McNerney’s letter to Obama about Stockton

Congressman Jerry McNerney today sent the White House a letter urging President Obama to include Stockton among the 20 cities to be selected for special federal help in overcoming the effects of the recession.

Here is his letter:

“February 21, 2013

“President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

“Dear President Obama: 

“I want to thank you for your commitment to establishing strong economic growth and ensuring that families and small businesses have the tools needed to succeed. I am fortunate to represent California’s 9th Congressional District that includes the City of Stockton. This city is home to a major inland port leading to the San Francisco Bay, the largest estuary west of the Mississippi River, and an expansive highway system that connects significant technological and manufacturing sectors. Despite these attributes, Stockton has been disproportionately affected by the economic downturn. 

“Your State of the Union address to Congress highlighted a commitment to “partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet,” and that you will “work with local leaders to target resources at public safety, education, and housing.” I share your dedication to helping the hardest hit communities and believe that Stockton should be recognized as one of these 20 cities. Stockton deserves your administration’s attention. For far too long, the needs of the San Joaquin Valley have been ignored, and I believe that we can make lasting improvements to this community by focusing additional resources in our region.

“I have outlined several important factors about Stockton’s current situation below. 

“Bankruptcy: On June 28, 2012, Stockton became the biggest American city to file for bankruptcy. At that time, the city had nearly $1 billion in long-term debt, and the city’s 2012-2013 budget had a $26 million shortfall. Although Stockton is currently working to move out of bankruptcy protection and address its budget situation, the city’s economic condition and bankruptcy have further paralyzed its ability to attract new businesses to the area. 

“Housing: Since the housing crisis began in 2008, Stockton has continually been one of the top five cities in foreclosures nationally – and often ranked number one. During January of this year, one in every 277 housing units was subject to a default notice. Today, more than 50 percent of the city’s residents owe more than their homes are worth, and property values have plummeted by nearly the same percentage over the last few years. In 2007, the median home value in Stockton was $364,700; by 2010, that number was cut in half.  This was the second largest decline among all major cities. A strong housing market is an essential component of a strong community and economic recovery; the foreclosure crisis in Stockton has yet to receive the attention it deserves. 

“Economy: At the end of 2012 Stockton’s unemployment rate was 14.5 percent, nearly double the National average and approximately 5 percentage points higher than California’s rate of 9.8 percent. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately one in five Stockton residents lives below the poverty level, at least 7 percentage points higher than both the California and U.S. rates. Additionally, the Associated Press Economic Stress Index, which is used to measure the economic state of counties, listed San Joaquin County with a rating of 21.51 – placing it in the top 15 out of 3,141 counties nationwide. This stress index is based on unemployment, foreclosure, and bankruptcy rates. 

“Crime: Violence continues to plague neighborhoods across the country, and make us feel unsafe in our homes. Tragically, Stockton’s crime rate remains a serious concern and continues to rise. In 2011, Stockton had the second highest crime rate and violent crime rate in California, and was rated the 10th most violent city in the United States. The city’s homicides rose from a 20 year low in 2008 to 71 in 2012 (also up 22 percent from 2011). 

“While crime has increased, its police force has shrunk – losing 99 police officer positions since 2009. Currently, Stockton has 344 officers and 1.1 officers for every 1000 residents. The city needs 550 officers based on its population. Stockton’s narcotics unit was eliminated. Firearm violence is up 10 percent since 2011, and firearm assaults on police officers went up 400 percent during the same time period. There were 4,155 violent crimes committed in 2012. Stockton has initiated a series of new programs to combat crime, but federal resources are needed to supplement local efforts. 

“Education: As you have mentioned throughout your presidency, education is critical to our nation’s future. Unfortunately, Stockton Unified School District (SUSD) needs attention because its performance is below state and national averages in science, English and social science tests, among others.   

“SUSD’s high school graduation rate is 69.9 percent, nearly nine percent below the national average and more than 10 percent below the state average.  Furthermore, 73.7 percent of people in Stockton have a high school diploma, and only 17.7 percent have attained a bachelor’s degree or higher. The high school dropout rate is 22.1 percent, and the teacher-to-student ratio is 20:1. I have met with students throughout the school district and we all see great promise and enthusiasm, but help is needed. By improving their experience, we can ensure a brighter future for Stockton. 

“As the information above demonstrates, Stockton faces serious – but not insurmountable – hurdles in the years ahead. Stockton’s residents are dedicated, motivated, and capable. This city, its residents, and California would greatly benefit from additional attention from your administration. I invite you; or other officials from your administration to visit Stockton, and respectfully request that you include Stockton, CA as one of the 20 cities you plan to work with in the coming months. Thank you, and I look forward to working with you to improve the lives of Californians. 

 ”Sincerely, 

       
  ” Jerry McNerney
   Member of Congress”

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    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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