Thursday, August 20, 2015

Salinas, California: "All-America City"

National Civic League:
“…outstanding civic accompolishments.”
(Excerpt) “The National Civic League recognizes ten communities each year for outstanding civic accomplishments. To win, each community must demonstrate innovation, inclusiveness, civic engagement, and cross sector collaboration by describing successful efforts to address pressing local challenges.”

John Steinbeck: native son
(Excerpt) “[Ironically,] …people in Salinas feel isolated. Steinbeck wrote that the fog turned Salinas into ‘a closed pot’ cut off ‘from the sky and from all the rest of the world,’ a line that still gets quoted by residents even though their city is a California crossroads. It’s right on the 101 [freeway], linking the coast and the agricultural inland, north and south. Even if you’ve never stopped to visit, you’ve almost certainly driven through [Salinas, California]… .”

2010 US Census
It is reported that this small city in Monterey County currently has approximately 155,000 people. From numerous door-to-door interviews and weeks of first-hand observations during the decennial census in the Salinas region and beyond, I have primary source level knowledge that not all of these souls are responsive (at first contact) to voluntarily submitting answers to an officially mailed government questionnaire related to the number of persons residing at a specific premises. Unfortunately for this writing, I am contractually sworn to secrecy regarding specific information obtained as an official US Census Bureau Enumerator. So, tell no tales.

If that were not the case, a screenplay for a movie, “The Enumerator” would probably already be produced in the private sector, with a collaboration of select census enumerators as consultants, and would be available on DVD or streaming online. If the right team was assembled, this action/comedy would write itself. Somebody take notes.

However, it may be legal to mention that my analytical abilities were proven over time and came to be respected by the bureau’s hierarchy. Supervisors frequently would pair me with another veteran enumerator when our other far-ranging team members were deployed to also gather granular census information in sensitive situations — and always one in my pair would be fluent in Spanish. I do not speak Spanish.

My personal opinion: Enumerators are like the small exploring fingertips on a large will-not-be-denied hand that a curious government extends over a geographic area to discover specific information that may be useful to its all-knowing brain.

Specifically Salinas, California
(Excerpt) “Salinas has the advantage of youth—its average age is less than 30…

It’s known as the Salad Bowl of the World, a center for producing healthy foods—leafy greens and berries—at a time when such foods have never been more popular…

‘Rich in Land. Rich in Values. Ripe With Opportunity,’ reads the slogan on a city website… [Indeed,] Salinas might be the richest poor city in California…

Salinas is just eight miles from the Pacific [Ocean]. It might have the best weather in the state. It’s part of the prosperous Monterey Bay region, and close enough to Silicon Valley…

[There is] …an excellent community college and the newest California State University campus a 10-minute drive away…

Jobs in the region’s… agriculture and tourism economies are so plentiful that employers have been complaining of labor shortages…

[Salinas is culturally rich] …Ask its residents where they’re from, and they’ll answer you with the name of their neighborhood—and a colorful description of it.

But ask people in Salinas why the city ranks so miserably low in so many measures—crime, schools, public health—and you’ll likely get puzzled looks.

Why does Salinas add up to so much less than the sum of its parts?
Two of its handicaps are fundamental: it’s a small city and it’s in California. Salinas [current population approx. 155,000] is one of 60 small cities in [California] …between 100,000 and 300,000 people, too many of [those 60 small cities] are dysfunctional…

Salinas-sized cities in California often have similar problems.
Salinas’ municipal sisters include bankrupt Stockton and San Bernardino. The problems for Salinas-sized cities is that many started as smaller towns and grew to where they have all the problems of any urban place, while retaining the weak local governments and public resources of small towns. California’s governing system—which famously limits the power and discretion of local officials—imposes heavy regulations on local communities while giving city governments precious little power to shape their own destinies…

Of course, Salinas has problems that are peculiar to it. While residents like to tout the size and wealth of the city’s agriculture industry, the hard truth is that for most, agriculture is an industry that doesn’t pay all that well, which is why agriculturally-oriented cities are typically poor and too often plantation-like in their social structure…

[Also,] …Salinas’s prosperous surroundings do it no favors. The economic successes of Monterey and the Bay Area [Silicon Valley] can make the climb Salinas faces seem steeper than it really is.

Salinas is an ‘All-America City’ … suitably, it’s a double-edged award. It recognizes all the efforts in Salinas to address community problems — of which there is an all-American abundance.”


GIVE ME A MOMENT a lifestyle
Subscribe FREE (see: upper right column) for new posts. Reader-referred topics are welcomed and considered. Comments here are disabled. Readers may contact the blogger by email:

Post No. 241