The State of the City address is a kind of wonky art form; a mayoral manifesto that, if crafted and delivered just so, transcends matters “expedient and proper” – the bar set by a 1963 city charter amendment establishing the yearly briefing. More like evocative and inspiring. A good State of the City addresses strives to illustrate a vision for the coming year, to set an agenda and strike a tone.
Interim Mayor Todd Gloria is the 10th mayor to give the State of the City address since Frank Curran started the modern tradition 50 years ago. Some offered eloquent entreaties for the city to collectively rise up and do better. Others overreached and become the subject of derision.
No small task, the State of the City.
Here’s a look at some of the more memorable State of the City speeches over the past half-century:
Sanders’ Video Gambit (2012)
In January 2012, Mayor Jerry Sanders opened his seventh and final State of the City speech with a six-minute video, accompanied by a heavy metal and rap soundtrack. Here’s how KPBS described it:
The room goes dark and a video begins to play. A young boy appears in a gritty part of downtown San Diego. As Eminem’s song “Lose Yourself” starts to play, the boy is seen running past the lot where a new Chargers stadium may be built, then the rendering of a new stadium is faded in. The video continues hitting all the major projects proposed for the city, an expanded Convention Center, new central library, a revamped Plaza de Panama in Balboa Park.
And then the ominous tones of “Hells Bells” rang out across the Balboa Theater. The video screen and lights flashed red as Mayor Jerry Sanders walked on stage. The meaning was clear, Sanders’ term is in its final innings, and just like famous Padres pitcher Trevor Hoffman, Sanders is looking to close out the game with a win.
As a legacy address, this went way beyond “expedient and proper.” The video and speech, in which Sanders talked about “closing the deal” on large civic projects, was a gamble. As it turns out, none of those projects materialized during his administration, although he pushed the decades-old dream of a new Central Library closer to fruition than any of his predecessors.