Johnson Has His Inauguration Day ... Sort Of

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(Sacramento, CA)
Wednesday, November 26, 2008

If you just poked your head into town yesterday, you might’ve had a hard time figuring out who was in charge.  Sacramento’s new mayor was supposed to take office last night.  But the county elections office is still counting the votes from November 4th.  So when the city council began its meeting yesterday, just after 2 pm … 

Fargo: “Good afternoon, I’d like to call the Sacramento City Council meeting to order and ask our clerk to call the roll.”
… it was outgoing Mayor Heather Fargo banging the gavel – even though she gave her farewell remarks last week.
City Clerk: “And Mayor Fargo?”
Fargo: “Here.”
Four hours later, Fargo again presided as council members Sandy Sheedy, Rob Fong, Kevin McCarty and Bonnie Pannell took their oaths of office after winning re-election.
Sheedy: “I do solemnly swear …”
Fong: “…that I will support and defend the constitution of the United States …”
McCarty: “… and the constitution of the state of California …”
Pannell; “ … against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
Mayor-elect Kevin Johnson sat in the audience – then hopped down the street to his own party at the Memorial Auditorium.  There, he took the exact same oath.
Pastor: “I, Kevin Johnson …”
Johnson: “I, Kevin Johnson …”
Pastor: “… do solemnly swear …”
Johnson: “… do solemnly swear …”
But the only meaning in that oath was a personal one, to Johnson.  He won’t officially be sworn in until next Tuesday’s council meeting.  Still, that didn’t keep the Johnson transition team from pulling out all the stops, before a crowd of about 2,000 – including Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Mayor-elect read from two teleprompters behind an eight-foot-wide podium.  The backdrop was a huge American flag.  There was a gospel choir, confetti cannons and much more.  It was an inaugural celebration like Sacramento has never seen before – at least, at the city level – all paid for by private donors.
Before the confetti (but after the gospel choir), Johnson spoke for about half an hour, with the theme “Together We Can.”  He quoted poet and playwright Langston Hughes as he called on every city resident to get involved.
Johnson: “‘There’s a dream in this land with its back against the wall.  To save that dream for one, we must save it for all.’  To save this dream for everyone in Sacramento , there can be no one – no one, I repeat, no one – sitting on the sidelines.  This won’t be a spectator sport.  Together, we must take action.  Collective action.  Aggressive action.” 
He laid out some lofty goals: new development across the city, from the Riverfront to K Street to a new Kings arena at Cal Expo; a safer city, where “crime is not an issue;” and schools where every child can get a top-notch education, regardless of neighborhood or skin color.  And as he’s done throughout his campaign, he connected his movement to Barack Obama’s.
Johnson: “People are excited about the change that we can see and feel in Washington and the change that they can see and feel here in our own city of Sacramento.  With this enthusiasm, I hope to ignite a new sense of civic responsibility, of civil service and city pride.” 
Johnson wanted that community service to start the moment people walked in the doors last night.  Admission was free for everyone who brought a can of food or signed up to volunteer for a non-profit.  And many left the celebration feeling inspired, like Tanya Lecky of Elk Grove and Dyhana Hamblin of Sacramento.
Lecky: “I’m excited about where Sacramento’s going.  I think it’s mirroring our country, and I’m excited about that.”
Hamblin: “Yes, excited and hopeful for change – in the United States and here in Sacramento.  And it’s good to see a local boy make good, so I’m really happy and proud for Kevin.” 
Kevin Johnson won’t become Sacramento’s 55th mayor for another week.  But you wouldn’t have known that at all last night at Memorial Auditorium.