Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Misery and Blight


Apparently, Forbes magazine has named Stockton, California as the most miserable city in the United States.

It compiled its findings by looking at the 150 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S., and ranking them on nine factors: commute times, corruption -- the criminal conviction of government officials in the area -- as well as ''pro sports teams, Superfund sites, taxes (both income and sales), unemployment, violent crime and weather.''

From SFGate

I call bullshit.

Let's face it, last July, when I interviewed for my current position, all I knew about Stockton was its reputation, and a few stories my friend Steve told me about growing up here in his high school years. I was wary of finding my way to Stockton, but when I interviewed for the job something hit me. This is exactly the job I wanted. Exactly what I was looking for.

Sometimes the best gifts are not the ones in the shiniest packages.

I got the job, and accepted it right away. At least one person called me on it, saying I should think about it, not be so desperate. But I really wanted this job! Teaching K-8 music, with a little art thrown in for kicks, was a marvelous prospect. So by the end of that month, I found myself calling a two-bedroom apartment in Stockton home, and exploring my new surroundings with enthusiasm and wariness.

Stockton had a few surprises for me. The first? It's not so bad! Yes, there is crime here, but there is also culture. Within hours of accepting my new job, I had found a web site for Stockton Chorale. I am so very happy I made the effort to audition and be involved. I have been challenged musically, and I've met some great people.

Downtown Stockton isn't as happening as other big cities, but it still retains an air of community, and offers some great landmarks and events.

According to Forbes:

Stockton was ground zero for the housing boom and now the subsequent bust. Home prices more than tripled between 1998 and 2005 and then came crashing down last year. Stockton had the country's highest foreclosure rate last year at 9.5%, according to RealtyTrac, an online marketer of foreclosed property.

Okay, so the housing market sucks...but here's a news flash--it sucks everywhere. And yes, 29 police officers were recently laid off, and even Yours Truly will be receiving the inevitible pink slip. (Must say, though, that a colleague told me today that my predecessor received them every year and still had a job when the next year started...I retain my hope and optimism.)

Maybe, on some obscure statistical level calculated by the people at Forbes, Stockton seems like a miserable place. I'd like to point out, though, that they obviously know nothing about my neighborhood, where most of the homes are owned outright, blight is nonexistent, and, while we're all scaling back a little, we're still doing alright.

At last check, none of us are miserable.

What was most appalling were the comments below the article on SFGate. A sample:

Stockton has ALWAYS been the armpit of California. surprise here really. i have family in both stockton and modesto; why they're still there i do not know. my grandmother had enough sense to move her family out of modesto 53 years ago(where they lived for 5 years) and to the east bay where everyone still lives.
(I'm sorry, but I remain unimpressed by the two years I spent living in the East Bay.)

Stockton is a pit. Reminds me of Gotham City on Batman. Dark, dreary and gloomy. Full of dirtbags and fast food joints. THE highest litter problem in the state. The list goes on and on. (Hey, hey! I'm not a dirtbag!)

There were, however, people who supported Stockton:

When Forbes calls a city miserable it means the greed heads that read it have a harder time getting rich there.

Of the towns in the valley Stockton is one of the few that has real character. It has a port, ag related industries and a skid row that makes the Tenderloin look like uptown. Modesto? Too white bread. Fresno? The worst of urban sprawl. Sacramento? All politicians. Lodi? Bedroom community to Stockton fer chrissakes. Merced? There's no there there.

I'm going to step out on a limb here and say something shocking. I'm going to hypothesize that these endless lists that magazines like to put out are, actually, bullshit disguised as news.

1 comment:

Miz Minka said...

Ha ha ha: "...bullshit disguised as news"!!! Exactly. :D

Statistics paint an incomplete picture anyway, IMHO.