Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a politician with a penchant for a good show, is moving his final State of the City address next year to a new stage.
The annual event will move to downtown’s Crest Theatre on Jan. 28 after being held at the Memorial Auditorium the past three years. It will be Johnson’s final address as he begins his last year in office.
“Over the past eight years, we’ve made great strides for Sacramento to become a city that works for everyone and a destination city where people want to live, work and play,” the mayor said in an emailed statement. “We have never taken our eye off that goal and plan on finishing 2016 strong. My State of the City address will reflect that and holding the event in one of our city’s most historic venues will help make it a night to remember.”
For years, the event had been delivered to business leaders and politicians in a conservative affair at the Sacramento Convention Center. Johnson changed that in 2013, when he moved the event to Memorial Auditorium and made it open to the public. He also raised thousands of dollars for local charities and asked attendees to bring food for area food banks.
What followed was a series of flashy galas, complete with live music and big announcements by the mayor. Local blues rocker Jackie Greene has performed at the event, along with other area musical acts.
In 2013, with the Kings’ former owners trying to move the team to Seattle, Johnson announced in his speech that Southern California grocery tycoon Ron Burkle and fitness magnate Mark Mastrov had teamed in a bid to keep the team here and build an arena at Downtown Plaza. Burkle later dropped out of the bid, but a local ownership group led by Vivek Ranadive later bought the team and the arena is now just 10 months away from opening.
By the following year, more than half of the mayor’s speech was dedicated to the city’s successful attempt to keep the Kings in town.
In 2015, the $507 million arena – by that time well under construction – didn’t get a lot of mention. But another local sports team did: The mayor announced in his 2015 speech that the owners of the San Francisco 49ers were investing in Sacramento’s pro soccer team, Republic FC, as it campaigns to join the ranks of Major League Soccer.
While always full of dramatic announcements, Johnson’s speeches have also involved less-glamorous – though equally important – goals and milestones. He often has spoken about the need to add police officers to city streets, addressed the city’s budget woes and advocated for increasing the academic performance at city schools.
In 2015, he talked about the formation of an income inequality task force. The resulting group would later recommend gradually increasing the city’s minimum wage to $12.50 an hour, a recommendation approved by the City Council in October.
He also promoted an initiative to attract 10,000 new residential units to the city’s urban core. City building officials said recently that 781 units had been constructed or were under construction this year, a big increase over 2014.