Call it Mayor Dwight Jones' opening statement. In his State of the City address tonight at Thomas Jefferson High School on West Grace Street, Jones unleashed a torrential downpour of mayoral accomplishments in his first three years -- lots and lots of groundbreakings, mostly for things that are still years from actually being built.
We’ll parse through the particulars soon enough. (Ask us about the green, concrete-looking "riverfront terraces" lining the bank of the James).
The real story here is that Jones let the preacher out, particularly toward the end of his speech, and it damn near broke into a call-and-response sermon. This is a relatively rare occurrence. Jones likes to keep the reverend out of his politics, perhaps to his detriment.
If this is a sign of things to come in 2012, well, it can’t all be bad. In pressing for continuing to build on the foundation his administration has supposedly already built --“We’re playing on a great stage,” he told the audience -- the mayor dropped this gem:
“I’ve spoken about the schools that we are building, and we’re so proud of that and we’re grateful to all who have come together to make that happen. … But the buildings speak to bricks and mortar. And we’re using the same bricks and mortar to build a jail. Our challenge is to make sure that our jail is not the structure that ends up getting the most use.”
“I applaud the progress that’s been made by the school system. Dr. [Yvonne] Brandon and the School Board have done a marvelous job. Let me be the first to say we have come a long way. But I must also point out that the future of our children and the future of our city demands more of you, and demands more of me,” Jones said. “A tier one city is one where we stop celebrating the decreases in our negatives. For example, a tier one city does not celebrate a decrease in our dropout rate and truancy rates. A tier one city does not celebrate getting more education money from the state because we are poor and have kids on free lunch. A tier one city does not celebrate when our schools are … accredited based on archaic minimum standards.”
Oh, it gets even better:
“And I must admit that I myself have participated in these celebrations of mediocrity. But we’ve got to stop. A tier one city has got to recognize that we will accept nothing but excellence in education. We have got to let go of the mediocrity and embrace excellence. … Our children are crying out for help.”
I don’t know what message that sends about his campaign for reelection, but it’s hard not to be a little inspired by his honesty. At the very least, it’s a good start.