‘City of second chances’ prepares to survive season of stress


Sophomore Andrea Martinez shares how she is “kind of scared” about the next couple months for her family of five.
“My step-dad and my mom both work at the same place, so they are both going to lose their jobs,” she said. Her parents work for Head Start. Because of a recent budget cut, they are losing their jobs due to the need to downsize staff. Others have faced a similar fate.
Mayor Anthony Silva says it best: “Everything bad that could happen to a city happened to Stockton, California.”
The city’s general fund was nearly liquidated in 2005 when the new arena, baseball field, cinema, and hotel were built, causing lasting effects on the city’s economy.
On June 27, 2012, Stockton became the largest city in the nation to file for bankruptcy. The issue still has not reached a settlement on whether the city can move on from the Chapter 9 debt.
Approximately $700 million in debt, the city struggled to make regular payments on the interest, accumulating debt to multiple creditors. On Jan. 7 of the new year, Stockton representatives have to face, again, the last creditor to negotiate the payment of $35 million bond granted in 2009. Record reporter Roger Phillips has been covering the court cases via Twitter.
The millions of dollars being spent by the city, combined with record foreclosures across the nation and a drop in wages and health care for city employees as the years progressed, created an unstable Stockton.
More than 300,000 people make up Stockton’s population. Bankruptcy has a ripple effect that has left students and their parents with stress, especially during the holiday season as students are now feeling the pressure of a near-empty pocketbook.
Junior Katherine Phan admits that while her family is not feeling it as hard this season, they are still conserving.
“We’re trying to save as much as we can,” Phan said. “We turn off the light if we don’t need it, the water if we’re not using it; we just don’t waste anything.”
Senior Brandon Alford does not feel the pressure of the bad economy, yet he feels that the city does not encourage a “pleasant” future for students. “The city is doing bad. School pushes us to succeed but surrounds us with an unpleasant environment.”
Silva sees the resilience in the people of Stockton while acknowledging that the city has “hit rock bottom.”
“Stockton is a city of second chances,” Silva said as he opened his arms, his gaze locked on a photograph of Weber’s Point on the wall as he shares how he too struggled as a single father.
“We have a national stigma of negativity,” Silva said. “People’s view of Stockton is negative.”
In order to better the city, the mayor plans to make Stockton a business-friendly area and market the town more positively.
“Geographically, we are at the right place for companies to come and make money,” Silva said. The money future businesses bring in will help build positivity.
But the spending isn’t quite done yet as far as renovations go. The downtown area and the improvements made lack places for people to live, causing the mayor to work with the city planner in drafting new living complexes, so that the city can meet the requirement of a loan awarded.
Just like the city, Martinez’s family is taking a new approach this Christmas. “It’s more about making the gifts instead of buying them,” she said. And just like the mayor, Martinez encourages that the city not only help the working population but the homeless population as well.
Stockton is struggling to get back on its feet in light of the recent bankruptcy, and many of the citizens feel the season of stress even as the city embarks on its new path.
Overall, Silva is confident that “the city always finds a way to survive.”