Lee Offers a Fresh Focus on “State of the City”

On Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022, the “State of the City” took on a new focus at the Culver City Middle School, ushering in fresh possibilities for civic engagement. Mayor Dr. Daniel Lee started the evening with the AVPA Jazz Combo, and pizza was available for all, sponsored by TING Internet. Everyone was made to feel welcome, and name tags included table assignments for the evening’s conversations.

In the past, when Culver City held municipal elections in the spring, there was an annual event called the Mayor’s Luncheon, which included the ‘State of the City’ address. It was hosted by the Chamber of Commerce at one of the hotels, tickets were required, and of course, lunch was included. Both local service clubs and city departments bought tables, and the outgoing mayor made a speech summarizing the accomplishments of each city department through the year – how many classes were offered through Parks and Recreation, how many streets were paved by Public Works. It was a tight format, without much space for creativity. 

Since the municipal elections have been merged with the general election, Culver City’s civic calendar has changed, and so has the State of the City. This year, outgoing Mayor Dr. Daniel Lee opted for a new venue – Culver City Middle School – and a new format – ‘World Cafe.’  This allowed the mayor to speak to those gathered for the annual address, and then became a format where everyone gathered in small groups to discuss the city’s specifics – environmental issues, police reform – on a personal and intimate level. 

While many of the discussions were informative and aspirational, not all were positive. While the previous “Mayor’s Luncheon” format held no space any kind of those not delighted with the city’s performance in the previous year, the ‘World Cafe’ was open to all voices. At most tables, the talk was focused and friendly, with people giving their input on topics that connect our city with both our county and our state. Most importantly, discussions of our future noted the strides that the city has made in regard to climate change and inclusivity. 

While Mayor Lee will serve in his office for several more months, this format for an annual city event could serve much longer. Open admission and curated conversations could create a ‘world’ of difference.

Judith Martin-Straw

The Actors' Gang

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