100 days of K.J.

The other day, Bites ran across this profile of our mayor:

“The mayor in Sacramento has the same presence as the man in the White House. Kevin Johnson and Barack Obama think and speak alike.”

It was written by a columnist for the Bay Area News Group, the outfit that owns The Oakland Tribune and the San Jose Mercury News. Bites isn’t sure who to be more embarrassed for—the columnist who wrote it, or Johnson, for having it featured on his personal Web site.

The Obama administration hits its 100-day mark in May. Johnson’s 100th day was last Thursday. While Obama has been busy launching new initiatives and dismantling the mistakes of the last eight years, Johnson is still trying to figure out what kind of mayor he is.

We know what he isn’t. He’s not a policy guy; he hasn’t dazzled anyone with his consensus-building skills. He got bounced off his third-floor walls a couple times—with his strong-mayor proposal and his plan to hire some friends of friends to do an audit of city finances—because he didn’t want to do the political homework or the political legwork needed for the job.

He could still be a great mayor. Bites does think Johnson can excel in the role of cheerleader for the city of Sacramento. If he follows through.

Johnson recently addressed the California High Speed Rail Authority board and complained that Sacramento was being given the boonies treatment and being left out of the early plans for the state’s high-speed rail network.

He told The Sacramento

Bee last week, “I’m very interested in how we can expedite Sacramento being a part of the high-speed train.”

What? Sorry, Bites thought that was Barack Obama talking for a second.

Seriously, Bites also wants Sacramento to be part of that train. And Johnson’s predecessor Heather Fargo likely would have shrugged and said, “That’s just the way it is.”

But while Johnson may have popularity and connections beyond those of a mere technocrat, it’s still not clear what that gets him. Doors may open for Johnson that were closed to Fargo. But once he’s in the room, does anything happen?

Look at Cal Expo. The NBA’s plan for an arena and new urban neighborhood has been called “almost blindingly brilliant” by Bee sports columnist Ailene Voisin. But then there’s the almost blindingly glaring lack of a financing plan. Remember a few years back, when Sheriff Lou Blanas and developer Angelo Tsakopoulos tried to cobble together a similar deal for new development to pay for a new arena? It collapsed almost immediately after it was announced. And that was when the economy was booming. Measures Q and R were just as disastrous. Does Johnson know a new kind of math that makes an arena project pencil out?

With his NBA pals and developer connections, does he have the juice to bring home some sort of deal? Or will he find himself, as his predecessor did, resigned and watching from the sidelines as another arena proposal crumbles?

And now there’s a fleeting opportunity to snag a Major League Baseball team, because the Oakland A’s have decided they are done with Oakland.

Johnson’s spokesman Steve Maviglio says landing the A’s is a remote possibility, but a possibility. He released a statement from Johnson last Friday, letting the A’s know we’re interested, if, you know, they are.

“Sacramento will only pursue a team like the A’s if the A’s are serious and not looking to negotiate one community off of another and we can develop a stadium facility that will represent a true economic benefit to Sacramento,” Johnson said. “In the coming weeks, I will be making clear the process and principles that we will adhere to when it comes to considering a Major League Baseball team such as the A’s.”

Process and principles? There is some familiar caution in those words. Where has Bites heard it before? Oh yeah, it doesn’t sound like Obama. It sounds like Fargo.