"Mayor Kevin Lincoln called for a tall order in his State of the City address, that Stockton will be the example for the rest of the nation to follow for living in a post-pandemic world. Some of Stockton’s community leaders shared their reactions to Lincoln’s speech and their opinions on how to get Stockton to where Lincoln wants to go.
D’Adrea Davie, first vice president of the NAACP Stockton branch, said Lincoln’s speech was one of optimism.
“It was great to be there after COVID, to actually have it (in-person.) It was a very positive environment to be in,” Davie said. “I thought it was an optimistic overview of the direction he would like to see the city go … I think there wasn’t a lot of detail on how he plans to overcome some of the barriers he’s experiencing.”
Davie lives in Weston Ranch, where she said it feels as if there has been an increase in crime. With the citywide homicide rate up 62% and unease within her neighborhood, she would like to hear more details on what kind of plan there is to help improve the crime rate.
“My No. 1 concern is crime,” she said.
Next week, the city will welcome its 50th police chief, Stan McFadden, who will be Stockton's first Black police chief. He will be tasked with reducing crime and blight, increasing trust between the community and the police and recruiting and retaining qualified and diverse officers to Stockton’s Police Department.
Davie praised Lincoln’s commitment to the city’s youth with his announcement of an initial $4.3 million investment in the scalable Stockton Youth Workforce Development Program to increase the field of young, qualified professionals in Stockton.
“That’d be a great benefit for the city,” Davie said. “We need to get our youth more involved and engaged in activities within the city that are positive. I don’t think they have much to work with right now.”
In her work with the NAACP, Davie, a real estate agent, specializes in housing. While Lincoln acknowledged the multiple new housing and rental developments in the city, Davie said she would like to see greater priority toward homeownership for families in Stockton, where more rent than own a home. The city has had a down payment assistance program, but it has not been active for years.
“Right now there isn’t anything within the city that’s helping our renters become homeowners,” Davie said. “I think that would be the greatest benefit for residents to allow them to build some type of wealth.”
In his May 19 address at the Port of Stockton, Lincoln stressed the importance of accomplishing city initiatives through an equitable and inclusive lens. Alyssa Leiva, an outreach specialist with nonprofit Public Health Advocates, a local delegate for the Democratic party and former Stockton Citizens Redistricting Commission member, said she’s not seeing that happen.
“Equity to me as a public health advocate means putting the needs of people who have been divested from first,” Leiva said. “South Stockton residents have the highest asthma rates, their life expectancy is 10 years less than those who live on the north side. North side voters advocate for pools while south Stockton cries for groceries and safe conditions for their kids to walk to school while their parents are at work at these warehouses.”
Dan Wright, a Stockton City Council member since 2015, said he thought Lincoln did a good job covering the city’s progression toward the Stockton of tomorrow, particularly on addressing homelessness.
“If you ask what the city has done about homelessness, you’re probably going to hear some negativity,” Wright said. “But the truth is, we’re doing a tremendous amount, it's just not work that can get accomplished very quickly … it's not a simple issue to address. I think that was an important message to get out.”
When COVID-19 turned the world upside down, Stockton enacted an eviction moratorium in March 2020. It’s still in place today and will be for 90 days after Gov. Gavin Newsom or California legislators lift the State of Emergency. The moratorium came under former Mayor Michael Tubbs’ leadership, but Lincoln has seen it through and led the city in dispersing about $40 million in emergency rental assistance and utility bill aid to Stockton families struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic.
“I really liked the point he got out about rental assistance. He didn’t bring up the eviction moratorium, but that was an important piece too in stopping more homelessness during COVID,” Wright said. “Our housing challenge in Stockton is greater than almost anywhere in California.”
Lincoln leads Stockton during a influx of federal funding to local governments from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act, which provided the city with $78 million in one-time funds that must be spent by the end of 2026. Stockton has also successfully emerged from bankruptcy, and Lincoln touted the city as the fourth most fiscally healthy city in California, a rating from Truth in Accounting, a 20-year-old nonprofit organization that analyzes the fiscal data of governments.
Wright said the accolade is misleading, as the rating is largely based on California cities' looming pension crises. He said Stockton was able to get ahead of the pack through its bankruptcy proceedings when retired city workers agreed to forgo retiree health care benefits.
“We’re fiscally solvent, but we’re not flush with money,” Wright said. “When we talk to people about how fiscally solvent we are, they go, ‘then how come all of our parks haven’t been completed? Why haven’t we reopened all of our pools?’ ”
Stockton's bankruptcy has left the city with millions in deferred public works maintenance and debt, Wright said.
“I hate to tell (people), ‘in 2040 we’re going to be flush, we’re going to hire more police officers and we’re going to be adding back services,’ but we have to get through our debt,” Wright said. “That’s the biggest issue.”
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