The annual ‘State of the City’ address by the outgoing Mayor has long been a fixture on Culver City’s civic calendar. In the past, a Mayor’s Luncheon hosted by the Chamber of Commerce was an afternoon that centered on the speech, and mayors went through the list of city departments, giving extensive data about what the city had done over the previous year. Mayor Thomas Small, moving both the time and the location, created a new way to present his mayoral year and in doing so, has moved the focus from recounting the past to opening the future.
Starting at 5:30 pm at the Robert Frost Auditorium, Small began his presentation with a touch of the culture that he is so well known for; a performance by internationally acclaimed concert pianist Althea Waites playing The Single Petal of a Rose by Duke Ellington. It was a musical interlude of breathtaking grace, beginning the evening with a brief moment of transcendence. Mayor Small gifted Waites with a rose before her departure.
Boy Scout Troop 108 joined the CCPD and Fire Department Color Guard for formal presentation of flags, and Small’s daughter Lyra Brody Small led the Pledge of Allegiance. Elected officials both local and state were introduced from the floor along with representatives and former mayors.
Two brief invocations were given, the first by Rev. Carolyn Wiikins of Agape and the second by Rabbi Zach Shapiro of Temple Akiba, both of which touched on the resilience and roots of community.
As Culver City often likes to do, there was a film; Culver City; Forward Motion. Produced and Directed by Dan O’Brien, the short film was narrated by Small and interviewed a number of residents about the present and the future. Lovely filmcraft with a thoughtful and urgent message; how will the city move forward?
Once standing behind the podium, Small spoke about his time on the council and his year as mayor with his usual combination of enthusiasm and erudition. Starting off with his “most popular campaign sign – Hate Traffic? Think Small” he offered that there was nothing more important to our future than mobility. Citing a number of shifts that added up to a larger picture of the changes coming, he noted that “the Traffic Committee became the Mobility Committee,” and that “Our partnership with METRO is one of our most important relationships.”
Speaking on the General Plan Update, Small quoted from the Italian classic novel “The Leopard, ” after affectionately reminding the crowd that it was written in our Sicilian sister city of Capo D’Orlando, “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.”
He held San Francisco as a cautionary tale; “We have this remarkable tech sector, with these world changing companies and the next generation of technology all happening right here, but we want to look north and realize that San Francisco is now a city of the very rich and the very poor. There is no middle class left, and we want to create a future that includes everyone. We want to keep all the best of Culver City that we have now, and make sure we keep this small town ethos, and that we let everyone know there is a place for them here.”
The Citizen of the Year Award was given to Diana and David Hauptmann, citing their long civic involvement with multiple organizations, from the Sister City Committee to the Sandy Segal Youth Health Center. Small also confessed that former mayor David Hauptmann had been among the first of their neighbors to welcome them when they arrived, and had also been the one to suggest he might enjoy running for council.
He might have had no idea, ‘enjoy’ would be a radical understatement.
The program concluded with the Angel City Chorale singing “This Land is Your Land,” and a crowd that went home perhaps thinking about how their city would face the future.
Small also thanked Shelly Wolfberg, and Heather Moses for helping to create the unique event.