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STOCKTON — Stockton voters overwhelmingly chose Council member Michael Tubbs over incumbent mayor Anthony Silva in Tuesday’s election. The final vote tally was 70 percent in favor of Tubbs and 30 percent for Silva.
During the campaign Business Journal editor Elizabeth Stevens interviewed each candidate to find out how they approach the role of mayor for California’s 13th largest city. Here is the transcript of the interview with Michael Tubbs:
CVBJ – Why do you want to be mayor?
MT – I want to be mayor because as someone born and raised in Stockton, I understand that Stockton has not yet seen its best days. The city has incredible assets, from its diversity to its people to its waterways to its proximity to both the Silicon Valley and the state capital but for a lot of reasons stemming from leadership, frankly, we haven’t yet reached our potential. So, that’s the No.1 reason why I’m running.
The second reason why I’m running is that in 2010 one of my cousins was murdered in the spike in homicides we had in Stockton. So that really motivated me to get involved on the ground and figure out how we stop violence and poverty and things of that sort from keeping kids from reaching their full potential.
And then No. 3, as a council member for the past three and half years, I’ve seen how what city government can do to ameliorate some of the problems and difficulties that people in Stockton face and being there will allow me to continue that work.
CVBJ – You’re pretty young. Why run for mayor now?
MT – Partly the issue of timing is that I’ve been on city council for the past three and a half years. In those three and a half years, I’ve been able to work with the police department on body cameras, worked with the community to close down problem liquor stores, open a health clinic, work with the city council to help the city exit bankruptcy, worked with the city and nonprofits to get the All American City designation again for the first time in over a decade. All that’s been done part time. And as a mayor, you have the unique opportunity to be a full time person whose job it is to figure how you make the city better. I understand that I’m young, but I don’t think that equates to inexperience, especially since I’ve been on the city council for the past three and a half years in a time of much transition and change for the city from record homicides to bankruptcy. I’ve got a lot of on-the-job training that has really prepared me for this opportunity now.
CVBJ – What do you think are some of the limitations of city government?
MT – Government can’t do everything, but what government can do is be a convener and set the priorities for the community, No. 1. But also, No. 2, government can make sure that the public dollars it does have are used in strategic ways for public benefit. That’s how I primarily view the role of government. I also think that oftentimes, some of the things we see, some of the inequality we see, some of the injustices we see are a direct result of policy decisions made by government entities and government institutions, especially since government has the ability to touch everyone, it has a huge role in doing what it can to ensure that everyone’s able to have a baseline quality of life.
CVBJ – What are priorities for you?
MT – No. 1, public safety, both violent crimes but also property crimes, blight, things of that sort.
No. 2, definitely economic development. Training people for jobs. Finding ways to incentivize businesses to locate in Stockton.
No. 3, absolutely homelessness. Working with the county and with our other original partners to create a regional solution for this homelessness issue. Not just Stockton but every city in the county and state faces.
Then No. 4 downtown revitalization. Knowing that downtown is a real gem and it’s really on the verge of being something really big. And with what Ten Space has been doing and others serving as catalysts and pioneers, really supporting those efforts and figuring out how to amplify them where applicable.
And No. 5, education, working with our school districts, our parents, our teachers and our students to ensure that kids in Stockton are receiving a quality education that leads to a career or a job.
CVBJ – How do you view the mayor’s job?
MT – The mayor’s job? You are the face of the city. You are the leader. You are the only full-time person on the city council so your job is really to cast the vision for the city to convene players and build coalitions to address pressing issues and to work closely with the council to govern. The reality is as mayor you’re not the king, which means you have to lead with influence and leveraging your position in ways that get people to want to work with you or work with the city on things.
So, the mayor’s ideally a connector, a convenor, a spokesperson for the city who’s also able to also listen to residents and from that formulate policies and things of that sort.
CVBJ – Do you think there are some opportunities out there that the city isn’t taking advantage of?
MT – Absolutely. I think downtown Stockton and the waterfront is a huge opportunity that we haven’t yet been able to take full advantage of. The Urban Land Institute issued a report in 2011 with a lot of recommendations, many of which have not yet been implemented.
In addition to that, there’s opportunities to be part of national conversations about how we prepare young people for the workforce or how to use cap and trade dollars in ways that benefit communities or how do we help revitalize parts of the city that have been under-served and troubled for many, many, many years.
There’s also opportunities for national grants and to also work with foundations to work on things like homelessness or work on things like recidivism and work on things like preparing youth for jobs in the tech sector.
CVBJ – As mayor, what would be your approach to working with city staff?
MT – As mayor, my approach to working with city staff will be the same approach I’ve used as a council member. No. 1, understanding that I’m accountable to the people of Stockton and No. 2, understanding that oftentimes, bureaucratic and political timelines are different. But as I work with anyone, I’ll be respectful but firm. If something needs to be done, I will be unapologetic about that. But No. 2, working collaboratively with staff. We’re not enemies. We’re on the same team. We’re on Team Stockton. We’re trying to make Stockton better, so it’s really about collaboration and working with staff, who are the day to day hands and feet of the council and the city to get things done.
CVBJ – What would you do about the permitting process and fees?
MT – Absolutely. I think the permitting answer is an easier one than the fees answer. In terms of permitting, I’ve been hearing from folks that they’d like a one-stop shop or have staff with an orientation to being helpful. I know over the past three and a half years it has gotten better. So, we just really have to continue to institutionalize these changes and also staff up that office when we can so they’re able to be more responsive and able to process more while also managing them so folks have the training and opportunities for professional development to really serve the public in expedient ways.
In terms of fees, we definitely have to look at sort of making sure we’re charging what it costs to do business. The idea is that we’ll make a lot of tax revenue from businesses once they open so the orientation should be how do you open as many businesses as possible and only charge fees for things that actually need to be charged, that actually affect our general fund. Then looking for ways to incentivize folks who want to open a business in Stockton knowing that we make our revenue from sales and tax dollars.