Saturday, February 14, 2009

Stockton Rising ... Well, Not Exactly ...

Stockton RisingLast year I was fortunate enough to go on vacation out to California to visit friends and people whom I still consider family in the city of Stockton. While I was there I took a lot of pictures - to say the least - and posted a good deal of them but there were some that I took that I never got around to working into a post as I wasn't quite sure how to do so. Well, with the recent announcement of Stockton rising to the number one spot as the most miserable city in America according to Forbes.com, the time has finally come when I can use those pictures!

The pictures in question were of a sculpture that graces the Stockton waterfront by the Stockton Arena which is aptly titled "Stockton Rising". The sculpture was designed as public art by Scott Donahue, a Bay Area artist who has created more than a dozen sculptures, to represent Stockton as a city on the move, pulling itself up from its humble beginnings as a town that once solely existed to serve the needs of the California Gold Rush. In his 1852 book, Life in California, James H. Carson wrote of Stockton, ""A rush and whirl of noisy human beings were continually before the eye. The magic wand of gold had been shaken over a desolate place, and on it a vast city had arisen at the bidding." Bear in mind the man was in Stockton attempting to recuperate from rheumatism so perhaps his view was a little jaded when he wrote that! Either way, it served as Donahue's inspiration for his artwork.

The City of Stockton shelled out $125,000 for this ... er ... lovely sculpture in 2006 that Donahue describes on his resume as,

"The overall cylindrical form of this artwork is similar to the Arena itself, and the large figures are the athletic without personifying a particular sport. The smaller figures refer to the family, friends, community, and second thoughts. Stockton is a Delta city and the surrounding waterways define the area and life of this region."
Sure, Scott ... if you say so!

Stockton Rising 2 The then-mayor of Stockton and former Police Chief, Ed Chavez, proclaimed that the 12-foot-6-inch sculpture which depicts the Delta at its base and the city's skyline at its crown, "truly defines our city" but I think he might have been only one of a handful of folks who thought so.

In 2007 the city's Cultural Heritage Board first mocked and then rejected "Stockton Rising" as a winner of an annual award for artistic achievement. As a matter of fact, some of the board members thought some of the faces "looked a little scary" and thought it was neither subtle or abstract.

Truth be told, I am inclined to agree. That was by far one of the ugliest sculptures I have ever seen and my friend Cyndi, a Stockton native and lifelong resident, totally agreed with me. She was outraged that the City had shelled out $125,000 on a piece of art that looked like it was designed to scare small children and thought that the money really could have been better spent elsewhere.

Perhaps, though, Mr. Donahue was being prophetic as it turned out that Stockton truly has risen - right to the top of the America's Ten Most Miserable Cities. Last year I wrote a post about Stockton's ranking as the number two most miserable city in America when it was sandwiched between Detroit and Flint, Michigan. Apparently being second wasn't good enough, though, and Stockton rose right to the number one spot on the list beating out other such greats as Memphis, Chicago, Cleveland, Buffalo, Miami, and St. Louis. Flint and Detroit actually managed to work their way down the list this year and came in at #6 and #7 respectively; while Stockton Rising 4Modesto, which is a stone's throw from Stockton, came in at #5 this year, inching its way three spots up from it's #8 ranking of last year.

So what was it that made Stockton number one this year? According to Forbes, "Only 15% of Stockton adults have a college degree, which is one of the lowest rates in the U.S. Unemployment is expected to hit 15% in 2010, while housing prices should keep falling back to their mid-1990s level when the median home price was $130,000."

Stockton ranked in the bottom seven in four of the nine categories Forbes looked at: commute times, income tax rates, unemployment and violent crime. The city is also considered to be Ground Zero in the housing boom and subsequent bust with the country's highest foreclosure rate last year at 9.5% In 2008 housing prices dropped 39% and they are expected to fall another 36% this year. No doubt that's making for some truly miserable bankers and realtors as well as former homeowners. I rather doubt that commercial real estate is doing any better either.

Even though they're Number One and could be cashing in on t-shirts, coffee mugs, and bumper stickers, Stockton is apparently keeping their status rather quiet as when I called Cyndi this past Monday to congratulate her on living at the top, she hadn't even heard about it yet. I guess I'm not surprised, being at the top of being on the bottom is probably not something I'd be putting on billboards either.

Instead, according to the Stockton Record, the city is laying off 29 police officers and a trio of department heads in an effort to turn around its $30 million budget crisis. Nothing for nothing folks but when you're already that far in the hole and have crime rising at an alarming rate, do you really think that the $1.1 million dollars you're going to save via police layoffs is worth it?

Stockton Rising 3 Apparently myself and Cyndi aren't the only ones who seem to think that the city needs to find a better way to save some money. In a statement made by leaders of the Stockton Police Officers Association, the union that represents the department's rank-and-file, they concurred with us. "When we were at 440 officers we were barely treading water," said Officer Lon Hudson, a union official. "We have reached a point that it is unsafe for citizens and our officers."

I care deeply about some of those citizens Officer Hudson mentions and I still know some of the officers he refers to also; I would really hate to see the city leave any of them unprotected and unsafe in a town where more than misery is on the rise.

Back when I lived in Stockton, a very long time ago, it was touted as "Someplace Special" but now it seems more like "Someplace Scary" and I'm not just referring to that hideous sculpture that sits outside Stockton Arena. Maybe the city could put it on eBay and get a good enough price to help out with that $30 million deficit - there's got to be someone who appreciates "good art"! Maybe they could even get $1.1 million for it and leave the Police Department alone!

In the meantime, Cyndi - lock your doors and do me a big favor and check on Grandma Edith once in awhile; and John - just stay safe no matter what you're doing.

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21 comments:

  1. Worse than Memphis or Detroit? that's bad!!!!! YIKES!

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  2. That's sad about Stockton. Number 2 would be just fine but leading in "America's most miserable cities"? Then that's not fine at all.

    It really seems like Stockton will rise again someday. It would pick up one of these days after the economy crisis. A city this good (according to your post) doesn't deserve to go to waste.

    Pardon me but I kind of don't like the sculpture lol.

    Much Love,

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  3. Yikes. That is a scary sculpture and some scary facts on Stockton.

    On the upside, Art is completely subjective and someone somewhere will absolutely LOVE the sculpture. I'd definitely try to raise some funds and free up the spot of earth for something less miserable. A tree would be a nice start.

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  4. HOLY CRAP, THEM FOLKS NEED TO MOVE TO PODUNK

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  5. beauty is in the eye of the sculpture. Im sure as these sculptures stare out at people they see some pretty ugly faces. lol

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  6. Geez...now I know why Hubby drove as fast as he could through Stockton on our way north during a vacation a few years ago. I guess that city will never make it on my "California Things To See" list...that sculpture alone would keep me away!

    Have a great weekend!

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  7. America's most miserable city? That's probably because you don't live there anymore Linda! :)

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  8. I'm laughing at Queen-Size's comment...
    But I'm glad YOU have lovely memories in Stockton, my friend.

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  9. Stocton could really clean up with witty t shirts like 'Be miserable...we're number one!'

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  10. Wow, that sounds like a great place to move. I'm packing up the kiddos as we speak. NOT!!!
    That's quite sad, actually and the statue is odd as well.

    Thanks for changing my link in your sidebar...much obliged ma'am! :)

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  11. Ah yes. I first remember Stockton from the TV show "The Big Valley". I always wanted to see the place.

    Now I can say... been there, done that... and it's sad. The latest suggestion given to all the people in the surrounding areas is BUY A GUN. I can see it coming just from watching the news every night. I am there... less than 45 minutes from the Stockton exit (unless there is an accident on the freeway) then it's more like 3 hours. Still the crime increases and YES we are nervous.

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  12. Nice post, Linda. Sad facts about Stockton. Beautiful sculptures. No matter what, isn't California just the most beautiful State to visit. To me it's like entering a new world. Love it there.

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  13. Anonymous4:08 PM EST

    You know, Linda, what is even more scary is that the citizens of Stockton are allowing their city to decline the way it is. By electing the same old politicians every year, we get what we ask for. I'm see signs that nationally there is a movement away from the status quo. Time will tell if the movement is in the right direction.

    P.S. You're right...that's one ugly sculpture.

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  14. Sorry, that was my comment listed under Anonymous...my fingers got tangled and hit the "Enter" button too soon.

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  15. Linda, that sculpture thingy is just disgustingly creeping. I am sorry you had to see it in person... It would give me nightmares

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  16. that is one of the ugliest peices of stone I've ever seen!!

    icko

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  17. Much of the central valley is turning into a S**t hole. This is happening in Stockton, but it's happening here and many other places as well. The street crud are slowly taking over. We don't go anywhere without being armed. Now that's scary.

    Have a terrific day. Big hug. :)

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  18. I thought of you when I saw the Forbes list.

    Speaking as one who goes to Stockton every now and then for a movie or dinner...I can say I'm never scared...but might be a bit more careful next time.

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  19. Oh my, that's depressing. I knew that Cleveland would make a top ten, too ;o)
    Well, I'm glad you're out of there...

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  20. It's been ten years since I finally moved away from Fat City, USA, it's difficult not to be sad about the old hometown. However, I can't help but believe that they brought all on themselves. Many a night I went to bed listening to the pop-pop-pop of semi-automatic gunfire echoing in the night. I used to say that Stockton should have changed its motto from "Someplace Special" to "Welcome to Stockton: DUCK!"
    When I visited last year, I felt that the last tie I had to that town had been severed. I didn't recognize it at all. I still have friends down there, but I wish in my heart that I had enough money to airlift them the hell out of there.

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  21. This statue has a very indepth meaning. Look at what Stockton is, America's most miserable city! This sculpture shows us what it takes to rise up out of this odd city. We live in the gang, drug, and murder capital of America, for us, just getting through each day is a miracle. With the negatives stealing all of our citizens focus, very few will have the strength to rise up out of the crumbling city, and these special persons will show the world what needs to occur to get out of the worst situations imaginable.

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