Sketching Tubbs’ first year

Mayor Michael Tubbs with U.S. Senator Kamala Harris at the San Joaquin Valley Leadership Conference in Stockton in October.

Towards the end of the year, as always, I’ll do my best to evaluate the year Stockton had. That always includes the leadership of the mayor, city manager and others.

I can see the contours of several themes about Mayor Michael Tubbs. One, that the extra $20 million a year taxpayers are sinking into crime fighting has failed to bring down the city’s gun violence and homicides; two, that Tubbs is importing fresh ideas; and three, bringing powerful figures here for the first time.

The first is a failure, though not primarily Tubbs’. In a Council-Manager form of government such as Stockton’s the City Manager is the boss of the police chief and other department heads. City Manager Kurt Wilson should explain why the hiring of 120 police is not having the desired effect. Who among his subordinates is not doing their job? Has anyone been held accountable?

But Tubbs as well should explain. Why should Stocktonians pay the state’s highest tax rate if the needle doesn’t move on gun violence? In this connection, it’s worth mentioning that the mayor and Council have the power to fire a City Manager who is not getting the job done — though whose head should roll, if anyone’s at all, is far from clear. Stockton’s problems are tough nuts to crack.

As for fresh ideas, “Perhaps none of our list members is making as ambitious an attempt to experiment with social policy as Michael Tubbs, the 27-year-old mayor of Stockton, California,” Forbes wrote in selecting Tubbs as on of its annual 30 Under 30.

This from a magazine that twice declared Stockton “America’s Most Miserable City.” Here Tubbs’ critics are as much at issue as Tubbs. The status quo here has been substandard for decades. But they attack Tubbs’ every new idea. This community has not produced adequate solutions from within. But they attack Tubbs for travelling to conferences and seminars that offer new ideas.

Of course, new ideas don’t merit applause for their mere existence. They must improve things. What we can evaluate is how these practices have worked elsewhere.

Finally, Tubbs has brought to Stockton a host of leaders who may otherwise merely have flown over: state Senator Kamala Harris, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, higher ups from various federal agencies, and others. His talent for networking and forming relationships with such people is unmatched by any mayor I can think of. Results from these connections deserve to be recognized.

There will be more themes. Feel free to suggest any.


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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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