Living in California, it’s easy to feel removed from the national political scene. On election night, the Golden State eschewed conservative trends across the country to remain an impenetrable bastion of progressivism. But as much as we in California would like to believe we are fully insulated from the ramifications of a Trump presidency, the reality is that in Stockton, a Trump presidency and subsequent GOP policies will reverberate to us locally here in Stockton and the Central Valley. So, let’s ask the question: What—if anything—does a Donald Trump administration mean for Stockton?
I have some ideas based on what we know so far about Trump’s stated policies, potential cabinet picks, and GOP leaders who now control each branch of the federal government.
One might argue that the election of a real estate developer as president would be great for cities, given his experience building some of the highest-profile projects around the world.
I disagree, and in fact believe a Trump presidency (and GOP-lead House) will make providing affordable housing in cities such as Stockton much more difficult, exacerbating issues of homelessness and inaffordability. This is not so much because of Trump’s hardline stance against affordable housing, but because of Paul Ryan’s.
Paul Ryan is the Speaker of the House, and under GOP control, federal programs that support the construction of affordable and emergency housing have suffered serious cutbacks. These programs include Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and the HOME Investments Partnership Program, both of which provide grant money to cities to incentivize blight abatement and the building of affordable housing. Locally, affordable housing projects such as the Cal Weber 40 and Grand View Village have all taken advantage of these funds (Note: my company Ten Space has a stake in each of these projects). These funds are important because rents are too low to build new housing and keep prices affordable to working families. CDBG and HOME funds can help bridge the funding gap for such projects and make them more competitive for other competitive federal funds. While other cities have many extra tools that assist in the creation of affordable housing (i.e. housing trust funds, inclusionary zoning, etc), Stockton does not. And with President Trump at the helm to rubber stamp Paul Ryan’s changes and cuts to these programs, it’s almost a certainty that there will be fewer and fewer federal dollars available to help build affordable housing in Stockton.
Another big way in which a Trump administration can affect housing is through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). So far, rumored candidates for HUD Secretary have been wide ranging. At one point, former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown was a rumored pick, which would have been a great choice given Brown’s stance on expanding financing mechanisms for low income housing. Unfortunately, it’s looking more likely like that post will go to Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon with no discernible experience in housing policy. The only indication we have on Carson’s ideology is that he is opposed to fair housing laws.
What an incoming HUD secretary could do is to expand the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. Given Trump’s propensity to favor tax incentives for private companies and the fact that expanding LIHTC would not technically raise federal spending, this strategy seems like a great idea. Currently, the LIHTC program is incredibly competitive for cities like Stockton and any expansion of LIHTC will be very beneficial. But, given that housing has not been a priority for Trump, I won’t hold my breath for this one.
One of candidate Trump’s big promises on the campaign trail was repairing our country’s crumbling infrastructure. In fact, Trump claimed his infrastructure plan would be $1 trillion, well above what Hillary Clinton proposed. And in the days following Trump’s win, some Democrats signaled a willingness to work with the president elect on passing an infrastructure package, including Nancy Pelosi.
“We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals,” Trump proclaimed on election night. “We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none.”
This departure from mainstream conservative principle gave me hope that in a Trump presidency, we would at least get some new roads and rails.
In theory, this plan could have a tremendous impact on our local infrastructure, perhaps expanding ACE Rail service into the Bay Area and shoring up the fledgling California High Speed Rail which will have far reaching economic benefits if it ever actually gets built and connects to Stockton.
But further analysis into Trump’s plan casts serious doubt on the idea that the new president will usher in an era of big spending on needed infrastructure improvement. As many media outlets have noted, Trump’s plan doesn’t actually include new spending on anything. Instead, his stated plan only includes tax breaks for private companies that invest in infrastructure that generates its own revenues (i.e. toll roads and bridges). This is a far cry from the massive infrastructure spending that democrats (and many conservative groups such as the US Chamber of Commerce) have long sought, and in fact is more likely to lead to “bridge to nowhere” type projects that do not address the nation’s most pressing needs.
Given this, unless a private company wants to start charging tolls along Pershing Avenue or building a draw bridge over the Deep Water Channel, we won’t see any investment locally. But as an optimist, I still have hope. Democrats most likely won’t back Trump’s plan in its current form and will demand some sort of actual spending to accompany these tax incentives. Locally, if our representatives go to bat for us, any compromise that brings real dollars to the table could help expand our local rail system. GOP Congressman Jeff Denham is a big proponent of ACE and Amtrak San Joaquin, and I would hope he and Dem Congressman Jerry McNerney could work together to sneak some funding into whatever infrastructure bill comes through the House.
No way around this, a Trump administration is going to be horrendous for the environment both nationally and locally. All indications are that Trump appointees are pro water exportation (read: south valley agriculture). There is a very good rundown of the consequences of a Trump presidency on the Delta by Cal Magazine that does a much better job than I could on this topic, read here. (And thanks to the Record’s Alex Breitler for Tweeting this).
Nationally, Trump and the GOP will most likely look to curtail President Obama’s limits on emissions from power plants and higher gas efficiency in cars. As one of the most polluted regions in the country, these rollbacks would hinder efforts to clean our air. Fortunately, Democrats have super majorities in both California chambers, so no matter what a Trump administration does nationally, California will almost certainly maintain higher air quality standards.
This is by no means a comprehensive list for what Trump means for Stockton or other Central Valley cities. But if you’re interested in reading more about these ramifications, I’ve included some links below. Enjoy!