K.J. lays out vision for ’Sacramento 3.0' at his yearly State of the City extravaganza

Mayor Kevin Johnson gave but quick lip service to his arena successes at last week’s State of the City—yet the future Kings home loomed large in his vision for Sacramento.

Mayor Kevin Johnson gave but quick lip service to his arena successes at last week’s State of the City—yet the future Kings home loomed large in his vision for Sacramento.


The Vivekification of Sacramento is coming.

Or at least that was the take-home from Mayor Kevin Johnson’s State of the City speech last week. His annual address, given this past Thursday evening at the Memorial Auditorium, zeroed in on the city’s future as “Sacramento 3.0.”

“In this era, the city is a hub of innovation, entrepreneurship and technology,” the mayor began. He spoke of a city blanketed in wireless technology, and residents who buy and sell things in a paperless community (this after giving the night’s legacy award to a local newspaper publisher). He described a “cashless” business world and a city where the largest hotel is Airbnb.

“In version 3.0 of our city, we have more cellphones than land lines, more tablets than desktops, more smart devices than toothbrushes,” Johnson explained. “In Sacramento 3.0, the world’s largest music company has no records—Apple. The world’s largest bookseller has no bookstore—Amazon. The world’s largest taxi company has no cars—Uber. … And very soon, the world’s largest university will have no campus.” This last prediction drew some gasps from the estimated 1,500-strong Memorial crowd.

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because Johnson was riffing on Vivek Ranadive’s “NBA 3.0” talk, in which the Kings majority owner’s espouses his vision for global and tech-driven professional basketball.

The unspoken here is that Johnson is going to work harder to bait Silicon Valley and to seduce blue-chip tech giants. But despite this aggressive new talk about embracing digital innovation, what will Sacramento 3.0 actually look like?

As per the K.J. way, the mayor’s yearly State of the City was more than just a speech. It was about reaffirming that Sacramento’s winning. About sexy headlines and tent-pole theatrics. Cover band Hip Service opened the show with a Macklemore song. Performance artist David Garibaldi splattered paint. Kings announcer Scott Moak, who served as emcee, roared. The Sacramento Bee likened Johnson’s gathering to a “hip-hop show”—but that’s a flawed comparison, given the State of the City was devoid of marijuana and booty bass. Yet point taken: This was not a speech steeped-in State of the Union tradition. This was a party.

There were hype men, to the Bee’s credit, in the form of elite corporate sponsors. Thursday’s affair was made possible by Western Health Advantage, Wells Fargo, the Kings and about a dozen other corporate donors. Politicians and business-community players rubbed elbows during a pre-event VIP hour, and nearly 10 minutes of the evening was dedicated to thanking sponsors. Media sponsor Fox40 was given preferential access at the speech—until a Capital Public Radio reporter complained and equality prevailed. Donors were given preferred seats on the Memorial’s main floor; the general public was relegated to the nosebleeds.

Johnson began his speech with a humblebrag, recounting his first-ever “State of the Cities” address in Washington, D.C., which he delivered as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors on January 21. The mayor said his message during that speech was similar to what he wanted to share with Sacramento: “We’re on a roll. The state of our city is strong. And that’s the theme of my address today, ’Sacramento Strong,’” he told the Memorial crowd.

Not-so-subtle Boston biting aside, Johnson’s theme also was a backdoor nod to last fall’s Measure L defeat. With a twist: The mayor never mentioned directly his ballot-box shortcoming, but his State of the City talk was most certainly a blueprint for how he intends to become a strong mayor despite an actual constitutional green light.

Consider his new budgetary scheme. “We will hold forums throughout the city that will allow the public to weigh in on the city budget,” he said. For the first time, he will also present his own budget priorities to city council, who will then deliver a budget recommendation to the city manager. For years, Johnson has criticized that the city manager drives the budget process devoid of council and mayoral input; this is his latest attempt to have more say over Sacramento’s dollars and cents.

How would he spend City Hall’s coffers? Johnson introduced a smorgasbord of projects and issues—some quotidian and rehashed, most titillating and exciting—for the near future during his nearly 40-minute speech.

He wants to usher the UC Davis World Food Center into the downtown Railyards site, which he also envisions as a micro version of Silicon Valley.

He wants citywide Wi-Fi and the installation of high-speed Internet infrastructure.

He’s tasked a commission with studying the feasibility of a new performing arts center to replace the Community Center Theater.

He hopes to add 10,000 more central-city housing units in the next decade.

A committee will explore raising the minimum wage.

He’s pushing for body cameras on police.

How to pay for all this? The irony of Sacramento’s tight purse strings was not lost considering that, two days earlier, City Treasurer Russ Fehr warned the mayor and council that money was by no means flowing and urged that they “might want to take a little break” from assuming more debt after the Kings arena bonds.

Speaking of the Kings: While the mayor’s two previous State of the City speeches focused primarily on the team and its new arena, this year’s included but a fleeting mention of Johnson’s flagship accomplishment, less than a minute of lip service, in fact. Instead, he parlayed his King-sized mojo into a new sport: soccer.

This year, his top priority appears to be bolstering the city’s effort to secure a Major League Soccer franchise and a new Railyards-located stadium. The evening’s big surprise, as reported by most local media outlets last week, was that the San Francisco 49ers will be investing in the Sacramento Republic team.

How does soccer fit into Sacramento 3.0? Turns out Kings owner Ranadive was also announced as a team investor last week.

The Vivekification is real.