ABCD: It is How to Spell Community Improvement
September 15, 2016
ABCD: It is How to Spell Community Improvement
Do you know where the Heritage District is in Lodi? It is where many of the home owners west of the tracks grew up, or maybe their parents. It is where Lodi first grew, and is still growing. It is where many businesses started and where some of the best are still today. The Heritage District’s tall Sycamore trees led commerce to Lodi’s unique downtown and shaded charming California Craftsmen-style homes. The District boasted the first red brick school house, and now that same brick house is Lincoln Technical Academy, which is on the cutting edge for a big chunk of Lodi’s future job picture.
Today the Heritage District is also where poverty is concentrated in Lodi. The 2010 Census said 15.8 percent of Lodians lived below the poverty line. In 5 short years that number grew to almost 20 percent, or 1 in 5 Lodians now living below the poverty line. If you don’t live in the Heritage District you might not feel this undesirable increase. If you haven’t visited an elementary school lately you may also be surprised to know that Lodi’s youngest residents are 56% Hispanic—the clear majority and growing. Although they largely live in the Heritage District, their current homes and neighborhoods are much different today than the glory days 60 years ago.
This growing poverty situation is dangerous. Where poverty is growing, many other negative indicators are found, such as crime, gang activity, deterioration of property values, blight, many unhealthy behaviors, and loss of “community.” When the sidewalks where you live are not safe for an evening walk, and residents stay behind locked doors, a neighbor is harder to meet.
Lower educational attainment today is like an economic jury’s sentence to a life of poverty. Most large employers will not grant an interview if the applicant has not graduated from High School. With the minimum wage on the way to $15 per hour, many entry level jobs will be automated. If you cannot read or write, you will more than likely not be a contributor to the local economy but quite possibly dragging it down. Did you know 70 percent of inmates in Federal Prisons read below a 4th grade level?
Daniel Wolcott, CEO of Lodi Health says, “Too many young mothers show up at the hospital ready to deliver their child, but have not seen a doctor over the last 9 months as they cannot afford it.” LUSD Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer says not reading proficiently at the end of the 3rd grade is the first indicator of a future dropout, and according to California Attorney General Camilla Harris, “Dropouts cost California tax payers $40 Billion every year!”
Do not think for one minute this column is putting down any group of people. As the Chamber of Commerce President, I’m concerned about the economic health of our community. Vision 2020 identified five major areas of great economic challenge and great opportunity… the people of Lodi, people like you, will decide which path the community will take. Every city in America has a job skills shortage. We have millions looking for work and millions of jobs currently going unfilled! We have plenty of people who have no clue what work or a job is like. Today only 12 to 15 percent of high school grads have had some kind of a job. A few generations earlier 80 percent of boomers had a job before their senior year ended. But Boomers can’t puff out their chests too far, as they did not have enough kids, who did not have enough kids, to replace the 10,000 Boomers retiring from the workforce every day! Many American cities have a tremendous problem in that they just do not have the bodies in their community to fill jobs. Lodi does!
Finally some good news, right!?! We have plenty of kids, but they need to learn a skill. College is great, but clearly not everyone should go. In fact, over the next 10-15 years, 70 percent of the jobs that will need to be filled will not require a bachelor’s degree or higher. But a certificate from a junior college or a skill from Lincoln Tech in the Heritage District can get someone on the way to a family-sustaining wage!
So where does ABCD or Asset Based Community Development come into this story? It was in the headline after all. If all one looks at are the problems in a given neighborhood, then an effort is mounted from outside the troubled area to fix it. That approach has just not worked for decades. ABCD is different. ABCD will seek out the “assets” in the Heritage District, and the biggest asset is the people who live there. By coming alongside, with support, those grass-root solutions come from the residents themselves. Residents begin to take on the responsibility of their home, their family, and neighborhood condition.
What do Heritage residents want to change on their street or their block? Do they know at the other end of the block there is a young family like theirs that wants the same thing? ABCD will knit networks of residents together who want, and will work together, to create the needed change they want to see in the District. It happens from the inside because they want something better and they will make it happen. In cities where ABCD has worked, it didn’t matter if the residents were owners or renters. When they understand that other organizations and the city government are there to help them, they are empowered and things change. With people working together, a whole part of town can change.
ABCD kicks off on Friday evening, September 16th with an overview of the program at the Lodi Boys and Girls Club. Participants will be shown a video and will see how it worked, how it changes people for the better, and then how they changed their neighborhoods. ABCD goes deeper on Saturday, September 17th, as Lodi learns how to begin the work, mapping out the assets, finding out how all the assets can be used, and how and where to begin. Sponsored by F&M Bank, meals will be provided at both days of the training, but if you’re coming, please register at: www.ldichamber.com/abcd or call the Chamber at 367-7840 x 102. It is ONE Lodi, not an east or west side any longer. Join us… be part of the change for good.
President & CEO
Lodi District Chamber of Commerce