The State of the City Address is traditionally given at Chamber of Commerce meetings because they are reports to local businesses about how the City is doing from an economic and business standpoint. Mayor Abram Wilson's State of the City Address last year was very formal and business-like. Wilson was accompanied by a slickly produce PowerPoint presentation with all of the financial details and accomplishments of the past year presented pictorially in photos, graphs, and tables.
Mayor Bill Clarkson eschewed the slideshow and stood in front of the podium talking to the audience in a conversational tone. He commented on all of the good things about San Ramon but also dipped into the City's $4M deficit and lack of a Downtown. Clarkson occasionally referred to notes on speaker cards, but most of the time he chatted off-the-cuff about where the City is and what needs to be done to open up a dialog with the residents.
Without all the bells and whistles of a formal slide show, Clarkson's presentation ran a little short. He was asked a couple of questions at the end about the status of the RDA. City Manager Greg Rogers said the existing projects will be continued under a successor agency, which was voted on at the City Council meeting later that night. Clarkson thought Governor Brown would try to come up with a way to protect redevelopment now that the State Supreme Court struck down the State's Pay to Play plan.
Clarkson praised City Staff, which has been reduced by 50% in the last four years. He gave special praise to Karen McNamara who took over as Acting Director of Parks and Recreation after Jeff Eorio's retirement. McNamara is still Director of Public Works. Many City staffers are doing double duty these days.
Former Mayor Abram Wilson was relaxed and cheerful at the presentation. He came over to my table and we chatted awhile. I asked him how he's doing and he said, almost as if surprised, "I'm happy." I asked if he is planning to run for another office. He said he wants to spend time with his family. His daughter just had a baby and now he has more time to spend with his family. He doesn't miss the daily grind of being on the City Council, although he brought some of that on himself by overdoing his role as Mayor. He will still be involved with the City as a resident. "You can work for the City without a title, like you do," he said. Wow that sounded like a complement. Maybe he's finally reading my blogs.
Mayor Clarkson wrapped up his presentation at the Chamber by thanking Mayor Wilson for his service to the City. Wilson is very popular in the Chamber and received a big hand of applause.
Because of complaints about the State of the City Address being held during the day at the Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Clarkson held a second State of the City address on Wednesday evening at the San Ramon Community Center. It was included as part of a Dougherty Valley Rotary Club meeting, which puzzled me.
Bill is the founder of the DV Rotary, and most of the audience, which wasn't as massive as I expected, were Rotary members. In fact out of about 100 people attending only 20 were not Rotary members. I asked Bill why the presentation was sponsored by the Rotary Club and not the City. He said it was to avoid "Conflict of interest." "Huh?" I shook my head and asked what he meant. He said, he didn't want the City to appear to be taking over. This confused me even more, so I phoned City Manager Greg Rogers on Thursday to see if he could explain what the Mayor meant.
Well to my surprise (I'm always surprised when I find out how little I still know about City government), the State of the City address ISN'T a City function. Rogers told me it is a Chamber function, which is why it is always presented at the Chamber of Commerce. Since the City is a member of the Chamber, it is one of the sponsors listed on the Program, but it isn't the presenter of the Address. The Mayor is.
I asked about Abram's slide shows. Rogers said the City helped with Mayor Wilson's presentation at his request and would have helped Mayor Clarkson, but he didn't request it. Rogers called it "a matter of style." Clearly these two Mayors have very different styles.
So all of the complaints about the State of the City Address not being presented by the City are moot, because despite its title, the State of the City Address isn't a City presentation. If Residents wanted to attend, they had two opportunities on Tuesday and Wednesday, and hardly anyone except members of the sponsoring organizations showed up.