Not Born Yesterday

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Standing Up for Stockton

Is this "America's Most Miserable City"?

The citizens of Stockton are "mad as hell," according to the mayor of this mid-California community, and they have labeled Steve Forbes an "evil dictator," comparable to recently deposed leaders of the Arab world. At issue is Forbes Magazine calling Stockton -- for the second time, no less! -- America's Most Miserable City.

I think this is patently unfair. What makes Stockton a more miserable place than, say, Lodi -- which Forbes didn't even give an Honorable Mention? Seven other California cities made the "Most Miserable" list (including Sacramento, the capital), but anyone old enough to remember Creedence Clearwater Revival's heartfelt rendition of "Lodi," (with the refrain,"Oh, Lord! Stuck in Lodi Again") would have to agree.

Sure, Stockton's got problems. An 18% unemployment rate, for starters, home prices down by two-thirds in the current recession and a foreclosure rate that is one of the nation's highest. The violent crime rate, though decreasing, is still among the ten worst in the country. But is it fair to ding Stockton for lacking a professional sports team? Ames, Iowa, doesn't have one either, as far as I know. So big deal!

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It should be pointed out that the Forbes Magazine editor who compiled the list which has so angered the citizenry has never been in Stockton (nor Lodi, either, I would imagine). What he did was take the word of a reporter who was sent out there for one day. And what can you tell about a city of 292,000 souls in one day? I'll bet he didn't even attend the city's most exciting annual event, its Asparagus Festival!

I don't live in Stockton, but someone has to stand up for it, so I might as well mention a few things about the city that probably were not part of the decision to call it America's Most Miserable. For one thing, it has quite a respectable college which, as far back as I can remember, was called COP, or the College of the Pacific, the alma mater of jazz legend Dave Brubeck. Nowadays it is called UOP, or the University of the Pacific, and includes McGeorge School of Law. Like most university towns, Stockton has sushi bars, bookstores, outdoor cafes and antique shops. There is also an impressive and very upscale City Center complex. Being on the Sacramento River Delta makes it an ideal inland port, where yachts dock at marinas along the waterfront. Gracious Victorian houses can be seen in some of the older neighborhoods, attesting to past affluence.

It would be interesting to know if the inhabitants of America's Most Miserable City are actually miserable and downtrodden. I have seen no statistics with regard to depression, despondency and/or suicides in Stockton to indicate that they are. Quite the opposite, it would seem. Outrage at Forbes and his magazine have brought the community together and roused their fighting spirit. "Enough is enough!" cried the mayor. Now feverish plans for a rally -- "Stand Up For Stockton Day," April 23rd -- are underway. Posters and flyers have been printed. Streets will be closed and a photographer on a crane will film the crowds wearing bright green and yellow T-shirts proclaiming that Stockton is "Magnificent!" not "Miserable!" An invitation has even been sent to Steve Forbes himself to attend a special performance of the Stockton Symphony that day. (What? Stockton has a symphony?)

The day of the rally just happens to coincide with the annual Asparagus Festival. So don't forget to mark your calendars!

E. E. Smith is a playwright and book author. Her new series of murder mysteries debuted in 2013. The first is titled Death by Misadventure. 

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