Special to The Dallas Examiner
Mayor Eric Johnson announced Nov. 18 that he would deliver his annual State of the City address virtually Dec. 8 at 6 p.m. at the Hall of State at Fair Park.
This year’s address will mark a return to the public roots of the address. For decades, the city’s mayor has delivered the traditional address to groups and clubs that represent businesses and civic interests.
City archivist John Slate said the annual event and address has taken numerous forms over the years. While public records are incomplete, references to the State of the City can be found as early as 1887, although it’s possible that the address was given in previous years. The earliest printed report that Slate could find was one given in 1890 by Mayor Winship C. Connor, who addressed it to the City Council.
Last year, Johnson, like his predecessors, presented the address during a Dallas Regional Chamber luncheon in downtown Dallas.
This year will also mark the first time in known history that the speech, which fulfills a Dallas City Charter requirement, will be given at Fair Park in South Dallas.
“While COVID-19 will force me to deliver an address virtually this year, it is important to me that the State of the City be considered a public event in the years to come. This event should be an opportunity for the people of Dallas to hear directly from the mayor about the current state of affairs in the city and policies and plans that will affect their lives,” Johnson said. “And I can think of no better place than the beautiful Hall of State to talk about where we have been as a city and where we want to go.”
The mayor had announced his plans to host the address at the Hall of State during the ribbon-cutting ceremony there last week. Workers had recently completed a $14.4 million restoration of the building – a harbinger of changes coming to Fair Park.
The Dallas City Council recently approved a new master plan for Fair Park that aims to make the 277-acre park a year-round destination with more green space and better integration with surrounding neighborhoods.
“We’re happy Mayor Johnson chose to host the State of the City at the iconic Hall of State at historic Fair Park,” said Darren L. James, president of the Fair Park First board. “The recent renovation to the Hall of State has restored its original luster and will provide the perfect backdrop for the mayor’s address.”
Weather permitting, the mayor will give his speech directly outside the building. No audience will be permitted during the address to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Although the Dallas City Charter vests executive authority in a city manager, who is selected by the majority of the City Council, the document requires that the mayor of Dallas “ensure that annual reports are made as to the state of the city, its financial condition, its accomplishments, and its plan and needs for the future.”