“Good morning, Stockton…

…We have a lot of work to do.” Last night, Mayor Michael Tubbs ended his swearing-in remarks with this hopeful and direct reminder.

In these gloomy times for our nation, watching the Stockton Mayor and city council get sworn in at the Bob Hope Theater brought immense hope and inspiration. In her poem, the Stockton Poet Laureate declared the time had arrived, that “it’s time to change the conversation about Stockton.”

Feeling the theater brimming with energy and hope lifted me up. I’ve been thinking about her words all day- and about my internal conversations about Stockton.

Photo from TenSpace

Though we’ve officially lived in Stockton for nine months (whoa time flies) I realize I haven’t jotted down my thoughts on this move and the city. There’s a lot to unpack and my feelings continue to evolve.

What I do know: moving here wasn’t an easy decision (for me), and the process of establishing a life in Stockton has required substantial sacrifice (from both of us).

Each day-and I mean this sincerely-David inspires me with his unwavering commitment to make downtown Stockton a better place for all Stocktonians. Years before we moved back to California, he would come home from his real job, sift through planning articles and Stockton data, and fire away, writing about how to revitalize downtown.

Now, he gets to put those ideas and analysis into action. It’s thrilling to see it happen in real life. It’s also very, very hard.  Given the city’s economic reality, none of this is easy. Bay Area development this is not. There’s no safety net, and until TenSpace built one, no blueprint for downtown planning. David and his colleagues are charting a new course, constantly relying on grit and love of city to push them through many, many challenges. When he picks me up after work, I often ask, “put out any fires today? Literal or figurative?” Because there’s been both. Multiple times.

All to say, my internal conversation about Stockton isn’t always positive.  As an outsider, this is a tough city to love. The poverty, high crime, strained schools-these aren’t the critiques of naysayers, but a difficult reality. The 70 miles between home and my office might as well be 3,000-the economic divide between the two regions is that stark.

And yet, here we are. I’m a first time homeowner, professional from another city, about to have a baby-and choosing to live in Stockton.  When my internal conversation turns doubtful, and I question this course, I always think of David and his commitment to create positive change downtown.

Last night was beautiful because that commitment was echoed 800 times over.  Over 800 Stocktonians packed the Bob Hope Theater to watch Stockton turn a new page.  Bolstered by the promise of new leadership, the community came together and committed to change.  It’s easy to think that elections don’t matter, particularly local elections, but watching the relief on the council-members faces and the pride in the audience as they anticipated the progress under new leadership, underscored the importance of the democratic process at all levels.

I’m obviously a huge fan of Mayor Tubbs and have deep faith his leadership will usher in a new chapter of progress.  As he said in his speech, it’s time to think about where Stockton is going, and not where it has been. I’m going to try to commit to do that, too, and focus on this moment in my new home city.



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