Excuse Me, Mayor Johnson!!!……

By Gregory Moore
Updated: March 6, 2008

SAN ANTONIO — “And now introducing Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento, California.”

Can you just imagine former Phoenix Suns guard Kevin Johnson walking up to the podium and then giving the introduction about Barack Obama? If Hillary Clinton thought that plagiarism was a part of Obama’s campaign, evidently she hasn’t read Eugene Robinson’s column about this Black genius camp somewhere in the Ozarks because KJ’s words at his press conference sounded vaguely familiar.

“I came to the unequivocal conclusion that we need a change in this city, and we need a change now.”

“Right now, people see our city government as non-responsive, tired, uninspired and bureaucratic.”

“Help me create a city that works for everyone.”

These words that Johnson said at his press conference are not just vaguely familiar; they are familiar. We have heard these words coming from Sen. Obama in some shape, form or fashion and every politician who is trying to unseat an incumbent or trying to unseat a favorite old political veteran reaches into the “change” bag and comes away with euphemisms that excite the crowd and incite near panic in his or her opponent.

Yet, Johnson just isn’t whistling a tune here. The Sacramento native has been busy putting his money where his mouth is and he has works to back up what he can do for California’s capitol city.

Johnson hasn’t just been busy since his retirement; he’s been revitalizing. In Sacramento he has put together a string of projects that have both been applauded by the citizens and have been the targets of their anger.

The former Phoenix Suns guard’s non-profit community development corporation, St. HOPE, transformed the failing Sacramento High School into a successful charter school. St. HOPE also developed the 40 Acres Art Gallery and Cultural Center, with a book store, lofts and Starbucks, in the commercial heart of Oak Park.

But community leaders have criticized Johnson for failing to keep up other run-down properties he bought with an eye toward redeveloping them.

Johnson was forced to issue a public apology after the Sacramento Bee ran a story that said half his group’s 37 Oak Park properties had been cited for code violations over a 10-year period. Vacant lots had been left fallow and had become filled with garbage.

Still with the economy the way it is in Sac-Town, who else but an urban developer could possibly change things around?

But this won’t be an easy task. The full court press that he may have felt during his NBA days will be nothing like what he feels from the savvy political veterans who will either line up for favors or to bring him down.

In politics, there are no referees or chalk lines to give you lines of demarcation; only dirt, dirt and more dirt.

Yet the citizens of Sacramento may want to really look at how one of their own is willing to throw his reputation on the line for them. To be in politics it takes nerves of steel.

That is why you have to sometimes admire those who are running for a political office. And you have to like the fact that a former basketball star is willing to be a big time player in his backyard.

With all that is going on right now on the national political landscape, you have to really tip your hat off to Johnson for wanting to stick his neck out and try to solve the problems of his hometown.

He’s an urban developer that sees things that other well-connected politicians may not see. Unlike some who may be just saying the right things, Johnson may actually be able to do the right things because he has a blueprint of success in the areas that affect Sacramento the most.

Now if he’s mayor can he just do one small favor: can he score some tickets to a Kings’ game?