George Koster

VOC/COS Episode 10 Transcript

From Bankruptcy to Reinvention –

The City of Stockton


Episode 10:
How do you change a 40+ year long Negative Narrative?

Listen Now | VOC Producers | Share | Episode 10

A transcript, lightly edited for clarity and length, follows.

Series Introduction: Welcome to voices of the community which explores critical issues facing Northern California communities. We introduce you to the voices of community thought leaders and change makers who are working on solutions that face our fellow individual community members neighborhoods cities and our region.

Series Introduction:This is George Koster your host. This episode is part of our documentary series from bankruptcy to reinvention the city of Stockton California the documentary series attempts to provide listeners with the insights points of view and personal stories from the various voices of change makers working to reinvent the city of Stockton.

Series Introduction: The interviews were conducted from August to September 2016 leading up to the election of Mayor Michael Tubbs. Who's our Central character in the series. The interviews in the documentary series have been edited to fit into our show format. The unedited full interviews will be posted on my website George along with each episode of the series.

Show Guest Hector: But it really is around making sure that their voice is heard. So that issues of poverty, health and economic development. And all those kind of things improve in this community. The long-term vision is that residents of South Stockton don't feel a need to move out of South Stockton that they feel that this is a place where they want to be. This is where the roots are and that even as things improve for their own family that there is no need to leave the community.

Show Host George: Multiple generations of South, East and downtown Stockton residents have suffered the impacts of the City's policies of economic apartheid and corruption. This in turn created the deadly outcomes of abject poverty, crime, institutionalized racism, and the community narrative that residents do not feel like they belong in Stockton and are not welcome in the City in which they live.

In this episode we feature the voice of Hector Laura who is the co-founder and executive director of the Reinvent South Stockton Coalition as well as the South Stockton Promise Zone. Hector shares his experience in organizing and developing community programs to address the decades of the City’s policies.

Through Hector’s work in empowering community members to have both a choice and voice he identified that there are many different organizations providing services in the community but that they were not working together to maximize their impacts. Hector came together with than Councilmember Michael Tubbs to form the Reinvent South Stockton Coalition to provide a vehicle to bring together 40 organizations and align their efforts, resources and services to better address the multitude of issues facing the South Stockton community. 

The mission of the coalition is to empower residents to have a voice in the future direction of South Stockton but it really is around making sure that their voice is heard.
— Hector Laura

Hector: My name is Hector Laura and the Coalition coordinator.

George: Hector if you would just please share with the audience your background in community organizing and development work in Stockton.

Hector: Well, I come from a background, I have done a lot of different things in the nonprofit sector. I've worked in special ed. I've worked in organizing, homelessness. I've spent many years in Behavioral Health developing Community programs around family voice and choice of allowing families to take ownership of their own health care.

I've run clinics. I've started clinics. I've done policy work and most recently I, um in-conjunction with Councilman Tubbs and other partners worked to start the Reinvent South Stockton Coalition.

George: Why was Reinvent South Stockton Coalition created?

Hector:  The Reinvent South Stockton Coalition was created really as a way of aligning all the different partners around the same concept. Prior to the Coalition. I work with the Community Partnership for Families of San Joaquin and I ran the Dorothy L Jones neighborhood resource center. And one of the things that we found was that there are different organizations doing different things. And trying to have different folks talk to each other.

Align resources and strategies around common impact was very challenging. And so, Councilman Tubbs with also seeing the same thing. So, when he was trying to put the partners together some didn't want to work with each other, and different people were doing the same thing in the same community. And so, there arose a need to making sure that this community has been in neglect for decades.

So there needed to be long-term strategies being built around that and people need to come to the table. And really that's what the Coalition was founded to do. Two things really first are built Civic engagement strategies and structures for the community. So that no matter who's in power the community has a way of having their voice be part of the process. And then secondly is developing this long-term thinking and strategies, but also aligning all the partners and resources behind that for Collective impact.

George: Was there a model that you are basing the whole idea of the Coalition? Because they also know you did a needs assessment. For example, I'm Jasmine talk about that as well.

Hector: There's has been a hybrid of different models. The first model that we've particular on the Civic engagement was the concept of Empowerment Congress in South Los Angeles that was spearheaded by Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas.

In fact, Coalition started out of a training. That organization in conjunction with the big foundation put together for elected officials. They invited Councilman Tubbs to go to Los Angeles and bring a team to kind of be trained around, how do you develop Civic engagement within their respective districts? So, there was Representatives from like Birmingham, Louisville, Houston, a County in New Mexico and then, you know Stockton. And Councilman Tubbs invited me and other folks to be part of his team.

So, we really use a lot of that in the initial stages. And then we really started looking at the Promise Zone model that HUD has been using in different communities across the country around putting that together. So, we work with that concept that Promise Zone. And more recently with the City Council allocating funding to have PolicyLink come in and provide support for us to really kind of do much more strategizing around a process to really build out the Promise Zone concept.

So, we've really use some of the strategies that they've developed around that. So, it's been the hybrid of all these different things.

George: You are the Executive Director was it formed initially as a 501C3? Or was it just an idea that Tubbs and community members like yourself came together to create?

Hector: We've actually had a lot of discussions of what it would look like. We've actually chosen to stay as a coalition that is not a 501C3. Uh, we use a fiscal sponsor.

The reason for that is that because we wanted to make sure all the partners felt comfortable at the table. We didn't want any one partner managing the money or the strategies or the resources. And we also didn't want an own independent 501C3 that can definitely compete with the partners, because those things have happened in the past.

And so we very much consciously with our, you know steering committee of you know about eight or nine different nonprofit organizations kind of came to the table and said, okay, let's go this independent route with a fiscal sponsor so that everybody felt comfortable that there was no one organization having control or that it would become a competing entity.

George: Can you share with the audience what the Coalition is made up of you mentioned nine organizations. I know we're here in the office with STAND which is one of your Coalition members.

Hector: So, the Coalition was really started by Councilman Tubbs. But the initial partners and has grown over the time but now is Community Partnership for Families at that time it was Open Door House of Prayer.

It was STAND affordable housing and neighborhood the STAND programs. It had the Housing Authority, El Concilio, Visionary Home Builder, St. Joseph's Hospital is also part of it now, Public Health Department is part of it, Community Medical Centers is part of it, Fathers and Families part of it.

And then particularly around the Promise Zone concept, we've partnered with the City of Stockton around that. So, they're not an official steering committee member. They are a partner around the Promise Zone concept.

George: What would you say is the mission of the Coalition itself?

Hector: The mission of the Coalition is really to empower residents to have a voice. In the future direction of South Stockton but it really is around making sure that their voice is heard.

So that issues of poverty, health, and economic development and all those kinds of things improve in this community. The long-term vision is that residents of South Stockton don't feel a need to move out of South Stockton. That they feel that this is a place where they want to be. This is where the roots are and that even as things improve for their own family that there is no need to leave the community.

George: What is your vision of South Stockton? How does the Reinvent South Stockton Coalition help you get there?

Hector: I think that my personal vision is one very similar in that if somebody and we've heard from many different residents in the past say hey, I want to get involved with you because I grew up in that neighborhood.

Well, where do you live now? Well, I live on the North Side or I live somewhere else. Because as soon as they got a good job where they were really kind of get their family out of South Side, they moved out, but they still have family here. And so, they're still connected to South Stockton but, they felt the need to leave. And so, for me the idea is when somebody gets into that point in their life one that they get to that point in their life the two that they don't feel any that they have to leave the community. And then on the much more tangible is that there is a street or a block that you can walk not feel that there's a need around safety that their families can feel comfortable having their kids play outside.

 That you know that the blight is reduced so that they have the amenities necessary like a grocery store that they have health care that they have good parks. So just like a very much concept of saying that the family connection enjoys the community. They can go outside without being afraid. That is a very tangible kind of mission for this work.

George: I noticed there is an issues committee and I was wondering how the issues committee was formed and then who are the members of the committee itself?

Hector: So, the concept of issues came out particular out of the Empowerment Congress. Was that the Empowerment Congress had a number of issues that they focus to work around and this case we've done our work around these issues. Because one we did a community needs assessment, where we surveyed 729 South Stockton residents to get a sense of what were their thoughts.

Some of these kinds of the common issue’s health, education, housing, those kinds of things. Where they thought things were at, you know what their measure or whether it's a reality or perception but what was their perception on those issues so they could guide our work. Based on that survey and based on the partners that were working with, we started putting these issue teams together on these issues. Some folks work around housing to all our partners around housing can work on that and have residents work on that. Education, health, employment, economic development.

And so, that concept has evolved slightly to more of the work of ah PolicyLink and the Promise Zone. It's now we're looking at indicators. And so, we have a Cradle to Career pipeline that's been developed around specific results and under each result their specific indicators that we're going to be tracking on a yearly basis for the next 15-20 years.

So, the work is now each indicator has a number of different partners that are working around that indicator. So, you can call that an issue committee because it's still structured kind of similar, but we're more focused on the indicator so that we can measure our success. So that if we know that say for example, one of the indicators is the high school graduation rate.

Okay, what's the rate and what's the improvement or lack thereof over the next 15 years around that indicator. And who's working around that and what are the strategies around that? Violence, for example, you know the Stockton Police Department is what we call our backbone agency around violence prevention, right?

So, they're handling violence around violent crimes and property crime. So, they're the head but they have partners that they're working with to address that issue. Right? They're also tracking the data. And then we have another indicator similar to that is trust with law enforcement well, Fathers and Families and the Office of Violence Prevention are the leads on that in conjunction with the Stockton Police Department, but they're having to develop a tool to measure trusted law enforcement so they don't have a baseline yet.

But for example, around housing, how many quality affordable housing units whether rental or own are available in South Stockton? And so, we have Visionary Home Builders, we have STAND, we have the Housing Authority, and other partners that are really focusing on that work.

George: Sounds to me like the Coalition is kind of the glue. You have nine organizations. Each of them has their own mission, their own service offering, their own kind of value proposition with the community. What would you say the Coalition's value proposition and service is to South Stockton?

Hector: I think that there's two. One is that we've been very specific about not replicating services or competing with our partners. And we are not a programmatic organization. So, we're not going to go out an actually do programs. We're very clear about that. We have partners that can do that. Our role is really be of convener. We convened the partners to come to the table to work together. Think about things in a collaborative fashion.

And then really kind of use that and so not only are we doing that at the Coalition level at the steering committee level but we're also doing that for example every other Friday in conjunction with the City of Stockton Police Department and Recreation services. We host a meeting of all the different organizations, even those that are not part of the Coalition.

 Anybody who is doing some work in South Stockton whether it's a church or another organization to convene come together and say, okay what is going around safety issues? What's going on around blight? And what's going on around health? And what community events are happening? And so that making sure that we're all on the same page, you know.

The other major component that the Coalition provides is trying to change the narrative of South Stockton. And that's one of the issues that we've encountered is that the narrative of South Stockton has been very negative for the last 40 years. All the crime all the problems, you know, it builds a very negative narrative.

So, when people start thinking about their Community or what can happen in their Community you have to overcome decades of this negative thinking and thought right. It's almost like, a campaign around highlighting the strength, the resiliency, the positive work of South Stockton. Making sure that we change that narrative a little bit to say hey yeah, there is some issues and there are some struggles in South Stockton but guess what it’s not all bad.

 We have some of the strongest Advocates and Community leaders in this community because they've had to survive. They've had to do all these other things and so, that resilience and strength is there but often not discussed.

And so, we're very cognizant and very strategic about posting all the events on our Facebook page and highlighting all the different positive stuff that's going on. Any activity that we put together and like park beautification or building playgrounds or the work that's going on from what our partners we really highlight it.

We are a cheerleader for South Stockton. And I think we've been very successful to the degree of making sure that South Stockton is at the table when City matters are discussed. Not necessarily the Coalition at the table, but that South Stockton is being thought of. And so before, decision was made for Stockton without considering South Stockton.

And now I can't tell you how many times people in positions of power have either included the Coalition or different partners to say, you know, what we haven't thought about South Stockton's role in this broader City effort thing right? And so, I think that's been a very successful component of it, but also changing that narrative.

George: So, you just cut the ribbon on a medical center this morning. Can you talk about how they got there? There was obviously a need for a medical center. What did the Coalition do to actually bring a medical center to South Stockton?

Hector: This Medical Center has been many years in the making and there were a lot of different issues with it. And so, it was really the Nexus of having, the building is owned by the City of Stockton that is leased to Community Partnership for Families to run their resource center. That organization wasn't able to really find a medical provider to come in. And so what Councilman Tubbs did, was he really was able to say... Okay Community Partnership For Families you have a center with a clinic, Community Medical Center's you want to provide medical services to my district which is one of the areas that you're not really serving. Can I bring you two the table and see if we can do something? And so that's what he did. He really kind of connected the executive director of Community Partnership for Families and the executive director or the CEO of Community Medical Centers.

They sat down and he facilitated dialogue and then when there was an agreement, yes this before we can make something happen. He really kind of step back and then let them develop it and go through the whole motions and get the approval process and the licensing and all that kind of stuff.

It really took somebody like Councilman Tubbs to be able to say, okay. I know you all were trying to do similar things, but let's get together and do it. Versus you do your thing, you do your thing you know. It took a while to get all the partners at the table. And that was four or five years in the making but it wasn't until very recently about a year ago that Councilman Tubbs kind of bought the two parties together and said, hey can we work together? And that's when the progress started happening.

George: Was the building there? Or it looks like it's a brand-new building that was built from scratch.

Hector: The building was built actually in around 2007-2008 as a result of the community advocacy. You know, organizations like STAND, and Community Partnership for Families organized at the City level to say hey, there is a need for more in South East Stockton and particularly. So, the City than developed the resource center building, the clinic, the gym. That's a joint use project between the City of Stockton and the Stockton School District and it's also leased out to a nonprofit called cable foundation so they can do after school programming while the school uses it in the morning.

So that whole thing. There's a lot of politics related to that. But, when the building was opened back in the think like 2008, the clinic wasn't set up in a way that it can be a standalone Clinic because of Licensing issues and also the economy crashed. So, there wasn't a lot of opportunity to do that kind of programming.

And so really it wasn't until Christine Noguera at Community Medical Centers came to CMC about two years ago that she started saying you know, what? Let's see how we can do things differently. And so that's where she had a conversation around kind of her approach and that approach was you know, she had that conversation with Michael, Councilman Tubbs and Councilman Tubbs like okay, let me bring the two together and that's where that kind of happened.

George: So, what would you say Hector are your biggest challenges for the Coalition as well as the Coalition members?

I think the biggest issue is still the issue of the narrative negative narrative. I think that you can't overcome 30 years 40 Years of neglect and negative narrative in two or three laughter... So, I think that that perception is still a big issue because there are problems don't get me wrong but there's been a lot of improvement and there's a lot of strength here.

So, I think that that's one of the biggest factors. I think the second thing is the uh, and it's not really an issue anymore. But if there's still some things about making sure that every still coming to the table. That they're engaged and that they're aligning, you know, because now we're having the hard conversations. It was easy to bring people to the table when there's a broad concept, but now that we're talking specific strategies, specific policy objectives, specific funding recommendations.

It's a little bit trickier, but we're also kind of seeing the real partners step up, you know. So, I think that that's always a tricky thing and along with that is how do we structure this movement? Because it's really movement. And so how do we structure the movement so that it continues to be efficient and effective moving forward. Because it's such a vibrant movement that it feels like every six months, we have to kind of sit down and think about our we structure the right way and we have to modify that according to how things are developing.

And once we finalize the Promise Zone plan, we hope that a lot of that is will be addressed because. Then we have specific targets and different strategies that everybody's pursuing. But we're about seventy percent there, we have about thirty percent more to go. So, I think that if we can kind of like close the deal on the Promise Zone plan in the next month or two leading up to our Summit. Then would have a better way of that.

And the third thing is, and it goes back to the narrative is working with residents. A lot of residents are involved and working with us, but I think there could be more. But we always knew that that was going to be a long-term endeavor. Because you have a community that has been promised a lot of things, there is a lack of trust with institutions. And so that's something that's going to take a long time for us to not just us but everybody in general to kind of overcome that. And so, I think as people start seeing some victories like a clinic, like a bank, like the shutting down of the New Grand Save Market.

They're seeing that there are victories coming along the way so they're starting to engage more. But it is really about kind of overcoming The Narrative so that people can get involved.

So, do you feel like there's a greater Stockton buy in and will? And along with that I would add is there a political will? Because it’s kind of takes the two or at least the linkage of the two to make some progress because you've made progress obviously. But I think to scale up your impact.

Hector: I think that we're not quite there yet. I think that part of the conversation with the rest of the City to acknowledge one that there is a South Stockton. For many years the City really kind of just ignored it. And so now that South Stockton is at the table, the people in power recognize that and want to get involved in that. But because of the trust issue now is how do we get the residents to be part of that dialogue?

But I think there's also a broader recognition with the rest of the city that, if we can improve South Stockton, we can prove other hotspots in the community. And it would be to the City's benefit to improve the rest of the City. Thanks to Counselman Tubbs' leadership, we've had a lot of political will. I think that a lot of the council is supportive of the work for South Stockton. There might be some disagreements on strategies, but I think there's a general not only awareness but support for South Stockton in general.

The council I think we need to do a little more work at the county level, but that's you know something that we haven't really started on. But I think as a whole it is improving in terms of that political will and actually that's something that has made our work different than some other communities, that we've had political will by having this effort being led by Councilman Tubbs.

It's opened doors to be able to engage folks. A lot of the City infrastructure and bureaucracy, there was some hesitation at first to work with us, but they've seen that were there to support them. We like to think of the Coalition as a bridge between residents and government and nonprofits. You know, I think we've kind of brought all the partners on board and say hey we're here to support you that would not have happened without the political will.

You know now we don't need that political will necessarily, because we can work directly with the City staff to do things and they'll approach us about things but, at first somebody needed to open the door and that was part of that political will. 

George: So, you're coming up on your second resident Summit, which you just mentioned. What would you like to be the outcome of the second Summit?

Hector: I think the biggest outcome is this twofold we've learned from other communities who have done similar things that needed to celebrate more. And so, one of the biggest things we want to do out of this second Summit is to do a celebration of South Stockton. Because there is a need for that. We need to celebrate the victories.

We need to celebrate the work. We need to celebrate the leaders that have stepped up in the past and now and Future Leaders. So, I think this is really about celebrating. And then secondly is around developing and unveiling the Promise Zone plan to the community, to the partners. So, this is the plan that's involved hundreds of residents and partners coming to the table over a two-year period. And so really kind of like putting it all together and releasing it and actually making it a plan. We've done this work not with the intention of getting a Promise Zone designation, all though that would have been helpful, but really having a living plan that we can actually start implementing by the end of the year. And so, we hope that by September 24th, 2016, that the plan is ready to be implemented. Of course, this is a living plan and it will be modified, it'll grow and evolve. But the idea is that the basis of it is that all the partners are there, all the strategies are there, and the baselines are there so that we can have transparency for the work. 

George: What is one thing about yourself that you don't think people know? 

Hector: I think, and I hope that...  Wow, that is a tough one, laughter.... I think that for me one thing that most people don't know is how important travel is. And what I mean by that is traveling outside of Stockton. Traveling outside of the country.

So, to get a different perspective, to get a different vision of life, or what life can be, you know, different strategies. And so I think for me, travel is important as an individual but also as a professional to be able to say; And this happens a lot, you know, we get so involved in the work in South Stockton that we kind of get stuck in a way of thinking a way of doing things. And then you kind of go somewhere else and like, oh I didn't know I had a box. And they're doing something that's completely outside of my box. And so, like totally that ability to kind of just take reflection and looking at what other folks are doing and then kind of build that hybrid.

And I think the Coalition is a reflection of that. Because we're creating something for South Stockton by South Stockton. But, incorporating different Lessons Learned not only here in South Stockton and for the rest of the City, but with different people across I would even say the world. Because, we've taken things from different parts of the City of the country and international of how they've engaged residents how they're doing things to improve communities.

And so, I think it is really travel is not just for leisure. It's about growth and looking at things differently. 

George: Thank you Hector

Episode Outro: That’s, it for this episode of voices of the community. You have been listening to Hector Laura who is the co-founder and executive director of the Reinvent South Stockton Coalition as well as the South Stockton Promise Zone. The Reinvent South Stockton Coalition is part of Michael Tubbs’s work to develop an ecosystem of social, environmental, medical and economic support organizations. Part of the Reinvent South Stockton Coalition included the Stockton School Initiative and student outreach program which Jasmine Dellafosse explores with us in Episode 7. Hector partnered again with now Mayor Tubbs to start the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration which we cover with Michael Tubbs in Episode 12

Series Outro: Voices of the community as a labor of love. This documentary series on the City of Stockton's reinvention is a tribute to my mother Josephine Koster Wiley who grew up in South Stockton and passed away during the production of the documentary series. My mom was a first generation Italian immigrant whose family migrated to Stockton and owned a motel on the Old Charter way now renamed Martin Luther King Boulevard in the Heart of South Stockton. Mayor Michael Tubbs also grew up in South Stockton with his single mother Racole Dixon. Throughout the series, you'll hear voices of community members who are working with Michael Tubbs in both creating new organizations as well as working with fellow community members to reinvent both South Stockton and the greater Stockton Community.

Series Credits: I want to thank my associate producers Eric Estrada and Nick McClendon as well as advising producer Malcolm Cecil. Please go to to check out our next episode of From Bankruptcy to Reinvention - The City of Stockton California documentary series as well as our archived past shows which feature community voices working on solutions to critical issues facing Northern California communities. Please rate us on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts and share this story with your friends. Follow us on twitter @georgekoster and email us at  I'm George Koster in San Francisco and thank you for listening.

In memoriam of Jo Koster Wyllie

This has been an Alien Boy Production.


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