default avatar
Welcome to the site! Login or Signup below.
Logout|My Dashboard

Steve Hansen A sad tale of two cities: Flint and Stockton

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Steve Hansen

Posted: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 2:37 pm, Wed Apr 18, 2012.

What do Stockton and a Michael Moore movie have in common?

In 1989, “Roger and Me” made its debut. Moore’s first feature film focused on the demise of Flint, Michigan. The documentary revealed what happened to this prosperous industrial town when General Motors closed factories and moved them to Mexico.

The similarities do not lie in the creation of massive unemployment by corporate executives. Stockton has never been a magnet for large manufacturing. It’s rather a comparison of how these local city leaders attempted to revitalize their communities.

Flint’s city fathers thought they could remake the town. They spent millions to pump new life into their Michigan metropolis. A Hyatt hotel was built for $13 million to attract convention business. Another $100 million was allocated for a theme park called Auto World. The plan was for this development to turn this industrial blue-collar area into a destination for over a million tourists.

Unfortunately, the hotel never attracted much more than a ladies’ Scrabble convention, and the “theme park” closed after six months.

Imported entertainment, such as Anita Bryant and Pat Boone, didn’t do much to motivate the depressed residents, nor attract visitors either.

In the movie, Moore interviews one of the city’s promoters as she leaves town by boarding a plane for Florida. He asks her what went wrong. “Maxine” simply replies, “You can’t make Palm Beach out of the Bowery.”

It appears that Stockton has encountered a similar fate.

The city’s redevelopment of the historic waterfront hotel ended up as low-income housing. Stockton also provided more than $2 million in redevelopment funds for Paragary’s upscale restaurant — now just a distant memory.

Stockton’s leaders tried to transform the decaying waterfront into a showplace paradise.

They built a marina, theater complex, a high-rise hotel and a sports arena/convention center — mostly paid for by mortgaging the city’s future through municipal bonds.

But like Flint, even big-name entertainment such as Neil Diamond couldn’t change the face of this agricultural and historically tough port town. The city lost $400,000 of taxpayer dollars just on the Diamond kickoff event alone.

As with Flint, things did not go as planned. Stockton soon became a location of massive foreclosures. It was named as America’s most miserable city. Statistics showed it to be the place with the second-highest murder rate in California.

It’s not that the former leaders didn’t have a dream. After all, Stockton has a great central location, miles of inland waterways and generally good weather.

But on the other hand, here’s a city with over 300,000 people that has had a modern airport for over 40 years. It can handle the biggest commercial jets. Yet it can only attract one small airline with a limited schedule to Las Vegas and Southern California.

In the end, reality always prevails. Some of the problems for both Flint and Stockton can be traced directly to the states of Michigan and California. They are not known for their friendly business climates. Taxes are high. They do not have conditions or policies that encourage new or continued free enterprise opportunities.

It’s very difficult to have prosperous communities without jobs. Creating these positions require environmental regulations, salaries and other business costs that are comparable with other parts of the country — even beyond our shores.

Perhaps someday, it will be possible for Stockton to become a “Palm Beach.” But it’s going to take far more insight and imagination than what city and state leaders offer us today.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.

Rules of Conduct

  • 1 Use your real name. You must register with your full first and last name before you can comment. (And don’t pretend you’re someone else.)
  • 2 Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually oriented language.
  • 3 Don’t threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
  • 4 Be truthful. Don't lie about anyone or anything. Don't post unsubstantiated allegations, rumors or gossip that could harm the reputation of a person, company or organization.
  • 5 Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
  • 6 Stay on topic. Make sure your comments are about the story. Don’t insult each other.
  • 7 Tell us if the discussion is getting out of hand. Use the ‘Report’ link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
  • 8 Share what you know, and ask about what you don't.
  • 9 Don’t be a troll.
  • 10 Don’t reveal personal information about other commenters. You may reveal your own personal information, but we advise you not to do so.
  • 11 We reserve the right, at our discretion, to monitor, delete or choose not to post any comment. This may include removing or monitoring posts that we believe violate the spirit or letter of these rules, or that we otherwise determine at our discretion needs to be monitored, not posted, or deleted.

Welcome to the discussion.

Recent Comments

Posted 14 hours ago by Gary Maurer.

article: Letter: Leaders to blame for police dea…

Hey Thomas, I am with you on this one. This kind of balderdash is always about the writer's jaded views of the world and never, never abou…


Posted 15 hours ago by Ed Walters.

article: Letter: Leaders to blame for police dea…

I`m off being bad, at least till after New Years, Merry Christmas to all you happy posters. [beam]


Posted 16 hours ago by Mike Adams.

article: Letter: U.S. suffers from total lack of…

Former contributor alex recently emailed me. He wants everyone here to have a wonderful and merry holiday season and wishes everyone a ver…


Posted 16 hours ago by Mike Adams.

article: Letter: Leaders to blame for police dea…

"All those who voted for this petulant little man should be ashamed." ...I'm not. "If any police officers are hurt as a res…


Posted 21 hours ago by Ed Walters.

article: Letter: U.S. suffers from total lack of…

Time for a change: Everything that can be said has been said in many forms concerning Ferguson, along with the latest shooting. Simon, …



Popular Stories


What was the biggest local story of 2014?

It has been an eventful year in Lodi, from the antics of a wild turkey named Tom Kettleman to the announced closure of the General Mills plant. What do you see as the biggest story of the year?

Total Votes: 221


Your News

News for the community, by the community.

Mailing List

Subscribe to a mailing list to have daily news sent directly to your inbox.

  • Breaking News

    Would you like to receive breaking news alerts? Sign up now!

  • News Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily news headlines? Sign up now!

  • Sports Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily sports headlines? Sign up now!

Manage Your Lists