RENÉE C. BYER / rbyer@sacbee.com

Mayor Kevin Johnson salutes Gil Vechter, right, and Jack O'Brien at his State of the City talk Monday. The boys ran a lemonade stand to raise money for a new arena, one of the mayor's chief goals.

Sacramento mayor holds forth on arena, schools, green projects in State of the City talk

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012 - 11:47 am

For Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, his fourth State of the City address was an opportunity to focus on three of his favorite subjects: the arena, the green economy and public education.

Speaking before roughly 1,000 representatives from the city's business and political elite on Monday, the mayor urged the crowd at the Sacramento Convention Center to "make the impossible possible" and guide the city out of economic hardship.

"None of us can afford to wait for the economy to recover on its own," the mayor said. "We have to take bold actions and determine our own destiny. We have to make the impossible possible."

On the city's ongoing work to finance a new downtown Kings arena, the mayor said he was launching a campaign to raise up to $10 million for the $387 million project from fans and residents. The "Brick by Brick" campaign will allow people to purchase engraved bricks to be placed in front of the proposed facility.

Two of the first names to be placed on bricks will be Jack O'Brien and Gil Vechter – the names of two young boys who have received attention for running a lemonade stand to raise money for the arena. Another brick will be engraved with Councilman Steve Cohn's name; Cohn was one of the first to mention the idea of the engraved brick campaign.

"This way," the mayor said, "every time we walk into the complex, we will be reminded of the fact that this was an effort of the entire community."

When it came to the "green" economy, Johnson announced he wants to raise $100 million from the private sector for retrofitting schools with clean infrastructure this year – money and work that the mayor said would create 1,500 jobs.

Johnson said he was also working with his friend, Berkeley celebrity chef Alice Waters, to bring her Edible Schoolyard Project "that will test her ideas for school gardens, cooking classes and healthy eating to Sacramento."

The mayor said he also wants the city to plant 30,000 trees in 30 days to commemorate the Sacramento Tree Foundation's 30th anniversary.

The mayor finished on education, saying he had helped raise $4 million to bring City Year to Sacramento. City Year is a nonprofit organization that places young tutors in schools.

He also said regional education officials were developing a report card system for grading school performance.

"With our entire country facing a crisis in our public schools, Sacramento has a legitimate shot to be a leader when it comes to education reform," the mayor said.

Johnson also gave brief mention to other signature initiatives, including his ongoing push to adopt a "strong mayor" form of government at City Hall, encouraging volunteerism and working to address homelessness.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Ryan Lillis



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