Finally, the Real Stocktonian of 2009

Sometimes this site is more of a burden than a fun little hobby, picking a Real Stocktonian this year was one such case. The criteria for this prestigious award is undefined and that’s by design. The only real rule we have is it has to be awarded for accomplishments that occurred during the past calendar year. One of the things that pisses me off most about the actual Stocktonian of the Year is that the recipient usually hasn’t done anything that year besides play canasta at the country club and that’s total bullshit. Anything “of the Year” should be of that year, not a freaking lifetime achievement award.

But I’ve begun to understand why they do it that way because, even with only one simplistic rule, picking one person/story/thing out of all the shit that went down in 2009 was really tough.

2009 saw a largely brand new City Council that spent the majority of 2008 campaigning against the then current council and pretty much all City politics as a whole. Then 2009 came around and they realized they actually had to work with the people they just spent the past 6 months campaigning against. That situation had to be more awkward than the ending of Fat City. No wonder the “Freshman Four’s” biggest accomplishment was making Gordon Palmer spell out every budget option, you can’t exactly get much done when you’re trying to explain why you called your peers clueless assholes during the previous year.

Johnny Ford dominated the headlines for a good portion of 2009 and we gave him some consideration but nothing he did seemed “real”. His whole argument just seemed completely convoluted, mostly because he never actually claimed he was discriminated against. He just let his friends fight his battle for him. Stockton’s a town of fighters, hiding behind your more articulate friends isn’t fighting. He was just along for the ride and came off like a giant, whiny pussy.

Last weekend I thought I had this post all sewn up. I thought about the story that brought me the greatest sick sense of joy in 2009 and immediately thought of Paragary’s attempt to quietly sneak out of town. Something former Redevelopment head Steve Pinkerton swore would never happen. I actually ran with this one for a while and wrote most of the post. I even came up with a cute nickname for Paragary and his BFF Mike Fitzgerald (Fitzgeragary) and was going to co-award Real Stocktonian to them and their cozy, conflict of interesty relationship.

But as the days went on, something felt off about that post. I’d research more, tweak it, go back for links, and the whole thing just seemed forced. I slowly realized that post resembled pretty much every anti-Paragary’s rant I’ve written over the past year and a half. I feared I was becoming some sort of sad self-parody, and I don’t want to be that. That’d make me Mike Fitzgerald. So I’d get frustrated, turn off my computer and go drink and try and forget I ever decided to start this damn website. Hey, you have your creative process, I have mine.

After about a week of this I finally realized what was missing from the Fitzgeragary post. I was forcing it. It wasn’t organic. It wasn’t real. Stocktonians pride themselves on being themselves. Stocktonians are real motherfuckers and make no apologies for it. So I began thinking, which local newsmaker was unapologetically themselves regardless of the consequences? And the light bulb finally lit up. So without further stalling, the Real Stocktonian of the Year is:

David Harzoff!

Harzoff, you may recall, was the cantankerous Redevelopment director that was fired near the end of 2009 and was promptly thrown under the bus by pretty much everybody who ever talked to him. We’re not here to argue that he’s not a dick, by all accounts he was an abrasive prick. But that’s what we like about the guy. He was himself, even if it severely limited his ability to perform his job.

But let’s get to that job, because it may explain why he was the way he was. He had to follow noted visionary Steve Pinkerton, which was no small feat. Especially since Pinkerton conveniently took off just a month before the Sheraton took a giant dump in the middle of downtown back in 2008. Forgive me for the over the top negativity from that post, but that’s how shit was back then. Downtown redevelopment was the most polarizing subject at the time. Ann Johnston got elected campaigning against Paragary’s for fuck’s sake. It was so bad some jackass actually suggested the cops paint police cars pink and yellow to seem more friendly and approachable. Harzoff wasn’t exactly walking into the best situation. He was essentially cleaning up Pinkerton’s poorly planned mess.

But that’s 2008, this is Real Stocktonian of 2009, which coincidently was also the year Harzoff was hired.  Yes, he was hired and fired within the same calendar year. Quite a feat really. He was apparently that hard to deal with. His predecessor had a famously cozy relationship with the media (namely Mike Fitzgerald), Harzoff didn’t roll that way. He had to literally be chased down by our man Fitz for an impromptu interview and even famously told one reporter that he had to go because he had “deadlines coming out of my god damn ass!” That sounds like a man who is in a shitty situation, knows it, and isn’t pulling any punches. Did it hurt his ability to get the job done? Absolutely. But again, he wasn’t exactly handed a quality situation.

It’s hard to get any sort of support when the venerable Paragary’s decides to put itself up for sale just four months into your tenure. The Lexington/Sheraton closing down just three months after that (yes, again) also doesn’t help. Then there was that whole Marina thing that also wasn’t really his fault. Downtown revitalization was failing before our eyes,  Harzoff was there in the thick of it. And that’s before we even get to that time he bumped a parking garage attendant with his car and attempted to take off because he apparently had better things to do. That last one is our favorite (even if we can’t find the story link). What screams “Stockton” more than the awful driving that has besieged our city for decades?

We’re not here to argue that David Harzoff should have kept his job. He did himself zero favors. But when the calendar flipped to 2010 I heard a lot of people say “good riddance” to a shitty 2009. Few Stocktonians had a shittier 2009 than Harzoff. He didn’t get fired because of some ticket misunderstanding or because his bosses bickered like school children. He got shitcanned because he got put in a shit position and reacted the way a lot of us would in the same situation. He just kind of sat back and went “Aww, really?” for about 10 months straight. In hindsight, the guy never had a chance. He may have been difficult to deal with, but he was handed an incredibly difficult situation. He was fighting for a flawed downtown and was taking solid upper cuts every 3 months or so. When you take that many hits that early on, you stop giving a shit pretty quickly. Harzoff knew the hand he was dealt. No amount of Fitzgerald ego stroking was going to fix the problems that were handed to him by his predecessor so he just kept it real. Only being real for him was being kind of a dick. But again, being nice about shit wasn’t going to stop the Lexington from closing. And that’s why David Harzoff was the Realest Stocktonian of 2009.

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~ by Slick Diaz on February 9, 2010.

One Response to “Finally, the Real Stocktonian of 2009”

  1. LOVE your blog! Don’t know why I haven’t seen it before. Hey, I worked for Harzoff…he was more than a pain, he was a psychopath! And he did walk into a no-win situation…you didn’t even mention having absolutely no money to accomplish all the things his bosses were asking of him. I agree wholeheartedly with your choice!

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