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Stockton’s young mayor giving city’s youth more opportunities

Stockton, California has come a long way since 2012, when it became the largest U.S. city to declare bankruptcy. Now that it’s solvent, Mayor Michael Tubbs, who was sworn in as the youngest and first-ever black mayor last year, says that using philanthropy and other resources to fight inequality could help secure the city’s financial status. NewsHour Weekend's Ivette Feliciano reports.

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  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    Success did not come easily for Michael Tubbs. He grew up in poverty on the south side of Stockton, California, a city struggling with violent crime and homelessness. When he was a kid. His father was mostly in prison. His single mother struggled, working as a cashier and later doing customer service for a health insurance company, while she raised Michael and his younger brother.

  • MAYOR MICHAEL TUBBS:

    She sacrificed so much. She had me when she was a teenager. Didn't get to go to college. She worked incredibly hard her whole life.

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    A gifted student, Tubbs received a scholarship to attend Stanford University. While studying there, he says he was shocked by the difference between life in college and at home.

  • MAYOR MICHAEL TUBBS:

    I really began to realize that, "Oh, it's– maybe it's not as normal, some of the things we did to do– survive. It wasn't normal to hear gunshots before you went to bed at night."

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    Stanford opened the door to opportunities that had once seemed impossible to a kid from the south side.

  • MAYOR MICHAEL TUBBS:

    I used to get in trouble all the time at school for being defiant or for talking back and things of that sort. But at Stanford all those things made me, like, the teacher's pet. I was like, wow, I'm glad I stayed true to myself, 'cause all these traits, they tried to suspend out of me or kick out of me– were what made people at Stanford say, "This– this is– this guy's a leader. Let's support him. Let's figure out what it is you want to do."

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    Tubbs would soon be interning at Google. Then, in his junior year, at the Obama White House. But that same year 2010, his cousin, Donnell James, was murdered at a house party. At the time, Tubbs was considering trying to return to google, or join teach for America, that's when he got some stern words from a family friend, Sammy Nuñez.

  • SAMMY NUÑEZ:

    I just remember telling him, "brother michael, how many young people do we need to bury in this community before you come back and serve the community, you know, that raised you? How many people?"

  • MAYOR MICHAEL TUBBS:

    And I was, like, "what do you mean?" And he said, "Seriously, like, what– what– what would it take for you to feel ready to come back to your home?" And when he said that, I said, "Okay, I'm comin' back for sure."

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    Nuñez heads Fathers & Families of San Joaquin, a Stockton community aid organization.

  • SAMMY NUÑEZ:

    Michael had, a tremendous opportunity– to actually come back with his academic institutional knowledge– and reenter community– in a way that I believe– we should be doing, we're obligated to do it.

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    After graduating from Stanford in 2012, Tubbs returned to Stockton, where he ran and won a seat on the city council. Four years later–at the age of 26–Tubbs became the first black mayor in Stockton's history, and its youngest as well. His administration immediately began to focus on ways for low-income Stocktonians to lift themselves out of poverty. But creating the conditions for opportunity in the city has not been easy.

  • SAMMY NUÑEZ:

    You have a higher chance of getting shot in Stockton than in Chicago, — you know, in a community that has– been called the "armpit of California." right? It is– evident that– our young folks– have more access to firearms than they do to fresh fruits and vegetables.

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    Mayor Tubbs is spearheading a raft of programs addressing violence and inequality in Stockton. Each initiative receives philanthropic funding and is administered independently. One program launching next year is an eighteen-month experiment called the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration–or "SEED". One hundred recipients will receive five hundred dollars a month on top of what they earn through work.

  • MAYOR MICHAEL TUBBS:

    When one in two Californians can't afford one $500 emergency, I think that that tells us that, yes, $500 a month matters.

  • OUTREACH WORKER:

    We connect and we talk to people.

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    Another program in the works is called Advance Peace, which got its start in 2007 in the nearby city of Richmond. Homicides there have since fallen by more than half. Outreach workers make contact with young men who have had run-ins with law enforcement and then work with them on reforming criminal behavior. Participants may even earn cash stipends for meeting certain benchmarks–like holding down a job or going through drug rehabilitation.

  • MAYOR MICHAEL TUBBS:

    The idea is to target and identify the guys who are currently driving our violent crime rate, which is less than 1% of the population. And to flood them with as much attention as the police used to give them.

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    Not everyone is on board with the programs the mayor advocates. Advance Peace has drawn criticism from some in Stockton–including city councilwoman Christina Fugazi. She voted against the advance peace program when it came before the council.

  • CHRISTINA FUGAZI:

    Alternative programs– I think they're great– but I don't think that they are a substitute for law enforcement. We have a department called– the office of violence prevention that does pretty much what advanced peace does. And so I think we need to look at, "Well, why did crime drop in Richmond?" Well, what they did was, they increased their police staffing numbers. They focused on hot spots. They focused on the individuals that were doing the crime. And they worked on that diligently.

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    The mayor says that while Advance Peace isn't the only solution to violent crime, the evidence shows that it has helped.

  • MAYOR MICHAEL TUBBS:

    So Advanced Peace, pardon the pun, is not a magic bullet. But it's been proven to be a part of a solution that worked for a city not too far away from us. And that's why they're still doing it– ten years later. And the fact that 80 other cities are considering bringing advanced peace suggests to me that– that– that it– it– it works.

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    Another of the mayor's programs is already up and running. Stockton Scholars provides scholarships to high school graduates from Stockton Unified, the city's biggest school district. About eighteen hundred students graduate from the district each year. Those attending a four-year college will receive $1,000 a year and those attending a two-year community college or trade school will get $500 a year.

  • MAYOR MICHAEL TUBBS:

    I think opportunity is the most powerful lever of change, especially individual change, in– in this society. The choices people make matter. For sure. But choices don't exist in vacuums. That choices exist in environments. And environments and communities are often created through policy choices our leaders make, and that communities make, and that councilmembers make. So I'm just motivated and driven to make sure that everyone has as much opportunity as possible.

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    Mayor Tubbs says that $1,000 makes a real dent in the cost of, say, a California State University, where annual tuition typically around is $5,700.

  • MAYOR MICHAEL TUBBS:

    We worked with the CSU chancellor's office, and they told us that given the average income of Stockton Unified students, that $1,000 was the gap between all the aid they would receive and what tuition costs.

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    An anonymous $20 million donation funds Stockton Scholars. The program begins in full next year. To kick things off this year, twenty high school seniors were chosen to receive a one-time scholarship of one thousand dollars each.

  • MAYOR MICHAEL TUBBS:

    Daveed Diggs!

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    In May, a celebration honoring them featured actor Daveed Diggs, one of the stars of Hamilton.

  • DAVEED DIGGS:

    Stockton! That was garbage. STOCKTON! That's what I'm talking about.

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    Celin Corpuz received one of the scholarships. Raised by a single mother from the Philippines, Celin will be the first in her family to go to college.

  • CELIN CORPUZ:

    Thank you!

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    We spoke with her at Stockton's Little Manila Center where she interns and takes part in performances.

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    When you thought about paying for school, what crossed through your mind?

  • CELIN CORPUZ:

    I was worried how– where– where will I get the money? It was– it was about, what resources do I have? And what I can work with? And who can help me actually input the numbers into the system of how much I need to pay for?

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    Celin will be attending a state school, U.C. Davis. Another scholarship recipient, Yojairo Morales, will be going to a private school.

  • YOJAIRO MORALES:

    This fall I will be attending the University of Southern California to study computer and political science.

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    He is receiving state and federal grants to help pay for tuition, the Stockton Scholars program will help pay for his housing.

  • YOJAIRO MORALES:

    The thousand dollars meant a lot for my family, because it's just– it's less money that my– that I have to worry about paying, and it's less money than my parents have to, like, see me go in debt for, even though, like, they would want– they would love to help me, but they– they're not able to because of expenses. So, it just means a lot to my family, because it just means less worry and less stress on us.

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    It's too early to say what effects Stockton Scholars will have on the city, but if its first recipients are any indication, the city may be able to hang on to its top students.

  • CELIN CORPUZ:

    I actually do plan on coming back after college. I know the term for it now is called "boomerang". So, I definitely want to boomerang back here to Stockton, with– becoming an educator, and also helping my community out.

  • YOJAIRO MORALES:

    I definitely see myself coming back to Stockton. I don't know exactly what I want to do, but I definitely want to– use my computer science degree– to create things– that are beneficial to our city, that are beneficial to the country.

  • MAYOR MICHAEL TUBBS:

    They're leaving thinking, "Well I gotta– I'm leaving to– to come back. I'm leaving to get the skills and tools to come back." and that– that's inspiring.

  • DAVEED DIGGS:

    We want you to accomplish everything you have ever dreamed of in your life. All of your dreams, go forth and accomplish all of them, and then while you're doing it, I want you to say, "Oh, yeah, and I'm from Stockton, California."

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