Last February, Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln said one of Stockton’s problems is that its mayors don’t see their agendas through by serving two terms.
“Every four years for the last 20 years, we’ve had a new mayor,” Lincoln told Stocktonia. “And it’s hard for any organization to effect sustainable change if there’s constant turnover at the executive level.”
Um, yes, well. Lincoln made previous Mayor Michael Tubbs a one-term mayor by defeating him in 2020. Presumably he didn’t think mayoral turnover so bad then.
And two weeks ago, Lincoln announced he will not seek reelection but will challenge Rep. Josh Harder for the Congressional District 9 (CD9) seat.
Lincoln’s campaign spun that not as more “constant turnover” but continuing the job from higher office.
“The fact is that many of the challenges facing Stockton are regional, state, or national issues,” a campaign email said. “The national police shortage, the national and state homeless epidemic, and the skyrocketing cost of living and housing will all require a bipartisan, Valley-focused effort across local, state, and federal governments. That’s why Kevin Lincoln is running for Congress…”
It’s possible to evaluate both Harder and Lincoln by their records. But first a word about their voices. Harder has proven to be a refreshingly strong voice for Stockton and the rest of CD 9.
“For decades San Joaquin County has been left behind and forgotten and I’m tired of it,” Harder said in February, when he became the first Democratic Congressman from the Central Valley in almost 50 years to serve on the powerful House Appropriations Committee. “I’ll do everything in my power to put us front and center in Washington.”
Lincoln, on the other hand, recently went viral for an addle-pated bit of allocution on KCRA Ch. 3.
Anchor Mike Cherry: “The GOP-controlled house recently passed a defense bill with amendments that would restrict abortion for military members, ending diversity and inclusion programs … Would you have voted lockstep with your party on that?”
Lincoln: “Listen, Listen. I haven’t seen that just yet. But the fact of the matter is, is that we are, um, we are going to con … we are going to make sure you know that, um, uhhhh, wow. Yeah, yeah, yeah.”
Lincoln then melted down into a sheepish grin. He had nothing. He sat as frozen as an Otter Pop. This exceptionally awkward moment showed he had not thought through how to make the national Republican Party’s hard-right stances palatable to his somewhat purple district. Granted, that’s no easy task. But before you go on Ch. 3, you should do it.
To be fair to Lincoln, he has his moments. After Stockton police caught a serial killer who was terrorizing the city last year, he showed up at a roll call to thank all involved. He also brought a key detective to the State of the City Address as his guest.
But one of the issues he ran on was public safety, and he has done nothing in terms of policy to fix the police department’s acute shortage of sworn officers. As of Tuesday, the force stood at 359, even though Stockton residents pay a 3/4-cent sales tax that’s supposed to bring the number from 365 to 485.
Chief Stanley McFadden addressed the problem by creating a full-time Recruiting Unit.
True, the city manager bears ultimate responsibility for police staffing. But when a politician campaigns on an issue, she/he promises improvements. Lincoln did not deliver.
His campaign points out violent crime dropped 2% on his watch.
Lincoln values city youth, and his best achievement may be securing $4.3 million from a state youth jobs corps program. That money will translate into 300+ jobs and job training for scores of youths who are unemployed, poor, or “engaged with mental health or substance abuse systems.”
The mayor also pushed to increase other youth program funding to $2 million in the current fiscal year. Then he botched it by insisting the city just hand $1 million of it to a dubious Hollywood internet celebrity, leading to a stinging political defeat.
Lincoln also played a role in reducing homelessness, gifting laptops or tablets to poor families, creating a mental health response team better suited to certain emergencies than police, and advancing the city’s Economic Development Strategic Action Plan — not as big a role as his campaign implies but rather as one of seven City Council votes.
“Kevin Lincoln has provided leadership to bring diverse Stockton communities together to make progress on its most difficult challenges,” his campaign email said.
In reality, the mayor has proven more adept at ceremonial appearances and social media than politics and policy — though he supports good policy when he sees it.
As for Harder, to have a congressman on the House Appropriations Committee that doles out trillions of dollars, is to have a friend in high places, “So I can fight to bring home the federal funds our schools, our hospitals, and our water systems need.”
By “water systems” read: the Delta, among other things. Calling the Delta Tunnel “this $16 billion boondoggle,” Harder introduced an amendment to an Appropriations Committee markup (the process of advancing a bill to the floor) to kill it.
When the amendment was not brought up, he vowed, “We’ve killed this zombie project before, and we’ll do it again. We won’t let them take our water.”
Harder helped to secure $35 million to improve levees that protect more than 160,000 residents and $28.7 billion in property from flooding. He also introduced the Flood Prevention and Snowpack Management Act, requiring a task force to be formed the day after California’s snowpack reaches 150% of normal. The task force would be given 90 days to examine flood risks, identify solutions, and expedite water storage.
Harder fought to have the $35/month insulin cap included in the Build Back Better Act. Ultimately, the compromise was capping insulin prices solely for Medicare seniors. But that induced multiple drug manufacturers to offer insulin for $35 a month for everyone.
San Joaquin’s new Veterans’ Clinic was woefully short of doctors: the average wait time for a new patient to see a primary care physician was 73 days. Harder pushed through an amendment in a markup to require the US Department of Veterans Affairs to come up with a plan to solve the shortage. He also got legislation passed expanding benefits for veterans exposed to Agent Orange and other toxic substances.
Harder tackled the Valley’s doctor shortage by leading a bipartisan coalition to push the Department of Education to include our region in a program that forgives student loans if doctors perform public service in certain areas. This is estimated to bring 10,000 doctors to California over the next decade.
Encroaching shoals (shallows) threatened to force temporary closure of the Port of Stockton, an economic disaster. Harder worked with the Army Corps, the Port, and industry leaders to cut red tape, expedite dredging, and kept the port in operation.
Hearing about the trouble Stockton police and other agencies are having recruiting and retaining officers, Harder introduced a bill amending a 1968 police funding bill to authorize grants for recruiting efforts, including related travel expenses, marketing expenses, retention bonuses, and community outreach events.
Harder reintroduced his Future of Agricultural Resiliency and Modernization (FARM) Act to help farmers in the Central Valley and across the country work more efficiently while combating climate change. At least some parts of the bill are expected to become law.
Copper theft is rampant in San Joaquin County. It has even interrupted 911 service. Harder is working with the FBI and telecommunications companies to draft legislation that holds groups that buy stolen copper accountable and increases copper theft prevention.
Harder has been aggressive and creative in drafting legislation that addresses San Joaquin County’s important needs. Lincoln, on the other hand, shows why a mayor who serves one term is sometimes for the best.
Investigative columnist Mike Fitzgerald’s column runs on Wednesdays. His views do not represent those of the Stocktonia management and staff. Phone (209) 687-9585. On Twitter and Instagram as Stocktonopolis. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.