforce, and accessibility to the Bay Area swayed them to the capital city.

To continue the movement to attract new diversified businesses to Sacramento and create more jobs, Johnson also proposed a plan to invest $1 million of a new city “innovation fund” to attract startup companies, $500,000 for small grants to organizations that train entrepreneurs, and partnerships with firms like 500 Startups, who is looking to aid at least 10 new companies in the city.

There is no denying that a good part of Mayor Johnson’s legacy will be his effort to keep the Kings in Sacramento, and spearhead the downtown redevelopment plan with the under-construction $507 million Golden 1 Center as its jewel.

Looking at a snapshot of Sacramento’s downtown seven years ago compared to today definitely displays the fruits of Johnson’s efforts. The eyesore K Street mall has seen steady progress under Johnson’s leadership, and new restaurants, shopping, condos, and apartments are popping up downtown.

But there is still work to do in order to surround the Golden 1 Center with new hotels, high-end restaurants, and other businesses that are vital to turning the downtown into a landmark that rivals the other major cities in California.

Keeping the Kings in Sacramento was just part of Johnson’s efforts to attract pro sports entertainment to the region, as he also announced plans for the city to build a 25,000-seat soccer stadium that would be home to a Major League Soccer team. In his state of the city address, Johnson predicted that 2016 would be the year that MLS officially came to Sacramento.

Although Johnson stuck to big picture themes and didn’t cover his controversial 2015 in depth, he did speak about his initiative to attract 10,000 housing units in Sacramento over the next decade, the stability of the city’s economy now that the recession is the in the rear view mirror, and renewed support for the arts.

Johnson also recapped his endorsement of a task force that recommended an increase in the minimum wage in Sacramento, which was accepted by the City Council despite some dissention.

Mayor Kevin Johnson also covered the issue of homelessness in his state of the city address, a hot button issue when the city’s anti-camping ordinance drew mass protests at City Hall.

Although the topic is still in need of resolution, Johnson did express optimism that a solution would be found, and shared the good news that Sutter Health has pledged $5 million to identify permanent housing for the homeless population in Sacramento.

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