Today’s installment of news and notes includes President Obama’s State of the Union address and what it means for Stockton; Crime around Walmart; the city’s rising Amtrak ridership numbers; and the Daily Beast’s best and worst healthcare cities.
President Obama addresses plight of cities: Last night, President Obama delivered the State of the Union address, touching on a broad range of policy proposals from foreign policy to minimum wage to gun control. There was probably very little that resonated with Stocktonians in terms of the state of our city. However, there was one snippet of the President’s speech that jumped out:
“Let’s put people back to work rebuilding vacant homes in run-down neighborhoods. And this year, my Administration will begin to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet. We’ll work with local leaders to target resources at public safety, education, and housing.”
I hope city leaders were listening, because Stockton could easily be considered among the 20 hardest-hit towns in America. If the White House is going to extend help to the worst hit cities, Stockton should be at the top of that list.
While there has not been an official policy statement from the White House elaborating on the specifics of the President’s plan, I suspect it could be an expansion of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) initiative launched in 2011. This initiative pledges individual support to cities in the form of federal agency expertise to “leverage federal dollars and support the work being done at the local level to encourage economic growth and community development.“ Regionally, SC2 provided Fresno with a 23-person “Community Solutions Team” comprised of issue experts from 12 different federal agencies to work directly with the city on a place-based model to “develop specific actions to advance the goals of the city.” The partnership has resulted in several modest success stories, such as bringing the city’s Social Security Administration branch into downtown, developing a business course for small business owners, and providing technical assistance to help expand neighborhood revitalization efforts.
While the SC2 program is not a game changer, the program’s expansion to Stockton could provide some much needed support to an overtaxed city staff. If the President really wants to help the 20 hardest-hit cities, Stockton would be the ideal place to start. The city employs an advocacy firm to lobby on its behalf, I suggest they make their way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to make sure Stockton has a voice in the Administration’s selection process.
Walmart- “High-Crime, Everyday, Everywhere”- As I wrote about last year, the introduction of Walmart stores often results in higher crime rates. So when I took a quick look at Stockton’s crime hot spots so far in 2013, I wasn’t surprised to see that the city’s two Super Walmarts leading the way. According to the crime-data tracking website crimemapping.com, the Trinity Parkway Super Walmart has been the scene of more than 25 reported crimes in 2013, ranging from theft to fraud to stolen vehicles. And this is the better of the two stores. On Hammer Lane, the elder Stockton Super Walmart accounted for a whopping 56 crimes during the same timeframe. No other single address in the city has produced more total crimes in 2013 than the city’s Walmarts. (Side note: the Walmart Neighborhood Market on March and West Lanes doesn’t appear to have an unordinary number of crimes.) Obviously, we are looking at raw data, and correlation does not equal causation, but these numbers are surely not comforting to the people living in the surrounding areas.
Region’s rail ridership rising: In fiscal year 2012, Stockton train stations (Cabral and San Joaquin Street stations) saw a combined 317,982 Amtrak boardings, making Stockton the 13th busiest Amtrak stop in California. While not overly impressive, the 2012 stats represent a big increase from 2011 (298,516 boardings), continuing a trend of higher ridership numbers (note: I am not entirely sure, but I do not believe these numbers include ACE ridership.) Moreover, Amtrak’s San Joaquin Corridor drew just under 1 million passengers last year, good for fifth most amongst all Amtrak routes.
Why are these numbers important? Because they signal demand for more rail services in the Central Valley. Case in point, the city of Modesto just voted to accept a Downtown Passenger Rail Station Feasibility Study examining the possibility of bringing rail service to downtown Modesto. Leaders there want to make sure they are prepared for both improvements in ACE service and the eventually High Speed Rail.
Today in lists: In the world of lists and rankings, the Daily Beast just came out with their list of 25 best– and worst– healthcare cities for 2012. While Stockton did not make the top 25, the city avoided the bottom of list, though regional cities such as Salinas (25th), Bakersfield (13th), and Visalia (11th) were not so lucky.