STATE ECONOMY MAY BE THRIVING, BUT NOT ALL CALIFORNIANS ARE SHARING IN THAT PROSPERITY
This article by Mayor Michael D. Tubbs and Kathleen Kelly Janus originally appeared in The Mercury News.
California’s economy is thriving, but not all Californians are sharing in that prosperity. Inland California, which stretches from Sacramento to Stockton through Fresno, Bakersfield, and the Inland Empire, contributes 17 percent of California’s economic output – but faces more than its fair share of poverty, unemployment and opportunity gaps.
Philanthropic giving mirrors those trends. California’s Bay Area has 20% of the state’s population and receives 53% of its philanthropic dollars, while the San Joaquin Valley is home to 11% of the state’s population and receives just 3% of its nonprofit dollars. Similarly, the Inland Empire accounts for 11% of California’s population but receives just 1% of the state’s nonprofit dollars.
If you’re a philanthropist investing in housing for the 59,000 people on our Los Angeles streets or services for the homeless in San Francisco, you might be wondering what these problems have to do with you. The answer is, everything. The fates of our communities are intertwined. As people migrate inland in pursuit of more affordable living, philanthropy must recognize the opportunity to truly build a California for all.
Bay Area organizations like Hamilton Families, are rehousing homeless families as far away as Sacramento and Fresno to address the skyrocketing need. We must ensure that jobs, supportive services, and affordable housing follow. If we don’t, we are just busing people out and passing big problems down the road, instead of building communities of choice where people can thrive.
In this spirit, Gov. Gavin Newsom is leading a “Regions Rise Together” initiative to support economic development, land use, and transportation in communities that have been left behind. Some influential investors are already redefining the philanthropic landscape. Philanthropy California has guided grant-making organizations across the state toward funding opportunities in San Joaquin Valley and the Inland Empire. The James Irvine Foundation and The California Endowment are increasing nonprofit capacity throughout the Central Valley and Salinas.
Philanthropy is critical to catalyze government dollars. The city of Stockton leveraged The Spiegel Family Foundation’s $20 million donation to launch Stockton Scholars, double the number of counselors in Stockton Unified School District and align its graduation requirements with the CSU/UC system. This catalytic investment triggered a $2 million commitment in the state’s 2019 budget to produce a feasibility study for a Cal State University in Stockton, which would create more than 2,000 local jobs and generate more than $250 million to Stockton’s local economy.
Philanthropic investments also help test new ideas. With support from the Economic Security Project, Stockton launched SEED, the nation’s first mayor-led guaranteed income pilot. In February, SEED began giving 125 low-income residents $500 a month for 18 months. This partnership helped transform universal basic income from a fringe idea to a viable policy solution that could help lift people out of poverty throughout our state.
Environmentalists also need to look Inland. Forty percent of emissions in our state are from vehicles. With lack of affordable housing “super-commuters,” those traveling 90 minutes or more to work every day, are on the rise. We must marshal every available resource – from state climate resilience programs to directing social capital into new businesses, green infrastructure, and housing through Opportunity Zones — if we want to create local jobs and healthier outcomes.
Californians must start thinking beyond their own backyard. Philanthropy’s nimble capital, local government’s knowledge, and the nonprofit sector’s trust must be deployed together to empower those who have been left behind. If we continue to operate in silos, the gaps between us will continue to grow. If we work together, all Californians can rise.