The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

November 26, 2008
Thoughts on Kevin Johnson's gala night
Mayor-elect Kevin Johnson proved one thing Tuesday night: He and his team can pull off a star-spangled spectacle.

A huge American flag. Balloons. Massive digital projectors. Lisa Ling as emcee. A youthful dancing troupe. A soulful choir. A visit by the governor. A teleprompter for K.J. Lots of soaring platitudes, followed by confetti raining down. Sacramento has never seen anything like it.

Some scribbles from my notebook:

-- The new mayor passed on a chance to ding TV comedy host Stephen Colbert, who called Sacramento "unbelievably boring" when Johnson was on his show recently. Johnson's prepared remarks had the mayor-elect saying: "I was not going to let that  fool get away with saying that Sacramento was 'unbelievably boring.'" But when Johnson delivered his speech, he  inserted the word "jokester" for fool. )

-- The local music, dancing and singing on Tuesday night were inspired. I especially liked the 34th Street Dancers. Their performance -- "Obama Song/I have a dream" -- delivered an instant message of generational change. These young people are energized, they are talented and they are ready to mix it up.

-- The audience? What an unusual congregation. I saw a bunch of non-city Republicans there -- Assemblymen Roger Niello and Ted Gaines, former Supervisor Muriel Johnson, etc. They were on the floor of the hall, mingling with "FOKJs" -- friends of K.J. -- developers, event sponsors, etc. Meanwhile, the cheap seats off the hall were occupied mostly by Kevin's youthful supporters, some of them Sac High alums or supporters from other parts of town. They yelled out support for Johnson and, when his speech ended, they fired off confetti launchers.

-- Johnson interrupted his address to pay tribute to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the crowd gave the governor a standing ovation, even with the state facing a $28 billion budget crisis. When the governor stood up to thank the audience, next to him was an imposing looking figure with a bald head. Was that Steve Schmidt? (Update: Yes it was Steve Schmidt! The ex-McCain strategist is a partner in Mercury Public Affairs, which is handling P.R. for K.J. and also, we learned today, just hired former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez.)

-- Overall, Kevin's speech was a bit long. His transition team could use an editor. But it was a heartfelt speech, and it revealed Johnson's passion for Sacramento's more neglected neighborhoods. You really got a sense of this guy, his dreams, his drive, his pride and his insecurities. And the content? We'll have more to say on that later.

Update: Here's a link to Johnson's prepared remarks:
KJ embargoed speech.doc  

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About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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