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Stockton, California: America’s most diverse city still haunts its past. cities

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Stockton, California: America’s most diverse city still haunts its past. cities

Stockton, Calif. — A few dozen children playing outside a downtown school come under a six-story mural that depicts a local community organizer and Martin Luther King Jr., the city’s high-profile mayor, Michael Tubbs. is a quote. : “The most important investment we can make is investing in our people.”

Tubbs’ message is an urgent one in Stockton, an already impoverished port city devastated by the 2008 housing crisis. In 2018, Stockton — which has approximately 310,000 residents 42% Hispanic, 24% Asian, 19% non-Hispanic white and 13% black — was the largest in the US, according to a US news analysis based on recent census data. was the largest city with the most racial diversity. .

While the city’s leaders are champions of Stockton’s diversity, it has also been linked to racial tensions and severe inequalities. Like the rest of America, Stockton is a place where race and opportunity are largely intertwined, with the city’s people of color often performing poorly on health and economic measures, whereas the city more than three decades ago was majority- had become non-white. Now, as the city gains new momentum to lift itself out of financial ruin and “reinforce Stockton,” local leaders are trying to close those gaps.

But the odds can be stacked against them.

Mayor Michael Tubbs speaks with an attendee at the Community Planning Summit for a regional plan on homelessness by the San Joaquin County Continuum of Care, San Joaquin County and the City of Stockton.

Mayor Michael Tubbs speaks with an attendee at a Community Planning Summit for a regional plan on homelessness.(Brett Ziegler for USN&WR)

“I don’t see how you can govern a city as diverse as Stockton and not be equity-minded and equity-focused,” says Tubbs, who is Stockton’s first black mayor, and turned 26 in 2016 When elected, he became its youngest. For the City of Stockton to thrive, we have to invest in everyone, but especially in those who haven’t been invested historically – and that is the majority of our population.”

in Stockton – located along San Joaquin River in California’s Central Valley – White households have a median income of about $60,700, nearly twice the median income of black households ($30,400) and significantly higher than Hispanics ($43,900) and Asians ($56,200), according to the census The figures show. Similar disparities exist in educational attainment, unemployment and homeownership rates, while people of color are also more likely to live in areas of concentrated poverty and in neighborhoods with higher crime rates.

“We represent the diversity of the world in one very focused city,” says Samuel Nunez, executive director of Fathers & Families San Joaquin, a local nonprofit that works with and advocates for vulnerable families. And while the majority of Stockton has struggled financially, “the scarcity is an illusion, as is the wealth concentrated here in this community.”

Local advocates and city leaders say the city’s current racial disparities are the result of decades of public disinvestment in South Stockton, where many residents are black or Latino. As the city grew, North Stockton has diversified, developing its own pockets of poverty, but remaining the more affluent – and white – of the two parts of the city. The legacy of redlining and other racist policies is evident today: sidewalks, dilapidated housing and vacant lots are crumbling south of the Crosstown Freeway, while little development and private investment that the city attracted went north.

Neglect left South Stockton’s communities of color for years to fend for themselves. Community advocates say law enforcement looked the other way as the area was mired in violence during the crack epidemics of the 1980s and 1990s. And in 1999, one of the last blocks of Little Manila—which was once home to the largest Filipino population in America—was demolished to make room for McDonald’s and a gas station.

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“You wouldn’t stop at a red light if it was red,” says Fred Scheel, who moved to South Stockton in 1983 and runs the neighborhood housing group STAND. “All the shootings and killings and robberies[were here]and the neighborhood and the city didn’t do jack squats. … It was fine as long as it was all happening here in a black, brown, poor minority neighborhood.”

Today, South Stockton is home to about a third of the city’s population, and its low-income, multiracial neighborhood has higher asthma rates, poorer overall health and a shorter life expectancy than elsewhere in the city.

“The simple truth is that our history is on the wrong side of the freeway,” says Dillon Delvo, co-founder of the education and advocacy-focused nonprofit Little Manila Rising. “The result is that people are sick and people are dying.”

For years, the city’s misery continued to spread. Stockton declared bankruptcy in 2012, and a year earlier, the city’s high unemployment and violent crime rate led to Forbes being named “America’s most pathetic city.” In 2016, meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California sued Stockton Unified, the city’s largest and poorest school district, for what it claimed was a “culture of over-policing” that was rife with black and Latino people. It affected students as well as people with disabilities. .

It was months before Tubbs was elected mayor. Soon after his victory, he set out to raise Stockton’s national profile and attract attention and resources from charitable foundations and the state. Now, the mayor himself serves as a beacon of hope for the community that is trying to heal from its past.

“When you think about the Stockton story, I mean, we were literally Ground Zero – it was the baseline for where we are now,” says Tubbs, who was first elected to the city council in 2012. was and is considered by some to be a rising star in the Democratic Party.

December 03, 2019 |  Stockton, California |  A vacant lot in South Stockton that Stand is trying to buy from the city to develop a medical clinic and affordable housing units.

An empty lot is seen in South Stockton. Stand is trying to buy property from the city to develop a medical clinic and affordable housing units.(Brett Ziegler for USN&WR)

Their ongoing priorities include economic growth, improving public safety and ensuring that longtime residents are not displaced because of Bay Area travelers moving to Stockton. Last month, Tubbs announced that Stockton would receive more than $6.5 million in state grants to combat homelessness.

Perhaps the most famous of Tubbs’ initiatives is the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration, a universal basic income experiment where 125 randomly assigned residents are given $500 per month on debit cards, no strings attached. Preliminary data from the 18-month pilot shows that most people spend money on things like food, utilities and auto care.

December 05, 2019 |  Stockton, California |  Students walk between classes at Pacific Law Academy High School

Students walk between classes at Pacific Law Academy High School in Stockton. (Brett Ziegler for USN&WR)

A long-term project supported by Tubbs is the Stockton Scholars Program, which through a $20 million grant from the California Community Foundation will provide partial scholarships for the next decade for each student graduating from Stockton Unified, where the majority of students are Hispanic, Black or black. Asian. State statistics show that about 20% of students in the district drop out of high school, and only 21% of graduates are considered career or college ready.

Tubbs has raised Stockton’s profile and charted its course, but he is ultimately just a vote on City Council, with the city manager running day-to-day operations – which is meant to promote equity and inclusion. Efforts may be given priority, or they may be lost to the bureaucracy. Local leaders, including Tubbs, say the real progress will come from changes across the city, and some are taking steps in that direction.

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At Stockton Unified Schools, for example, superintendent John Dessey says he is implementing “a suite of investments to build equity in a highly diversified space,” involving counselors and mental health practitioners in schools and in the classroom. Including training teachers on racial bias. Daisy hopes to make a high school ethnic studies elective – an after-school program launched after students at Little Manila Rising lobbied the school board – part of the core curriculum.

December 05, 2019 |  Stockton, California |  Police Chief Eric Jones is photographed during a meeting with community leaders.

Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones is seen during a meeting with community leaders.(Brett Ziegler for USN&WR)

Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones, meanwhile, is working to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the city’s communities of color, in part of his efforts following the reconciliation process used after the fall of apartheid in South Africa. Modeled. Officers are trained in implicit bias and procedural justice, and since 2015, the department has conducted hundreds of “hearing sessions” with the city’s black and Latino communities.

Jones has also implemented policy changes in the department, such as eliminating its zero-tolerance, blanket-enforcement policing methods in favor of a violence-prevention model that targets people at risk of criminal activity. After reaching a high in 2012, murders in the city declined by 40% between 2017 and 2018 and remained relatively level in 2019.

“I think we have a blueprint now,” Jones says. “It’s hard work – it’s a lot to do – but it’s doable.”

A recent analysis by the Urban Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C., shows some promising early results of the changes, with residents saying they have “a more favorable perception of police and police-community relations. There have been more calls for the police, an indicator of community trust.

Yet some attempts have proved more sinister. A nearly two-year dispute over whether the city should continue to subsidize a pair of unprofitable public golf courses – one in North Stockton, one in the South – ended in August when the city council decided to close the South Stockton course and allow Approved the plan to retain the answer. Stockton Course open under a 15-year lease with a private operator. Tubbs offered to sell North Stockton’s 214-acre park to developers and use $850,000 to keep the courses afloat, among other causes, such as an affordable housing fund. But nearby residents protested, saying their home values ​​would drop without green space.

December 04, 2019 |  Stockton, California |  Elders dance during a social gathering at the Fathers and Families of San Joaquin Center

Attendees during a social gathering at Fathers and Families at the San Joaquin Center in Stockton.(Brett Ziegler for USN&WR)

Tubbs says he is proud of the result, but some, including Stand Kee and Little Manila Rising’s Delvo, say the golf course has become a symbol of the divided city, “myself” of the affluent North Stockton region. is not in” serving as a clear example. backyard” attitude.

“There were signs everywhere, on people’s lawns: ‘Stop Tubes,’ ‘Stop Tubes,'” Sheil says. “It got ugly so quickly.”

Despite the odds, Nunez of Fathers & Families says local efforts to promote equity are “moving the needle in the right direction” in Stockton.

And activists say some residents’ resistance to change won’t stop them from fighting for Stockton’s underserved communities. Overcoming generations of trauma may take decades, he says, but breaking that cycle is paramount – perhaps even more so than Stockton and indeed the country continues to diversify.

“At the end of the day, can we win? We have to win,” Nez says. “Our lives depend on it.”

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