By Rhashad R. Pittman
A city that has withstood a foreclosure crisis, bankruptcy, soaring homicide rates, and high unemployment in recent years can’t help but appreciate a good fighter. Fighting for survival is something the residents of Stockton know all too well.
Perhaps that is why residents cheered for Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva as he entered the council chambers in early August after his arrest. When the Stockton native walked into the council chambers, a sea of supporters chanted his name, “Silva, Silva, Silva ….”
It was as if he was entering a boxing or MMA ring himself, bracing for another round of battle with his opponents on the city council and in the community beyond.
Because of this support from his base and the needs of the community in which they live, Silva says he is running for re-election in November against Stockton City Council member Michael Tubbs. The “People’s Mayor’ is not done fighting for his community despite the recent arrest, the negative news stories, the public criticisms from fellow city council members and some members in the community. Despite all of it, he is running to finish what he started four years ago.
“It’s my job to fight for the people,” Silva said. “They have nowhere else to go and the system has failed them.”
Shortly after being elected to his first term in office in 2012, he promised that he would wage an epic fight against the city’s elite and leaders of local government, or the establishment, to provide better services for the poor and middle class families that make up most of Stockton.
Silva said he was fighting essentially to raise the quality of life for the town in which he was born and raised. The battle-tested and bruised mayor wants to finish the battle he started four years ago. As he framed it during a recent interview, his ongoing civic efforts are a fight against a system of governance that has failed and forgotten the very people it is supposed to serve.
“Every once in a while, someone comes into politics who is not bought off or paid for,” Silva said. “And these people are a threat to governance.”
The fight involves not only a city government that has not adequately served working families, undocumented residents and the homeless population, in his view, but also against a system that doesn’t adequately support local schools and agencies that provide crucial social services.
The self-proclaimed “People’s Mayor” says his passion comes from representing the poor people in Stockton, as well as the working families, the owners of Mom-and-Pop businesses that dot the corners of rough neighborhoods, neighborhoods like the ones he grew up in. He knows all too well about neighborhoods in urban areas that are blighted and worn down. Silva knows that without any positive opportunities for youth, some may stray down the wrong path, making it easy for gangs to prey and recruit them into a life of violence.
“I grew up here,” he said. “And I lived in some of the toughest areas in Stockton. I’m a product of the community.”
Since his term started, Silva said he has been advocating and putting initiatives in place to increase the number of jobs and businesses in the community, spur the development of more affordable housing for families, and add more police officers to keep the streets safe. He also is working to create more options for youth and families seeking entertainment.
Silva pointed to a number of successes during his first four years in office to help improve the quality of life in Stockton and with it the overall spirit of the community. He noted the return of the Fourth of July fireworks show to the Waterfront, the San Joaquin Fair and the Asparagus Festival. The city is no longer in bankruptcy, home values have increased, the number of police officers has increased from 312 to 410 and the homicide rate has decreased.
Although some progress has been made, he noted, there is more work to be done. Silva said his platform involves initiatives that would benefit all of the families in Stockton, including a revitalization of the Stockton Waterfront that would help transform the city into a tourist destination.
But he knows this won’t be achievable without a fight, because even though the city is recovering from the 2008 recession, it is still struggling, he said, and many of those who wield power and influence throughout the city do not share his passion for the people. So the fight continues.
“They talk smack but I have your back.”
By Rhashad R. Pittman