Why aren’t folks talking about Stockton, California’s upcoming mayoral race? Not even our local newspaper has said jack about Ann Johnston vs. Clem Lee since at least June! WTF? Never fear, Stockton, your bitchy neighborhood feminist is back with a little political punditry for the masses!
Before we even get to talking about the candidates for Top Dog of City Hall, let’s establish a few major concerns that the next mayor should be expected to address. I am sure you will agree to their importance.
1. Jobs. We need jobs. Real jobs. Our young men all suffer from the same I Want To Be A Drug Dealer fantasy until their early twenties because it is honestly the most viable option for financial stability ‘round here! Shit is so bad on the legit employment front, that when local boys fill out job applications they list hustlin’ as a relevant skill, The School of Hard Knocks as educational background, and “Pimpin’ ain't easy” as a reason for leaving their previous employment. We don’t need another fast food joint that will employ eleven or twelve residents part-time on minimum wage or another addition to the corporate restaurant boulevard along Pacific Avenue that will do the same. We need real industry, real employment prospects, and a real living wage!
2. Crime. I don’t buy the Party Line that more police officers & a bigger jail facility will solve the problem. Shit, I’m more afraid of SPD than any of the gang bangers I’ve come across and I have no idea how a bigger jail is supposed to deter criminal behavior. We need to restore the public’s faith in our law enforcement personnel and, honestly, I’m not sure what could get me to re-think my attitudes towards our Boys in Blue. They gun down residents without repercussions (or even adequate explanations) so often that any native Stocktonian would agree that “SPD don’t fuck around”. They show up twenty deep to house parties, are always timely when a noise disturbance is reported, and have been known to kick asses from Louis Park to Oakie-ville without batting an eyelash. Stockton has a violent crime problem and it is not entirely due to gang activity. After all, poverty and high crime rates are the Siamese twins of public policy; where there is one, there is inevitably the other & separation of the two issues is damned near impossible! We need to start looking at our crime problem with honest eyes and develop rational strategies to combat it, instead of behaving like having California’s highest violent crime rate is an unavoidable phenomena that is out of our hands.
3. The Budget Has to Serve the NEEDS of the Community! I think it’s cool that Downtown doesn’t look like Skid Row anymore and I’ve enjoyed my fair share of hockey & soccer games at the Arena, but I can’t justify the exorbitant costs of Downtown Revitalization being covered at the expense of our libraries, our social services, and our environmental responsibilities! City Council has thrown our money around and made piss-poor investments whenever possible; it’s like an alcoholic transient in pee-stained clothes living under the freeway in a cardboard box…but his box is decked out with a Wii and surround sound speakers. Seems like there are some major essentials being looked over, y’know? We need to fund our emergency shelters and low-income assistance programs, so that they can serve as stepping stones to a more stable future for city residents. We need to reward locally-based entrepreneurs for giving the city it’s rare glimpses of culture (where is the subsidy package for Stockton Joe’s? Or the TOB? Xochimilco’s?)! Our hometown businesses deserve to be propped up by the City, rather than beaten down by the current hostile permit & taxation policies that ensure only the Strongest Corporate Entities survive. We need low-income health options besides the County Hospital’s emergency room! We need to remember how broke most of us are & allocate funds accordingly. Our city coffers need to be at the disposal of Stockton’s residents, not it’s (Favorite Son) investors.
4. Address the Environmental Disaster that is the Valley! The air tastes terrible (go out of town for a few days & when you come home, you’ll know exactly what I mean). The water quality is pretty fucking scary (Arsenic! Selenium! Uranium! And enough Copper to line our intestines for decades to come!). The Delta’s eco-system is on it’s last legs, but it’s death rattle is virtually ignored. Huge sections of the world’s best farm land continue to be gobbled up by the Axis of Assholes (Spanos, Grupe, the Stone Brothers), then regurgitated along the city’s boarders as shitty housing developments that no one here can afford and no one else wants. We can fix our troubled streets, our economic crisis, and our community safety net, but if our environment remains a secondary concern, none of it will matter. If given a choice, who would want to live in a place with air that tastes like week old cigarette butts on it’s best days?
5. Knock Some Smarts into Us! Please? If we are going to spend money, we really outta’ allocate a good chunk of change to improve literacy in these parts. Proof that our local governing body gives a shit less about the illiteracy rates of this sad city is the damned coffee shop some idiot installed in the Adult non-fiction section of the Chavez Central Library. WTF? Of all the stupid places to stick a cafe… Now kids run ramped through the historical biographies like it’s a McDonald’s fucking Playland, while Mommy or Daddy enjoys a leisurely latte at a table next to the new release periodicals & I pull the hair out of my scalp strand by strand in an effort to refrain from throttling the little bastards. No joke.
Before I lose it & hop on the first Amtrak outta’ here, I’d better shift my focus to the candidates and their platforms. This way I can pump a little optimism into my thoughts for the city’s future or, at least, have an actual person to direct my anger at!
Ann Johnston has my vote (at this point) because she’s not currently a member of the Worst Case Scenario City Council. On her website she names her top Mayoral goals as:
* ridding the city of criminal activity, gangs, and neighborhood blight
* finishing the downtown/waterfront redevelopment
* bringing in new business with high paying jobs and good benefits
Ridding the city of criminal behavior seems like quite a lofty goal, but I like the Can-Do Attitude she has with regards to the crime issue. She lists some strategic ideas for kickin’ crime in the tail, such as: enforcing truancy & curfew laws, creating Neighborhood Councils, and holding police District Commanders accountable for the crime rates of their districts (which is a fucking brilliant idea! Imagine that! Police Accountability! In Stockton!). She also suggests building relationships between schools and the business community,which I found to be a very fresh & interesting idea. “Smart Growth” is another aspect of Johnston’s platform that I can get behind wholeheartedly (see #4, listed above).
When assessing a candidate for political office, one of the smartest things you can do is peep their endorsements. Knowing who is backing their bid for power can tell you a lot about their motives & true intentions. Johnston’s long list of supporters (from her website, once again) doesn’t give me any cause for alarm. The local Teamsters, Operating Engineers, Longshoreman, City Employee, and Plumber’s Unions are all on her side. The Campaign for Common Ground (a local environ-friendly organization), The Sierra Club (the local chapter of the national environ-goodies), Planned Parenthood Mar Monte (saintly people), SJ & Calaveras County’s labor councils, and The Central Valley Stonewall Democratic Club (local lefties representing the LGBT community) are also on board with Ann. The feminist and the gay endorsement? Sounds like my kinda’ lady.
Opposing Johnston in November’s election, is current City Councilman Clem Lee. Full Disclosure: My sister & I both voted for him at least once, based entirely on his name recognition. Now, I see the error of my ways! Right off, Clem Lee’s website annoyed the shit out of me. The homepage is littered with that gossipy negative campaigning bullshit that sours me on political discussion (my opponent did such-and-such, so I deserve your vote! Whaaaaa…Cry baby bullshit). His biography reminds us of his life-long residency (which makes me wonder how he has been so blind to Stockton’s best interests while on the Council. I’m half his age & can’t help but see the shit) and proves his heterosexuality by bringing up his 17 year marriage and 14 year old offspring. No pictures though. No platform information either. Nothing but some garbage vague statement about raising Stockton to new heights based on a vision, or some shit. Lee should probably cruise by Johnston’s site & see how it’s done. Johnston is even rockin’ a MySpace, while Clem Lee’s homepage hasn’t even been updated since May! However are we expected to make an informed decision in such an important political contest, if Lee doesn’t bother to let us know WHY we should give him our vote? I guess he’s banking on that whole name recognition strategy panning out again. The McCormick Girls won’t fall for that shit this time!