Today, in response to the news that President Obama awarded millions of dollars to help revitalize Detroit, Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton) wrote to the president demanding that Stockton be given due consideration for the same kind of economic support. Earlier in the year, Congressman McNerney called on the Obama Administration to designate Stockton as one of its 20 Promise Zones, which would have allowed for support in the form of tax incentives, grants and other funding opportunities.
"It is unconscionable that the president continues to ignore the very real challenges we face here in the Valley. We have been disproportionately affected by the economic downturn and continue to experience some of the worst unemployment and foreclosure rates in the country. The president must dedicate his attention to helping revitalize the Valley, especially in the wake of Stockton's bankruptcy," said Congressman McNerney.
Stockton faces unique challenges as its residents work to help the city rebound from the economic downturn, and federal assistance can help to revitalize the city. Stockton has been at the forefront of the foreclosure crisis; continues to face high unemployment rates; struggles with an escalating crime rate; has significant challenges in the public school system; and was the largest city in the country to ever declare bankruptcy until Detroit declared bankruptcy earlier this year.
"In Stockton, we have been on the front line of the economic downturn, with folks facing foreclosure and struggling to find employment.. We must take action now to reduce the crime rate, invest in our education system, and grow our local economy. With the right resources, I know we can tackle these issues in our community," said Congressman McNerney. "The president needs to visit Stockton and see firsthand the challenges we face, as well as the determination of everyone in the Valley to do what it takes to get our economy back on track."
The text of Congressman McNerney's letter is below and attached:
September 27, 2013
President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear President Obama:
I am deeply troubled and disappointed by your decision to award millions of dollars in federal aid to Detroit while failing to offer comparable assistance to the city of Stockton. Stockton, which I represent, was previously the largest city in the United States to ever file for bankruptcy until Detroit did so. Stockton has been left behind and ignored by the White House. Unfortunately, this continues the trend of your Administration neglecting California's San Joaquin Valley over the past four years. During that time, the city had nearly $1 billion in long-term debt, and its 2012-2013 budget had a $26 million deficit.
As I have outlined in previous correspondence, California's San Joaquin Valley has historically received less per capita in federal funds than virtually every other region in the Nation, and cities like Stockton continue to face an uphill battle against poverty, crime, educational opportunities, and unemployment. In your State of the Union speech in February, you promised to help the country's most economically depressed cities. Subsequent to that speech I contacted you with information outlining why Stockton should be included as part of that initiative. Regrettably, Stockton was bypassed due to the eligibility standards your Administration set for the program.
There are further examples of how the San Joaquin Valley has been neglected by the federal government. The Department of Housing and Urban Development acknowledged that Stockton is owed $1.2 million for an EDI/BEDI grant, but has done nothing to reconcile the money owed. Furthermore, the city is owed approximately $10 million for a flood control project that is completed, but no funds have been directed to the city since fiscal year 2006. Despite these broken promises and clear evidence that Stockton is in need of economic revitalization, your administration is focused solely on Detroit. Your economic advisors have "scrounged through the federal budget," and a delegation from your administration is set to meet with Michigan officials today. Stockton was the 10th most violent city in the United States last year, the city has ranked in the top five in foreclosures for most of the last five years, and yet administration officials are absent.
Unfortunately, your inaction and neglect of the San Joaquin Valley remains a common theme. You have an opportunity to change that. This is not the time for favoritism. The residents of Stockton work hard and take great pride in their city, and with prudent allocation of federal resources, the local economy can rebound and prosper. I request that you make the same level of commitment to Stockton that you have to Detroit. The city deserves no less. I would also like to extend another invitation to you to visit the city of Stockton and travel throughout California's San Joaquin Valley, allowing you to witness firsthand the day-to-day challenges in this region and the people who are so dedicated to facilitating its economic rebound.
I remain ready and willing to work with you to address the needs of our country, and I appreciate your attention to this important matter.
Member of Congress