State of the City Goes Private

By Judith Scherr
Wednesday May 14, 2008 - 07:20:00 PM

Breaking with tradition, Mayor Tom Bates made his “state-of-the-city” address Tuesday night, not at a public gathering in City Council Chambers, but at a semi-private event held in a privately owned West Berkeley auditorium. 

Why no City Hall event? 

Bates reminded the gathering—invitees who had received personal e-mails from staff—that last year just as he began his state-of-the-city address, the sound system in the Council Chambers died. He ended up giving the speech with a makeshift microphone.  

This year the mayor said he took no chances. He went to the private sector—directly to the folks who know sound best in Berkeley: the event was held at Meyer Sound on Tenth Street near Heinz Street. 

The Daily Planet was not notified of the event—an invitee informed a reporter. Even though the reporter’s name did not figure on the guest list, the reporter was permitted to attend by mayoral staff. 

The hour-long—or so—speech meandered from visions of a downtown thick with luxury condos, four-star hotels, first-class theater and gourmet eateries to the greening of the city, with networks of shuttle buses, green-built high-rises and lush sports fields the East Bay Regional Parks District has christened Tom Bates Fields. 

The talk was liberally peppered with kudos by the mayor to almost all the 60 or so supporters seated in the audience, whom he thanked by name—non-profit CEOs, Chamber of Commerce leaders, school district and City College officials, developer representatives and elected officials. 

As the mayor delivered his remarks, photographs of Berkeley faded from one to the other on the high-tech screen behind him—the university, Berkeley Rep., the Rose Garden, a sunset at the Marina—nothing like the aging small screen the council and city staff use in the council chambers. 

While the city’s locked in a lawsuit with the university over a training facility and parking lot UC Berkeley wants to build next to Memorial Stadium—and may be headed down the legal-action road over labs proposed for Strawberry Creek and Blackberry canyons—the mayor said: “I don’t want to ruin relations over land-use.” 

The event culminated with a brief video that included dramatic sound by Meyer Sound showing some of the work the company does. Meyer Sound employs some 200 people in its 28-year-old West Berkeley business. The auditorium was made available to the city without cost for the event, according to John Meyer.