After topping Forbes magazine's annual list of "Most Miserable Cities," Stockton, California is pushing back. Reporter: Sasha Khokha
Double-digit unemployment, drastic property value declines, a crime rate among the 10 worst in the nation. These are the kinds of statistics that propelled Stockton to the number one spot on Forbes' list in February. But Stocktonians like Gregory Basso say that kind of number crunching doesn't take into account something intangible: quality of life.
So Basso took to YouTube.
"And let me tell you about quality of life in Stockton, California. I mean I have to get up debating whether to wear my sunglasses in February," Basso says in the video.
To date, Basso's response to Forbes has drawn more than 47,000 views.
Basso's video continues with him sitting in his home on a Stockton golf course, watching news images of snowstorms back East.
"And I thought gee, and I looked out, and I saw these people playing golf, and I thought, gee, why are we miserable?"
Basso, a retiree who used to run a garbage company, is a featured speaker at this weekend's Stockton is Magnificent rally. The event is a message to Forbes from the city that dubs itself the Asparagus Capital of the world. The poster for the event features two dinner plates: one with a piece of charred asparagus, labeled: "What Forbes thinks of us." The other with a nice fresh spear labeled "What we think of ourselves."
University of the Pacific Professor Alan Ray is one of the event's organizers. "There is a sense of hope in this community that regardless of all our problems, we really kind of like the people, and we have learned to appreciate our differences," said Alan Ray, a professor at University of the Pacific Professor and one of the event's organizers.
A photographer perched on a crane plans to take a picture of thousands of Stocktonians at the event wearing "Stockton is Magnificent" T -shirts. Rally organizers will send a copy to the magazine.
Forbes Senior Editor Kurt Badenhausen, who wrote the "miserable cities" article, says he's already received plenty of messages from outraged Stocktonians.
"I'm looking at a sign right now hanging in my office that says we love Stockton, with a big X through Forbes. It's quite catchy," said Badenhausen.
He says he's glad the article is helping to inject some civic pride, but that won't make Forbes re-consider its rankings.
"Having a rally is one thing, but there also needs to be plans in place to create jobs, stem forcelosures, and reduce crime," Badenhausen said. "Those are the things that are going to get Stockton off the list."
Some Stocktonians agree, saying tomorrow's rally, organized by a downtown business association, glosses over the city's real struggles. They've created a Facebook page called "Stockton is Bloody" to draw attention to the gang and crime problem.