Earlier this month, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics released employment data for July, and Stockton’s unemployment rate ticked up to 15.1%. Eight Central Valley cities rank in the bottom eleven out of 372 metro areas in the country for unemployment. But while the recession has taken away many construction, manufacturing and retail jobs, white collar positions for doctors, technology experts and nurses are still going unfilled, highlighting an underlying structural issue with the region’s workforce that threatens to keep bogging the local economy down even after the housing market recovers. While retail and construction jobs are sorely needed, attention must be paid to the need for a more skilled workforce, one that can fill the increasing demand for healthcare professionals. Continue reading
Today, the city council will discuss settling a long-standing lawsuit with developers over a provision that is intended to preserve open space and farmland within large developments. As it stands, the Agriculture Mitigation Ordinance requires developers to acquire conservation agreement for land equivalent to the size of the development for projects over 40 acres. Under 40 acres, developers can pay a fee of $10,000 per acre instead. As part of the settlement, developers would like to remove the 40 acre restriction and be able to pay the fee regardless of acreage.* The distinction won’t make much of a difference, according to sources in the Record article, but the real story here is, why is the city allowing the conversion of farmland at all? Continue reading
Eminent domain is always a touchy topic to bring up. Usually, the utilization of eminent domain is met by fierce protest from those who stand to have their homes razed for a new airport, railway or other project deemed a “public use.” In Stockton, eminent domain was used to clear a path for the crosstown freeway, displacing many.
But what if eminent domain could be used to protect the little guy? Instead of kicking people out of their homes, what if a city used eminent domain to help homeowners stay put? That is the exact concept being discussed in several cities stricken by the housing crisis: Using the power of eminent domain to stop the deluge of foreclosures. With Stockton leading the nation in foreclosures, city officials would be wise to at least take a look at this option. Continue reading
On Friday, August 3rd, Stocktonians filed in to Whirlow’s Tossed and Grilled on Pacific Avenue to show their appreciation and support for the Miracle Mile restaurant. Today, August 16th, a similar phenomenon is taking place at Capital Donuts in the College Square shopping center. Both of these events are not random, and represent a new social media trend– with an altruistic twist– known as the cash mob.
The cash mob concept was born in the fall of 2011 in the equally distressed city of Buffalo, where local businesses struggle to survive amidst chain stores and a falling population. Residents there, concerned with the loss of local businesses, came up with a simple yet powerful idea: get a lot of people to spend some money at a local business– all at the same time. In addition to giving local merchants a one time boost, planners also hoped to introduce small businesses to residents who may have never gone to the store otherwise in hopes of creating repeat customers. Since the cash mob concept came to fruition, the trend has spread to many other cities and neighborhoods, and as of this month, Stockton is now one of them. Continue reading
With the introduction of Bus Rapid Transit, Stockton residents now have an efficient and effective method of transportation along some of the city’s most vital corridors. Metro Express’s amenities put it on par with many other Bus Rapid Transit systems around the country, and city riders have taken advantage, pushing ridership numbers to heights not seen before on regular bus routes.
While it is easy to see how Metro Express gives Stocktonians a better choice for transportation, the potential benefits to the community from Stockton’s new transportation option extend beyond simply getting people from point A to point B. With the apparent success of Bus Rapid Transit, the door is now open to an intriguing possibility that many have probably never thought could take hold in Stockton: Transit Oriented Development. Continue reading
Back in the roaring 20s, Stockton, like most cities of its size, had an extensive rail system, boasting 28 miles of track and as many as 40 streetcars. Taking public transportation was commonplace, with fares costing just five cents and trolleys arriving every five minutes. But as the 20s ended, the 30s ushered in the rise of the automobile. With most families now owning cars, the trolley system and its tracks were seen as a nuisance rather than a public good. By the end of 1941, the last streetcar vanished from the streets of Stockton.
Today, the car is king, and I know very few people who utilize public transportation in Stockton if they can use an automobile instead. Still, every now and then I hear friends and family longing for some form of rail system to reliably transport people around town. As you can read here, the idea of reviving Stockton’s street cars has been tossed around by some residents, and even by local government (in the form of light rail) back in the late 1990s.
But in the era of high costs and bankruptcy, how can local governments invest in transportation infrastructure that is both cost effective, reliable and attractive to the public? The answer: it already has, in the form of Bus Rapid Transit. Continue reading
Recently, the US Conference of Mayors commissioned a study which included the projected growth of nearly all US metro areas by 2042, including Stockton. The report predicted that our area will surpass one million residents– 1,077,200 to be exact– in thirty years, which puts the region’s growth rate at a whopping 52.5%. Going through the data, two thoughts came to mind.
First, no place that is “miserable” would actually grow by 50% in thirty years. But more importantly, where will all these people live? Continue reading